Apple is making important changes that will benefit businesses whose customers use Apple devices.
At its recent World Wide Developer Conference, the company announced a number of changes and new features coming this autumn to Apple platforms, watchOS, iOS, macOS and tvOS. We're advising our clients to view these as opportunities to improve the customer experience.
Here are five important changes that Apple announced, along with our advice regarding each. The changes will affect customers' phones beginning this fall.
1. Unlocking Siri. Apple is making it easier for developers of third-party apps to work with the iPhone's Siri voice assistant. A new Siri software development kit (SDK), called SiriKit, is available in iOS 10. When iOS 10 is released publicly this fall, customers will be able to talk directly to their apps.
Apple has indicated that, initially, it will allow third-party apps associated with six particular domains to interact with Siri. The domains are ride-sharing, payments, workouts, chat, voice communications, and photo-sharing. We believe Apple will add other domains will be added to the list in the future.
An iPhone user will be able to tell Siri, "Send a Facebook message to Mary and let her know that I will call her at 4 p.m.," for example. Siri will then present the sender with a copy of the message and ask for confirmation that it should be sent. After receiving confirmation, Siri will send the message.
The changes to the Siri SDK were a major focus at the Worldwide Developers Conference. Voice capabilities are an up-and-coming area this year, not only for Apple, but for competitors as well, with Android, Amazon, Microsoft, and others moving forward with new offerings.
Our advice: Start thinking about how customers and employees might interact with your business by voice. What transactions would customers want to conduct via the app? How would customers really talk to your app? Remember that customers think about your business differently than you do.
A related question involves user authentication, a particularly important concern for financial institutions and retailers. Currently, Apple provides two levels of authentication. One is "wide open," which means that a transaction can be done even when the user's iPhone is locked. The other is "behind the lock screen," which means that the user must have already used a passcode, PIN or fingerprint to unlock the phone before the transaction can be done. Now is the time to consider how you would want to authenticate users and what transactions you can enable with limited authentication options.
2. Opening iMessages. Apple also is opening its messaging app, iMessages, to developers of third-party apps. On its website, Apple describes the change as follows: "Users will have easy access to your apps without having to leave Messages. They can conveniently share content, edit photos, play games, send payments, and collaborate with friends within a custom interface that you design."
With the new capabilities, a retailer, for example, could include a product description and image within a message, and a customer could purchase that item within iMessages, using ApplePay.
Users of iPhones will be able to acquire iMessages-specific apps through the iMessages App Store, which is a separate new app store.
Apple's integration of other services with iMessages "mirrors what Facebook has done with Messenger and what Tencent, a major Apple rival in China, has done with WeChat," according to a June 13 New York Times article. "Unlike Google and Facebook, which rely on uploading a user's data to the cloud, Apple said the new features will keep data on the phone to protect user privacy."
Apple is allowing deep SDK access from within these iMessages extensions, including access to the camera. Expect to see SnapChat-like face filters appearing in the App Store with iOS 10.
Our advice: Consider the branding opportunities available within iMessages as well as the kinds of transactions you might want to allow your customers to conduct via iMessages. Remember that chat apps, like iMessages, are some of the most heavily used apps on most phones. They are a valuable place to have a visible presence.
3. Improving Apple watchOS. Since the introduction of the Apple Watch a year ago, one of the issues that has plagued the device is the amount of time it takes to get information from the watch. Users have to hold their wrist aloft for what seems like a long time before the information appears.
Improvements to the watchOS will make the device much quicker in providing data. The Watch will determine which apps are the user's favorites; i.e., the ones used most often. Those apps will be given priority when retrieving information in the background and be allowed to keep data fresh in the background. As a result, when customers lift their wrists to look at the watch, the information they want will be available immediately. For instance, a transit provider whose app has been "favorited" will be able to give the user up-to-the-minute information about when a particular bus will arrive, based on the routes the user normally takes.
We believe that, with these changes, the Watch will be a more compelling platform. Improving the availability of information will make the device more useful and enjoyable for wearers.
Our advice: Revisit the viability of an Apple Watch app, focus on what individual pieces of information your customers might want to see on their wrists, and facilitate access via an Apple Watch app.
4. Improving security. Beginning with this autumn's introduction of iOS 10, apps must use secure connections - specifically TLS 1.2 connections - with strong ciphers. If an app doesn't meet these standards and it is submitted to the App Store, the developer will need to justify in writing why the standards aren't being met. There is a possibility that the app will be rejected for security reasons.
Our advice: If possible, update your infrastructure quickly in order to support TLS 1.2 with strong ciphers.
You might also want to investigate the use of certificate transparency (https://www.certificate-transparency.org/what-is-ct) and online certificate status protocol (OCSP) stapling (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OCSP_stapling). Certificate transparency and OCSP stapling provide a means of determining whether the digital certificate used for a connection are valid and worthy of trust.
Implementing appropriate security measures now will enable you to avoid problems with app submission this fall.
5. Improving the notification system. Apple is revamping the "push" notifications that users receive via phone; for example, "You have a message"; "You have mail"; or "You have a meeting coming up." Some of these changes will be of particular interest to businesses.
Among them: Apps can now update notifications. Previously, an app that tracked scores in sporting events, for instance, would send a notification every time the score of a game changed. That could become a nuisance. The same app now can update the notification itself. In other words, instead of sending a notification each time the score changes, the app updates an existing notification.
Another key change: Businesses and others that send out notifications will be able to delete notifications, removing them from the user's phone after an event such as a meeting has passed. That will help keep the user's phone free of clutter. An app will now be able to present a time-sensitive offer via a push notification and have that notification disappear after the offer expires.
Advice: Look at how you are currently sending notifications. See if you can leverage the update/delete capability to improve the experience that customers have with your app.