Among the millions of applications existing on the App Store, there is a great number of them that deals with data fetched from the web. Even more, today that carriers provide constant Internet access through 3G and 4G networks at low cost, these apps seem to grow even more. News, weather and social applications are just some of them. Prior to iOS 7, there was a great disadvantage that was characterizing any app of that kind, and that was the awaiting time that users were facing until their apps got updated with new data taken from online servers every time they were launched. Developers didn’t have enough tools on their hands to counterattack that, or work around it, so they had to figure out tricky ways to download just the minimum possible amount of data and return control back to the user as soon as possible.
However, with the iOS 7 SDK coming things drastically changed thanks to the Background Fetch API, which is part of the new multitasking features that the latest version of iOS supports. When the Background Fetch feature is enabled to an app, the system wakes the app up in the background from time to time and lets it go online to fetch new data with goal to refresh its content. That way, the app is always up to date, and users don’t have to wait any more when they launch it. In other words, it is the tool that all developers have been expecting for a long time in order to have both their apps updated and the users happy. In this tutorial we are going to see how this new cool feature can be embedded into an application, but first let’s have a short look at some important details in order to fully get the meaning of this great API.
Enabling and using the Background Fetch API in an application, is a really easy, three-step process that contains the following:
- To enable it in the Multitasking Capabilities of the app.
- To set the time interval in which the system should fetch new data in the application:didFinishLaunchingWithOptions: delegate method.
- To implement a new delegate method in the AppDelegate class that will handle the result of the fetching process.
Let me do a clarification at this point, regarding the usage of the Background Fetch. It is not intended to work only with online data, but it can be used to perform tasks internally into an app too. However, that’s a rare case, as the most common usage involves data fetching from the web.