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Iphone Application : Extending Application Integration

12/9/2012 11:29:56 AM
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In this article, you’ll take your apps to the next level of integration by adding access to the iPhone’s address book, email, and mapping capabilities.

Address Book

The address book is a shared database of contact information that is available to any iPhone application. Having a common, shared set of contact information provides a better experience for the user than if every application manages its own separate list of contacts. With the shared address book, there is no need to add contacts multiple times for different applications, and updating a contact in one application makes the update available instantly in all the other applications.

iOS provides comprehensive access to the address book database through two frameworks: the Address Book and the Address Book UI frameworks. With the Address Book framework, your application can access the address book and retrieve and update contact data and create new contacts. The Address Book framework is an older framework based on Core Foundation, which means the APIs and data structures of the Address Book framework are C rather than Objective-C. Don’t let this scare you. As you’ll see, the Address Book framework is still clean, simple, and easy to use, despite its C roots.

The Address Book UI framework is a newer set of user interfaces that wrap around the Address Book framework and provide a standard way for users to work with their contacts, as shown in Figure 1. You can use the Address Book UI framework’s interfaces to allow users to browse, search, and select contacts from the address book, display and edit a selected contact’s information, and create new contacts. As with the iPod and Photo controls in the previous hour, the address book will be displayed over top of your existing views in a modal view.

Figure 1. Access address book details from any application.


In the previous hour, you learned how to show a modal view supplied by the iOS to allow a user to use Apple’s image picker interfaces to select a photo for your application. Showing a system-supplied modal view controller is a common pattern in iOS, and the same approach is used in the Message UI framework to provide an interface for sending email, as demonstrated when sending a link from Mobile Safari (see Figure 2.)

Figure 2. Present an email composition view to your users.

Your application will provide the initial values for the email and then act as a delegate while temporarily stepping out of the way and letting the user interact with the system-supplied interface for sending email. This is the same interface users use in the Mail application to send email, and so it will be familiar to them.


The iPhone’s implementation of Google Maps puts a responsive and fun-to-use mapping application in your palm. You can bring this same experience to your apps using Map Kit. Map Kit enables you to embed a map into a view and provides all the map tiles (images) needed to display the map. It handles the scrolling, zooming, and loading of new map tiles as they are needed. Applications can use Map Kit to annotate locations on the map. Map Kit can also do reverse geocoding, which means getting place information (country, state, city, address) from coordinates.

Watch Out!

Map Kit map tiles come from the Google Maps/Google Earth API. Even though you aren’t making calls to this API directly, Map Kit is making those calls on your behalf, so use of the map data from Map Kit binds you and your application to the Google Maps/Google Earth API terms of service.

You can start using Map Kit with no code at all, just by adding the Map Kit framework to your project and an MKMapView instance to one of your views in Interface Builder. After a map view is added, four attributes can be set within Interface Builder to further customize the view (see Figure 3). You can select between map, satellite, and hybrid modes; you can determine whether the map should use Core Location (which you’ll learn about in the next hour) to center on the user’s location; and you can control whether the user should be allowed to interact with the map through swipes and pinches for scrolling and zooming.

Figure 3. A map view in Interface Builder’s Attribute Inspector.


Annotations can be added to maps within your applications, just like they can in Google Maps online. Using annotations usually involves implementing a new subclass of MKAnnotationView that describes how the annotation should appear and what information should be displayed.

To make our lives a little easier, Apple has implemented a subclass of the MKAnnotationView called MKPinAnnotationView that displays a pushpin on the map, along with a simple callout. We’ll take advantage of this class in our tutorial, displaying a pin based on a location the user selects. This will require implementing an MKMapView delegate method, called mapView:viewForAnnotation, that will allocate and configure an instance of MKPinAnnotationView.

For each annotation that we add to a map, we need a “place mark,” MKPlaceMark, object that describes its location. For the tutorial this hour, we’re only going to need one—to show the center of a chosen ZIP code.

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