Monday saw Shinobi HQ bristling with excitement (not to mention beer and pizza) as we watched Apple’s WWDC 2016. I was particularly interested in the iOS 10 announcements and thought I’d share some of my observations.
User experience is (still) everything
Apple showed a clear focus on user experience. Even if Craig Federighi and Tim Cook hadn’t kept using words like ‘beautiful’ and ‘intuitive’, it was plain to see that clarity, ease of use and pleasant visuals are still high on the agenda.
I was particularly pleased with the ‘raise to wake’ feature – ever since upgrading to an iPhone 6s I find myself often unlocking my phone when all I want to do is check the notifications. It is the small improvements like this that really show how iOS is continuing to be improved.
Walled Gardens and APIs
I was particularly excited by the decision by Apple to slightly lower the walls of their ‘walled garden’. I believe the opening up of the APIs for some of their key apps is great for developers and consumers alike. Blackberry learnt the hard way that the success of a mobile operating system largely relies on its apps. I personally hope Spotify leverage the new Siri API to allow me to control my music by voice in the car!
I was impressed by the demos such as the one for Maps where Eddy Cue showed us how we can search for a restaurant, book a table, order a car and pay for it all, still within the Maps app. Here I spotted similarities with an announcement in the recent Google I/O. There they talked about moving away from the model of many apps on a device with a feature called Android Instant Apps. Here the need to install an entire app to achieve a simple task that you might do rarely, evaporates. I find myself wondering if this is how iOS app extensions will evolve: could you one day have an Uber extension within Maps, but not have the full Uber app installed?
Once again, this initiative clearly has user experience in mind. Despite best efforts from Apple and Google, switching apps on a mobile device is still at best, a clumsy affair. To get a multi-step task done quickly, within one app feels like how things should have been all along. Finally technology is catching up and making this possible.
Privacy is still key
With almost daily media coverage of hacking and identity theft, it is of no surprise that privacy is front and centre in the minds of most. Apple seemed keen to reassure users they have their backs where privacy is concerned. The mention of Differential Privacy, end-to-end encryption and the absence of user-profiling was clear evidence of this.
iOT hasn’t flopped… yet
Apple’s Home app demo certainly had me dreaming of how cool it would be to open the curtains with my phone! Apple are taking huge steps to bring order to what was formerly a mess of incompatible and insecure apps and devices. They clearly believe in the connected home and seem committed to driving it forward. What’s reassuring about Home and HomeKit is the continuing focus on security. I for one have read far too many stories of simple iOT devices such as baby monitors leaking wi-fi passwords.
Looking across the pond
A big giveaway I spotted this year was Apple’s interest in China. Numerous examples showed how Apple were working to improve the experience for Chinese users. For example Craig showed how network providers, such as China’s Tencent can use new hooks in the phone app, to alert users that an incoming call might be spam.
Apple clearly still sees big potential in China and only by thinking beyond its Western customers can it hope to gain ground against strong Chinese competitors such as Huawei and Xiaomi.
What they didn’t mention
It seems as expected that iOS 10 has a few more tricks up its sleeve, beyond those announced at the WWDC. All rejoice – we can now delete (well, hide at least) the Stocks app! One of the big complaints I hear from some iPhone users, especially those who opted for the 16GB version, is lack of space for apps, music and video. iOS 10 promises to alleviate this somewhat with a ‘Storage Optimisation’ feature.
I personally think a nice feature to go alongside this would be the complete abolition of the 16GB version of any iOS device! We can but hope!
Nothing is perfect
I was really excited during the MacOS keynote when Auto Unlock was unveiled. I really hoped this feature would be available to owners of the iPhone devoid of the Apple Watch. As disappointed as I am, I keep telling myself that there is some technical reason for this, rather than Apple using it as an extra reason for us to spend more money!
It’s only about a year since the News and Music apps were launched. I feel that the overhaul planned in iOS 10 has perhaps arrived a little too soon. It takes users time to get used to apps and for some, these changes will be unwelcome.
Apple was under a lot of pressure to deliver with iOS 10 and once again, I believe it has. Some might say it has not pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, but I believe slow and steady wins the race. Apple needs to continue to focus on quality and good user experience, whilst maintaining a strong emphasis on protecting the privacy and security of its users’ data.