Once again, Apple has given us a new, beta operating system, with new options and new features that is scheduled to be released some time in the Fall. As with every time they’ve done that before, they’ve put app creators in a position to make a choice–do we target our development efforts at the iOS8 (the new version), iOS7 (the existing version), or do we try to support both?
Deciding Based on Timing
Although we don’t know exactly when iOS8 will be released to the public, it will most likely be in September or October. So if you’re planning on shipping much after that (for example, if you’re targeting the Christmas season in the U.S.), then based on past experience, you should expect that a majority of the devices your software will run on will be iOS8.
Deciding Based on Style
Last year, with iOS7, the look and feel of the iOS platformed changed dramatically, and apps that still used the old style looked out of place. That doesn’t seem to be the case this year, so I wouldn’t alter your plans just based on look and feel this year.
Deciding Based on Features
iOS8 has a number of new features that might be relevant to your app. If your app uses (or could use) one of these features, I would recommend targeting iOS8 exclusively.
If your app tracks, stores, analyzes or reports on health data (weight, calories, blood sugar, blood pressure, exercise, etc), then I think you should take advantage of the new HealthKit features. I expect apps in this space that don’t support HealthKit to become second-class citizens quickly this Fall.
If your app does Home automation, then you should target HomeKit as well.
If your app is early in development, needs a backend platform, and is only going to run on iOS and OS X (i.e. iPhones, iPads, iPod touches and Macs), then I’d recommend that you seriously investigate using Apple’s new free CloudKit. There’s risk there, because Apple doesn’t have the best track record on such things, but it’s a feature-set full of promise, and it’s worth at least taking some time to look at.
Apple has made some changes to the way that iBeacons and indoor navigation work. If your app does this, it might well be worth targeting iOS8.
If you have a Mac app and a corresponding iPhone/iPad app, you should take a look at Apple’s new technology in iOS8 and OS X 10.10 that allows users to switch devices without losing their place. I expect this to be a small number of apps, though.
None of the Above
Otherwise, if you’re planning on shipping well before the Christmas season and you don’t use one of Apple’s new features, I’d say you’re probably okay sticking with your original schedule. Just remember that when the new iPhones ship, Apple will be looking for apps to feature, and if yours doesn’t make the best use of iOS8, you’re likely to be low on their list.