AWS Mobile Blog

Using Swift Combine with AWS Amplify

This article was written by Kyle Lee, Senior Developer Advocate, AWS Amplify

While there may be a lot of great things that are included in the AWS Amplify 1.1 release for iOS, one of the most exciting is support for Combine. Combine is a first party reactive framework that makes it easy to deal with asynchronous events in a declarative way.

Using the libraries is very straight forward already since almost all the API work with the Swift.Result type, but now code can be even cleaner AND reactive all while avoiding callback hell.

One of the most common use cases developers come across when programming an app that performs networking requests is performing one or more tasks, then taking the data from those tasks to perform another task.

Here’s what it might look like if you wanted to identify objects in an image and upload the image asynchronously, then create a post from the image with callbacks:

func savePostWithCallbacks() {
    let imageKey = UUID().uuidString + ".jpg"

    // Label objects in image
    dispatchGroup.enter()
    _ = Amplify.Predictions.identify(type: .detectLabels(.labels), image: imageUrl) { result in
        switch result {
        case .success(let identifyResult):
            let labelsResult = identifyResult as! IdentifyLabelsResult
            self.labels = labelsResult.labels.map(\.name)
            dispatchGroup.leave()

        case .failure(let error):
            print(error)
        }
    }

    // Upload image to storage
    dispatchGroup.enter()
    _ = Amplify.Storage.uploadFile(key: imageKey, local: imageUrl) { result in

        switch result {
        case .success:
            dispatchGroup.leave()

        case .failure(let error):
            print(error)
        }
    }

    // Only save the post once image has been uploaded and object in
    // the image have been identified
    dispatchGroup.notify(queue: .global()) {
        let post = Post(imageKey: imageKey, tags: self.labels)
        _ = Amplify.API.mutate(request: .create(post)) { event in
            switch event {
            case .success(let result):
                switch result {
                case .success(let post):
                    print("Post saved - \(post)")

                case .failure(let error):
                    print(error)
                }

            case .failure(let error):
                print("Event error - \(error)")
            }
        }
    }
}

And here’s what that same process looks like using Combine:

@State var token: AnyCancellable?
func savePostWithCombine() {
    let imageKey = UUID().uuidString + ".jpg"

    // Label objects in image
    let getImageTags = Amplify.Predictions.identify(type: .detectLabels(.labels), image: imageUrl)
        .resultPublisher
        .mapError { PostError.failedToGetTags(error: $0) }

    // Upload image to storage
    let uploadImage = Amplify.Storage.uploadFile(key: imageKey,local: imageUrl)
        .resultPublisher
        .mapError { PostError.failedToUploadImage(error: $0) }

    token = Publishers.CombineLatest(getImageTags, uploadImage)

        // Only save the post once image has been uploaded and object in
        // the image have been identified
        .flatMap { identifyResult, _ -> AnyPublisher<Post, PostError> in
            let labelsResult = identifyResult as! IdentifyLabelsResult
            let tags = labelsResult.labels.map(\.name)
            let post = Post(imageKey: imageKey, tags: tags)
            return Amplify.API.mutate(request: .create(post))
                .resultPublisher
                .tryMap { try $0.get() }
                .mapError { PostError.failedToGetTags(error: $0) }
                .eraseToAnyPublisher()
        }
        .sink(
            receiveCompletion: { print($0) },
            receiveValue: { print("Post saved - \($0)") }
        )
}

Let’s take a peek at the new Combine APIs that are available by going through an example of what the code might look like for a social media app.

Sign Up

First things first, we can’t have a social media site without users, so let’s sign them up.

// 1
@State var signUpToken: AnyCancellable?
func signUp() {
    // 2
    signUpToken = Amplify.Auth.signUp(username: username, password: password)
        // 3
        .resultPublisher
        // 4
        .receive(on: DispatchQueue.main)
        // 5
        .sink(
            // 6
            receiveCompletion: { completion in
                if case .failure(let error) = completion {
                    print("Sign in error: \(error)")
                }
            },
            // 7
            receiveValue: { result in
                // 8
                switch result.nextStep {
                case .confirmUser:
                    break

                case .done:
                    break
                }
            }
        )
}
  1. Since we are working with Combine and Publishers, it is important that we always have a “token” object that will allow the publisher to stay alive even after the function has completed.
  2. We can see here that we are assigning a value to the token by starting off with the same function signature that we are already used to when using Auth.signUp.
  3. This is the publisher itself. In some cases we will have a resultPublisher in others, we will see that the original function signature has been overloaded to return a Publisher.
  4. Since our Sign Up flow will most-likely involve additional steps like confirmation, which is dealing directly with UI, we want to make sure that we handle the result on the main thread. If we didn’t intend to modify UI, omitting this step would be fine.
  5. Our sink is where we can observe what is actually going on in regards to the resulting value, errors, or the completion of the stream.
  6. Just like any Combine sink, we can receive a completion on a stream, stopping it from emitting any more values. Errors also cause streams to complete and this is where we can handle them.
  7. The receivedValue is the object that we are looking for when the happy path succeeds.
  8. The result is the same type as it would be if we were using closures/callbacks, meaning that this is an AuthSignUpResult which may or may not have a nextStep that needs to be handled.

Sign In

Once we have the user created in our backend, it’s time to let them sign into the app.

@State var signInToken: AnyCancellable?
func signIn() {
    // 1
    signInToken = Amplify.Auth.signIn(username: username, password: password)
        .resultPublisher
        .sink(
            receiveCompletion: {
                // 2
                if case .failure(let error) = $0 {
                    print("Sign in error: \(error)")
                }
            },
            receiveValue: { result in
                // 3
                print("Successful result: \(result)")
            }
        )
}

For the most part, the layout of the publishers will be similar to that of the Sign Up code. We do have a few differences though:

  1. We are using a seperate “token” to hang on to the reference of the Auth.signIn sink.
  2. Instead of passing in completion to the closure, I’ve decided to use the short hand to check if $0 is an error.
  3. Here we are simply printing out the result, but you would most likely want to do any additional work here while you still have access to the username and password of the user. In our case, we plan on using HUB to handle state change.

Observe Session Status

If you like to keep things easier to maintain like we do, then we should use HUB to listen to the different Auth events and update the state accordingly.

@State var authHubToken: AnyCancellable?
func observeAuthEvents() {
    // 1
    authHubToken = Amplify.Hub.publisher(for: .auth)
    
        // 2
        .compactMap { payload -> Bool? in
            let isSignedIn: Bool

            switch payload.eventName {
            case HubPayload.EventName.Auth.signedIn:
                isSignedIn = true

            case HubPayload.EventName.Auth.signedOut:
                isSignedIn = false

            default:
                return nil
            }

            return isSignedIn
        }
        
        // 3
        .receive(on: DispatchQueue.main)
        
        // 4
        .sink { isSignedIn in
            if isSignedIn {
                // handle sign in
            } else {
                // handle sign out
            }
        }
}

So now we are really starting to see some of the power of using Combine. Being able to take a complex object and transform it into the relevant value makes it so much easier to understand what’s going on in our code.

  1. HUB.publisher is one of the APIs that are immediately returning a publisher on which we can perform operations like compactMap and sink.
  2. .compactMap is taking the payload provided by Hub.publisher and transforming it into a simple Bool that we can use to determine the user’s session state. .compactMap is much more useful in this situation than .map because it allows us to return nil, which prevents the sink from firing during invalid events.
  3. Up until this point, all our work has been performed on a background thread, but once we enter the sink we will most likely be updating properties that affect UI, which is why we need to return to the main thread.
  4. We take our simple Bool value and update our user’s state accordingly.

Get Posts

Now that the user has signed in, we have to show them their Feed. It’s time to get those Post‘s

@State var getPostsToken: AnyCancellable?
func getPosts() {
    // 1
    getPostsToken = Amplify.DataStore.query(Post.self)
        .receive(on: DispatchQueue.main)
        .sink(
            receiveCompletion: { completion in
                switch completion {
                case .failure(let error):
                    // handle error
                    break

                case .finished:
                    // handle completed stream
                    break
                }
            },
            
            // 2
            receiveValue: { posts in
                // populate UI with posts
            }
        )
}
  1. DataStore.query is another API that has been overloaded to allow us to use it directly as a Publisher, so we can apply any relevant operators to it as we would any other Publisher.
  2. Our receiveValue block is where we would handle the posts and likely do something like self.posts = post so our UI reflects what was provided by DataStore.

Observe Post Events

We could call getPosts() whenever we receive events that indicate there was a change in the data, but using DataStore.publisher makes it much more simple by allowing us to observe the specific change to the individual Post, making it easier to setup specific behavior for each type of change.

@State var observePostsToken: AnyCancellable?
func observePosts() {
    // 1
    observePostsToken = Amplify.DataStore.publisher(for: Post.self)
        // 2
        .compactMap { event -> (mutationType: MutationEvent.MutationType, post: Post)? in
            guard
                let mutationType = MutationEvent.MutationType(rawValue: event.mutationType),
                let post = try? event.decodeModel(as: Post.self)
            else { return nil }

            return (mutationType, post)
        }
        .receive(on: DispatchQueue.main)
        .sink(
            receiveCompletion: { completion in
                if case .failure(let error) = completion {
                    // handle error
                }
            },
            receiveValue: {
                // 3
                let (mutationType, post) = $0
                
                // 4
                switch mutationType {
                case .create:
                    break

                case .update:
                    break

                case .delete:
                    break
                }
            }
        )
}
  1. DataStore.publisher is a Publisher, as its name suggests, and allows us to observe the different mutation events for a specified Model type. In our case, we will be observing changes for Post.
  2. We are using compactMap again to help filter out irrelevant data as well as change the output to a tuple (mutationType: MutationEvent.MutationType, post: Post).
  3. Since the value is now a tuple, one way to interact with the values is to assign the values to constants by using let (mutationType, post) which will map to the values of the tuple respectively.
  4. Now that we’re working with mutationType: MutationEvent.MutationType we can switch off the three different cases and update the UI accordingly using the proper animations.

Create Post

Finally, the most important part of our app, the ability to actually create a Post. This is a slightly more complex operation because we would have to upload the image to Storage and create a Post object in our database. We may also want to do something like log analytics whenever we successfully create a Post to help us understand more about our user’s and their posting habits.

@State var createPostToken: AnyCancellable?
func createPost() {
    // 1
    guard let imageData = image?.jpegData(compressionQuality: 0.5) else { return }
    let key = UUID().uuidString + ".jpg"

    // 2
    createPostToken = Amplify.Storage.uploadData(key: key, data: imageData)
    
        // 3
        .resultPublisher
        
        // 4
        .mapError { CreatePostError.failedUpload(error: $0) }

        // 5
        .flatMap { _ in
            Amplify.DataStore.save(
                Post(
                    userId: userId,
                    imageKey: key,
                    caption: caption
                )
            )
                // 6
                .mapError { CreatePostError.failedSave(error: $0) }
        }
        
        // 7
        .handleEvents(receiveOutput: { post in
            let event = BasicAnalyticsEvent(name: "postCreated")
            Amplify.Analytics.record(event: event)
        })
        
        .receive(on: DispatchQueue.main)
        .sink(
            receiveCompletion: { completion in
                if case .failure(let error) = completion {
                    // handle error
                }
            },
            receiveValue: { post in
                // 8
                print("Created post: \(post)")
            }
        )
}
  1. We need the image data to upload to Storage, so we convert the UIImage to JPG data with a compression of 0.5 so upload is much smoother. The amount of compression is totally up to you though.
  2. Here we are using the Storage.uploadData with the key and imageData that we just created.
  3. We are using resultPublisher here because Storage.uploadData provides two different publishers: resultPublisher and progressPublisher. I’m not going to implement the latter, but it would be a good publisher to use to let the user know how far along they are in the upload process.
  4. Since we are chaining our operations (upload image > save Post > record analytics event > sink), we need to make sure that we are working with a consistent error type throughout our chain. Thus, we use .mapError to convert the StorageError to a custom error type called CreatePostError.
  5. Another operator we need to use when chaining publishers is .flatMap. This allows us to map the output of one publisher (Storage.uploadData.resultPublisher) to the output of another, in this case, DataStore.save which outputs a publisher of type AnyPublisher<Post, DataStoreError>
  6. Since we are inside flatMap and need to stay consistent with the error through the entire chain, we need to use mapError to convert the DataStoreError to a CreatePostError.
  7. Once we have gone through the chain, we want to record events whenever a user successfully posts to the Feed. This is where .handleEvents comes in, specifically the receiveOutput argument. When working with receiveOutput, we have access to the desired output, Post in this case, and we can use any useful information about the post to include into our Analytics event. The example here doesn’t use any info from the Post but the event is still recorded with the basic info.
  8. At the very end of the chain, we are provided with our saved Post thanks to the output from DataStore.save. We could do whatever we want with this Post, or we can choose to simply ignore it since we will have observed the created event in our observePosts publisher.

Now depending on your coding style, you might be willing to wrap up the functionality of these chained publishers into their own functions. The end result could be something as condensed as this:

@State var createPostToken: AnyCancellable?
func createPost() {
    let key = UUID().uuidString + ".jpg"
    let post = Post(userId: userId, imageKey: key, caption: caption)

    createPostToken = AnyPublisher<Post, CreatePostError>
        .upload(image, key: key)
        .save(post)
        .recordEvent(.postCreated)
        .sink(
            receiveCompletion: { print($0) },
            receiveValue: { print($0) }
        )
}

Wrapping Up

There are still several use cases that weren’t covered in this article, but adopting them should be very straight forward since the APIs tend to follow similar patterns.

As reactive programming and declarative UI become more relevant in the native iOS space, it only makes sense to continue to work and grow with community expectations. Anything else just feels outdated 🤷🏽‍♂️.

So now the only question is, “Are you going to start adding Combine to your Amplify projects”?