Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) this week saw the usual raft of announcements from the company. No new hardware to get excited about this time round, but still plenty coming out of the event to keep Apple fans happy. I think. As a mainly Android user, it’s hard to put yourself truly in the shows of an Apple Fanboy or girl.
The launch of Apple Music took most of the headlines, as well it might. Spotify’s user base of 60m, 15m of whom pay for the service, looks like a reasonable number, but is a mere fraction of the 800m iTunes accounts that Apple controls. And if the normal exchange rate is applied to the $9.99 monthly subscription fee for Apple Music, it will also undercut Spotify in the UK by £3 or more. Throw in a bit of Siri interaction – “Play me the best songs from 1998” and it’s not hard to see Apple Radio being a hit, with or without the 24/7 Beats 1 music station. In fact, Forrester analyst James McQuivery reckons Apple will catch up to Spotify’s paid subscriber base within a year.
Siri also caught my eye when looking over the details of the iOS9 upgrade, due in the autumn. As was predicted, OS9 will be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but even so the updates to Siri look impressive, particularly the Proactive assistance stuff in which it presents the most relevant information - without compromising the users’ privacy and suggests a particular action at a particular point in time, such as apps to launch or people to contact, based on your usage patterns.
The bit I liked most though, is the idea of the OS learning what you typically listen to in a certain location or at a particular time of day, so when you plug in headphones or on the train, it can automatically display playback controls for your preferred app.
To the uninitiated, it might look like sci-fi, but to those of us in love with this stuff, it’s just the intelligent use of the functionality built into the phone, of which location-awareness is one of the most powerful attributes, to enable it to respond in a more intelligent manner. If indeed ‘respond’ is the right word when it’s pre-empting what it thinks you might want it to do next.
No, if we’re talking sci-fi, we have to turn our attention to the Apple Watch. In our current print edition – currently printing – we asked mobile agency Nimbletank to give us its thoughts on developing apps for the Apple Watch. There were things they liked, such as the Xcode6 integration which means that when building an app on the phone it syncs to the Watch directly. But there were also things they were not so keen on, such as some of the limitations within the initial Watch OS.
The release of Watch OS2 in the autumn looks like addressing many of these concerns, giving developers freer reign to do what they want to do when developing for the Watch. So for example, Insteon can give customers more precise controls to dim their lights or control the temperature with the Digital Crown, and Volkswagen owners can get haptic feedback when their car door has been locked. Last week at our Travel & Tourism Summit, Starwood Hotels’ Stephan Croix explained how its customers can use the Watch as a key to open their hotel room door. OK so now we are getting into the realms of sci-fi.
Finally, there was the news that Apple Pay was coming to the UK next month. This will enable people with an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus to pay for things contactlessly via their phone wherever they can currently make contactless payments, usually with a contactless card.
If you have an iPhone 5, 5s or 5c, you can’t use Apple Pay. Unless of course, you have an Apple Watch paired with your old iPhone, in which case you can pay contactlessly with your Apple watch. Just double-click the imaginatively-named ‘Side’ button below the Digital Crown while holding the face of the Watch close to a contactless reader. A haptic pulse and a beep will confirm that the payment has been made.
Now we really are getting into the realms of sci-fi. One small word of caution though. When people start pulling back their shirt cuffs and holding their wrist to the readers, I just hope someone has taken the time to tell all those lovely customer-facing sales assistants in Boots, Costa, Costcutter, Greggs, Little Chef, National Trust properties, Nandos, Wilkinsons et al WTF is going on.