Desktop iOS

Here's how to build a functional headless iOS prototype in your own home (without jailbreaking):

  1. Take one iOS device, for example an iPad.
  2. Connect it to a Bluetooth keyboard, for example an Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad.
  3. AirPlay Mirror to your Apple TV (ironic I know) or to a Mac using something like Reflector.
  4. Switch on VoiceOver, (Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver > VoiceOver).
  5. Tap Ctrl-⌥-S to mute voiceover. An excellent list of actions is Quick reference guide for voiceover on iOS.

This is basically how I think the Apple TV with an AppStore will approximately function, ie not a touch based interface, but one based on UIAccessibility.

A few of extra notes though:

  • From an App developer perspective, I don't need anything more from iOS to support this new device. Apple plugged the last remaining hole with UIKeyCommand in iOS 7.
  • I have no idea what will be more popular, game controllers or keyboards. But I expect them both to work.
  • The default UI wouldn't quite be VoiceOver. For a sighted user, highlighting some UIAccessibilityTraits doesn't make sense. The default UI would skip these.
  • NSLayoutConstraints are going to be more important than ever.
  • Take a look at the Flote. Multiple pictures show the product used in an iPad + keyboard office type confguration. It's a real use case but I don't think the woman will be able to raise hands regularly enough before strain sets in. I have to say, I'm more interested in this use of iOS than under the TV.
  • If this were really happen, I'd expect the wireless game controller to gain a home button. Also, the Apple keyboard would gain the four coloured game controller buttons for consistant access.