Apple’s iOS7 should turbocharge travel appsNewsBy Viewpoints | June 17, 2013Share This article was originally published on NB: This is a guest post by Diego Saez-Gil, founder of WeHostels, the mobile-first global booking platform.That sound you're hearing is the sound of a thousand app developers clattering away on their keyboards as they attempt to retrofit all of the existing apps out there to be compatible with Apple's re-vamped operating system for its mobile devices, iOS7, which debuts this fall.When announcing iOS7 last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook described iOS7 as the most significant change to the company's operating system since 2007.I believe that the most exciting part of the new operating system is not its re-designed user interface -- which the mainstream media has focused on -- but its new set of APIs and features for app developers.I had the chance to try the beta version of the iOS7 and research its new capabilities and features, trying to determine which ones are relevant and useful for travel companies.I was deeply impressed by the new support for map directions API, Air Drop of photos and itineraries, the new Apps Near Me tool and other promising bits of functionality.Here are my favorite features and how I think they could be harnessed by developers of mobile travel apps:Map Directions API The new Map Kit enables apps to guide users to their destinations from within the app. Previously you were forced to push the user out of the app to a maps app if you needed to guide them with directions.Despite the accuracy problems that Apple maps still have (although accuracy has been improving a lot), this is a great feature because “map snapshots" retain the user within the app, increasing the in-app engagement.This feature can be useful for travel apps where you often need to guide your user to a destination, be it a hotel, a restaurant or a tourist attraction. Turn-by-turn walking directions will be available.Additionally, the new API allows your users to rotate and move around the map in 3D using updated views and controls, which looks very cool.And as a developer, you have "even more control of overlays," in the words of the company, because you can now place items on different layers or replace portions of the map.Multitasking The Multitasking feature allows your app to update information and download content in the background without draining the user’s phone battery. This can be great for travel apps that generally need to refresh content with real-time availability, rich images, and geo-location.This can also finally allow services that rely on scanning geo-located items on a regular basis to provide location specific information.As an example, Highlight, an app that aims to inform you via push notifications if there are people around you with friends or interests in common, has failed so far to gain traction because their constant background activity drains the phone’s battery. With "multitasking" support, the problem is reduced, which is good news for this app, which was named one of the "App Store Best of 2012", and other apps.Travel-specific apps have a chance at scanning local information and sending the users push notifications relevant to their location. All the travel guide apps aiming to reinvent Lonely Planet will have a better shot at doing so.AirDrop AirDrop is a feature that is already available for Apple devices and allows the sharing of documents between different devices. Now you can add AirDrop support to your app. This way your users will be able to easily share photos, documents, URLs and other types of data with multiple devices nearby.For travel apps this can be a great way for travelers to share travel itinerary details with their fellow travelers without leaving your app. The device user is automatically visible in AirDrop to his or her contacts also running iOS 7 and can optionally be visible to anyone nearby using iOS 7.This can also be a way to finally make “social travel” happen on mobile by easily allowing instant sharing with your peers within close proximity.The functionality use Bluetooth and wi-fi. Tap the "Share" icon and select the person with whom you want to share. No network or setup or NFC or "bumping" of devices needed, and transfers are encrypted.Apps Near Me The App Store will now have an "Apps Near Me" feature that will show users the most popular apps based on his or her location. This continues to show Apple’s emphasis on harnessing location to the fullest.This feature can be highly useful for travel apps: accommodations booking apps near airports, tour-booking and taxi apps near hotels, travel-guide apps near museums, etc.By making your app relevant to a location, you will gain the visibility and the ability to acquire new users that will discover your app on the go.iOS in the Car Apple has announced that iOS7 will be available for car manufacturers as an operating system within their cars. iOS in the Car is set to be released in 2014 and will be supported by a wide range of car brands including Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Ferrari, Chevrolet, Infiniti, Kia, Hyundai, Volvo, and Jaguar.This can be an amazing opportunity for travel companies to develop apps that are native to the car. Priceline recently shared that a high percentage of their mobile bookings were made from within a car and 20 miles or closer to their hotels.It will also make a lot of sense to provide apps that help travelers discover destinations, and serve as a “tour guide” inside of their cars.Rental car companies and the dominant sellers of GPS systems will be deeply affected by this functionality.The disruption of mobile-firstIn short, you should ignore the widespready mockery of the new user interface for iOS7. (Though I admit that the Tumblr "Jony Ive Redesigns Things" is definitely amusing in the way it satirises the visual redesign, which was spearheaded by Jony Ive, Apple's VP of design.)I've only touched on some of the functionality that could benefit app developers. Others include audio-only FaceTime calls (potentially making customer service live chat practical via apps); a barcode scanner for acquiring passes via Passbook" thanks to a new developer API; Apple’s iBeacons allowing apps to pinpoint the micro-location of a user within, say, a building, via Bluetooth;From a broader perspective, iOS7 is part a momentous and positive change for the industry.It is Apple's first step into the “internet of things”. At some point every object in which we interact will be connected to the web, a trend that underlines the point I recently made on Tnooz about how mobile represents a technology enabling disruptive innovation.I’m delighted to see how every new step on the way of development of this technology increases the possibilities of innovation and confirms the revolutionary nature of the change.Travel companies that set up divisions that are mobile-first, or that begin with a mobile-first approach, will have a definite edge in adapting to this new world.What fun things do you think travel app developers might do with the new toolkit?NB: This is a guest post by Diego Saez-Gil, founder of WeHostels, the mobile-first global booking platform.