Following the recent Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) 2017 keynote, Apple announced some new products and features across all their devices. These developments influence the way brands and marketers operate and connect with consumers. Tim Cook and the rest of Apple’s team announced huge updates for all platforms: iOS 11, tvOS, watchOS 4, macOS High Sierra and HomePod.
Some key Apple Ecosystem figures for 2017: 16 million developers, added 3m in last year, App store has 500m weekly visitors, 180b apps downloaded to date, $70 bn paid to developers to date. Now the scene has been set, let's take a look at the updates.
ARKit - The Somo Innovation Team Favourite
Apple introduced a new framework that enables developers to add Augmented Reality features to apps. It is fully supported on devices running the A9 (and above) processor therefore, it’s only optimal for the latest devices. It supports adding content using Apple’s SpriteKit (2D) and SceneKit (3D) frameworks that are already familiar to developers, as well as Unity and Unreal coming later this year. Features include Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) to very accurately track the world around the device, Scene Understanding to analyse the scene and detect planes to project AR on and Lighting Estimation to estimate the total amount of light available in a scene to apply the correct amount of lightning to virtual objects.
Initial impressions of the demo were positive. However, the first area had some low-level lighting and caused the tracking to be affected. A second attempt in a brighter area was much more impressive. The plane detection was not perfect in the demo, with objects able to be moved off the plane but retaining their position. We questioned the demo in the keynote where a character fell off the edge of the table and it seems this was achieved by knowing the size of the plane beforehand so we don’t expect to achieve similar effects out of the box.
Marketers could benefit from AR when used in the right context. Brands and businesses can now start to think, on a much broader level how AR can be built into their marketing strategies.
Vision API - Somo Developers Favourite
Now you can easily build computer vision Machine Learning features that can be incorporated into apps: Face tracking, face detection, text detection, object tracking etc. The underlying framework, CoreML, is a new foundational machine learning structure, utilised across many Apple products (Siri, Quicktype and Camera). Apple claims it provides extreme fast performance and supports using custom Machine Learning models to enable additional functionality.
For those businesses that want include image recognition and machine learning into their products this is a big deal. The API will allow developers to track objects and faces and plug this information back into a Machine Learning engine, meaning it will not only learn who is using the products but also give greater opportunities for personalisation to users.
Drag and Drop
This new feature is primarily on iPad and is an “easy to implement” API that allows users to drag-and-drop content, even between different apps. It supports multi-touch, you can pick up several items and still navigate around while dragging. One of the key features is supporting custom types so you can, in theory, drag-and-drop anything.
It’s an easy way to move text, files or images from one app to another. It will also be on iPhone, however drag and drop will only work within apps.
SiriKit - The Somo Marketing Team Favourite
SiriKit supports two types of app extension; Intents app and Intents UI. Additional domains have been added to SiriKit - Payments, Tasks, Notes and QR codes. These could be more useful than some of the existing more niche domains such as ride booking or workouts. Siri is also integrated in the new watchOS 4, and will start to understand when and how you operate your apple watch. Context is becoming increasingly important, something we have been telling our clients for a long time.
Before this release businesses were consrainted by the use of Siri. You could book a cab using Siri, and that was about as good as it got. Now however this SiriKit realease will allow developers to use the power of Siri to interact with a much wider range of apps. Siri could be used to add to your notes, or send a payment to a friend and even help you get the most out of your workouts.
A new file explorer app has been included in the iOS 11, supporting many cloud-based services (icloud, Box, Dropbox and other iOS 11 devices). It’s further extended to enable a browser within apps to use and create new files. This is a needed feature as there is now a central place to organise, search and browse files for users.
The upgraded Airplay acts as a multi-room soundsystem, controlled by a single device. In addition, it will connect with HomePod to communicate with speakers and play apple music.
HomePod has high quality sound, stands just seven inches tall, features an A8 chip, and has the biggest brain of any speaker. The HomePod also has many helpful features: Including being spatially aware, it detects the spaces around the speaker and balances the audio. Homepod also has advanced privacy control including local recognition, and anonymous ID communication with the cloud.
For businesses looking to enter the home, the HomePod could be lucrative. You can link your HomePod with Siri and control all your IoT devices. It has the possibility to be the Amazon Echo and Google Home Killer. The main reason it could topple the Alexa empire is the use of natural language. Instead of barking a strict command at Alexa, Apple claims your commands can be much more in line with your everyday language.
Depth API on cameras
Developers can make use of the two cameras, front and rear on the iPhone 7+ and add custom filters to photos and videos based on the depth analysis that is now available. iOS 11 cameras also detect QR codes, an interesting feature for brands. QR codes can be scanned by the camera app and then deep link into an app, or taken to a specific web or landing page. Thus, can be useful for events and brand activatons.
The depth sensor on the cameras will allow businesses to offer filters and personalisation to users, Offering a much richer and engaging customer experience - couple this with the QR reader and the opportunity to enhance the customer experience, is vastly improved. QR codes are fairly old hat but are being used fairly widely in the Asian markets.
Apple’s own graphics rendering engine has been enhanced, and now supports VR development on macOS. Steam are bringing a version of their VR SDK to mac, as well as supporting the HTC Vive. MacBooks can now support external GPUs so they can take advantage and control over key aspects of the graphics. The Metal Performance Shaders (MPS) is also available on macOS and further expands it’s Machine Learning capabilities.
For those in the VR space, this is great news. The support for VR headsets is a big step especially key for businesses wanting to experiment with or implement VR projects into their marketing road map.
App Store - The Somo Strategy Team Favourite
From a marketing perspective, one of the biggest announcements at WWDC was the re-design of the App store. “This is the biggest thing to come to the App Store — since apps”. The new store design aims at improving discovery, curation, storytelling with a new tab structure and new product pages. The new Today tab will provide more news, stories about upcoming and existing apps. The new product pages will make it easier to view videos and deliver the value proposition and marketing message. To increase app revenue opportunities, in-app purchases for apps that the user has already installed will be highlighted in the store.
In addition the app store can now support phased releases, so developers can release new versions to a subset of users and evaluate its impact before pushing the update out to all users.
This is especially important for businesses with apps in the App Store. A new look app store will have wider implications for ASO and App Store search.
CoreBluetooth on WatchOS
WatchOS 4 will be supporting the native Core Bluetooth, ensuring connections with smaller Bluetooth devices. This upgrade is groundbreaking as it allows greater support of hardware systems such as glucose sensors. Therefore, further expanding the fitness, health and sport features available to users.
If you have products that currently run independently to Apple Watches this upgrade could change that, and pull them all together. The upgrade is angling to put Apple Watches as a compatible and useful accessory.
Safari now differentiates themselves from Google Chrome through adding a “Intelligent tracking protection” to avoid ad retargeting. Apple Senior VP Craig Federighi states it uses machine learning to keep trackers, namely ad trackers and third-party data trackers, from following users as they browse from site to site. However, adverts aren’t blocked directly, the user’s previous browsing data is. Therefore, consumers privacy is protected but the web operates as normal and expected.
If a portion of your marketing budget is spent on retargeting then this is worth exploring in more detail. Businesses should be aware what portion of converting traffic comes from retargeted adverts and adjust accordingly.
The big news for Messages is Apple Pay now being featured within the app. With the new P2P payments, users can transfer money to a friend efficiently via Messages. The new element should be popular as it makes it quick and easy to pay a friend, with the security and verification of Apple Pay. Additionally Apple Pay is frequently used, now being accepted by 50% of retailers in US as well as being available on Apple Watches.
Apple maps have stepped up their game with enhanced information. They are introducing indoor mapping, firstly for malls and airports. Coming to both Gatwick and Heathrow airports in phase one release. It will allow users to internally browse public spaces, viewing floors, security, shops etc. Furthermore, iOS 11 is launching more outdoor information: speed limits and lane guidance. Hopefully putting maps back in the race with Google Maps.
Throughout the major Apple systems a high standard has been set this year at WWDC. iOS 11 have allowed apps to increase intelligence using the power of machine learning with Core ML, plus you can now create Augmented Reality experiences with ARKit.
To top it all off the App Store has been redesigned from the ground up. Stay tuned to the blog as we will keep you updated when our developers really get hands on with the updates.