Better Together Adds Value to Apple’s Portfolio
No, I did not get the events confused, this was Apple’s WWDC and not Google i/o, but the mantra we have been hearing from Google about its software and devices coming together to deliver a better experience to its users was actually delivered on the keynote stage by Apple. What is interesting to me is that the philosophy goes way beyond hardware. Still, the delivery is the same: find an essential product – not limited to hardware – to anchor the experience around and add others to it so that they both deliver and receive value.
We have a couple of clear examples of the extra value coming from devices working together on the hardware front.
Continuity Camera extends the benefits of the biggest purchase driver in the iPhone, the camera, to what has been consuming a lot of our day-to-day over the past two years, video calls. The simplicity of the solution that lets you mount your iPhone on the back of a MacBook or the new Studio Display to take advantage of the more advanced features of the iPhone camera is what underlines the better together story. There’s no setup required with Continuity Camera. The user just needs to bring their iPhone close to a Mac, put it on a stand, and FaceTime or any video conferencing app will automatically recognize it. No software update is required at their end. The experience goes a step forward with a new feature called Desk View, which uses the iPhone’s ultra-wide camera to show both your face and a view of the desk as an overhead camera so a user can create video tutorials or use it during a meeting for a show and tell.
With iPad getting full external display support and Stage Manager, its flexibility as a primary computing device grows significantly. Stage Manager allows you to create groups of 3 or 4 windows, and when used with an external display, you can now have up to 8 apps running simultaneously, considerably improving the iPad’s multitasking capability.
Looking across software apps and services is about the simple things that make your experience seamless and end-to-end solutions that give you peace of mind. Here are a few examples.
FaceTime is adding support for calls to go across devices. You can start a call on your iPhone, and when you are close to your Mac, the computer sees the call on your phone and gives you the option to move it across and take advantage of the larger screen if you so wish.
Apple Pay is adding Apple Pay Later and Order Tracking to integrate services you might have gotten from other services into one experience. Apple Pay Later lets you split the cost of an Apple Pay purchase in four equal payments, spread over six weeks, with no interest or fees of any kind. There was some confusion on social about this feature being limited to purchases of Apple products, which is not the case. Like Continuity Camera and meeting apps, even for Apple Pay Later, there is no work required for developers and merchants already working with Apple Pay. It will just work. Apple Pay order tracking enables merchants to deliver detailed receipts and tracking information directly to the customer’s wallet. This has been a personal pain point for me when using Apple Pay thus far as you need to rely on third-party apps such as Shop, and online retailers use different ones, so as a customer, you end up tracking your orders all over the place.
Safari and the new Shared Tab Groups are other good examples. This gives you the ability to collaborate with people by sharing tabs, see who suggested them, and even have the ability to connect directly with the people you are collaborating over messages or FaceTime. Apple also added a new app called Free Form that you can open right from a FaceTime call. Free Form can be used for brainstorming sessions, taking notes, sharing files, drawing diagrams, and everything else you do when you collaborate. Photos, video, audio documents, PDFs, and web links can all be brought onto a Free Form board.
While Apple talked about these last two features in a consumer context, it is easy to see how it could be very relevant in an enterprise context. Our research data shows a high reliance on both iMessage and FaceTime as collaboration tools in business and not only in small businesses but in groups within large organizations as well. iMessage even gets a collaboration option now so that you can easily share and work on a document while staying in the workflow.
Sometimes better together relies on third parties like in the Home, where Apple has joined Matter to drive higher interoperability across devices. Or in the car, where the future version of CarPlay will have a much deeper integration with the in-vehicle data and system.
The pandemic has grown the number of devices we rely on every day. While our mobility is increasing, our dependence on these devices will remain because the overall time we spend performing tasks digitally has gone up. The complexity of our digital tasks has also increased. The combination of these factors means that our need to pick the right device for the task and move seamlessly across devices and apps has also grown. In more ways than one, Apple has showcased how its ecosystem can deliver simplicity and richness at the same time. Yet Apple does not, at least not yet, play a part in all the aspects of our life, and the same is true for other big tech companies, whether we think of Google, Microsoft, or Amazon. It will be fascinating to see how consumers will choose their preferred “enablers” for the many digital activities. Even more relevant when they move into the Metaverse, a topic that, despite rumors of a “realOS,” was absent from Apple’s keynote.