Apple continues to strive to make experiences easy, secure, and private for its customers. It is also making experiences more fun and social. I’ll focus on the aspects of “easy” here since my colleagues cover security, privacy, and social media. At Forrester, we like to talk about how consumers’ expectations of convenience are evolving. So are their expectations of inconvenience. Unlocking or tapping keys on my phone is now inconvenient.
“Easy” means removing friction from experiences — especially the things or tasks that I want to complete quickly. Here’s what popped for me in Apple’s keynote at WWDC 2022 earlier this week:
1. Moving Widgets (think complications on the Watch) to the lock screen of the phone. There are so many activities we do on our phones that should require only a glance (e.g., checking a sports score, the time of my next appointment, or the estimated delivery time of a package). The new feature essentially allows notifications to stream inside a Widget (think ESPN sports ticker rather than a chat room conversation). Notifications may feel more passive to the consumer, but they won’t be buried behind a locked screen or in a longer list — if the consumer so chooses.
What it means for brands: Now you can move past notifications that are simply interruptions to instead deliver important information. Apple has raised the bar: It’s now about a presence on your customer’s lock screen. It’s no longer just about an app icon on the phone or permission to send notifications. So now think beyond status and scores: Think flight departure times, progress towards goals (e.g., savings, calorie counting), and even personalized alerts. Things will get tricky when a consumer wants to put private information on their home screen (e.g., weight, account balances, and more). Will Apple and brands let consumers make those choices? Or choose to protect them by privacy-proofing these Widgets? We’ll wait to see.
2. Increasing access to voice through dictation and Siri. Natural language processing (NLP) has improved dramatically in the past few years. Using natural language to control devices and dictate written text creates phenomenal convenience for consumers. Natural language allows consumers to bypass speaking in codes or predefined command language to a device. Using Dictation to write emails or text with punctuation and a keyboard nearby allows screens to get smaller and gives consumers speed.
What it means for brands: Brands should shift into high gear for their efforts on conversation interfaces. If consumers have more opportunities to use voice, they will. The more consumers use voice, the faster Apple (and app developers) will learn. Today, consumers are less comfortable using voice to communicate or transact with brands than they are using text or a touch interface (see Forrester’s Moments Map). Consumers already use voice to search. They will further increase their use of voice to control an app or device. Ultimately, the real convenience kicks in when the consumer makes complex requests that depend on prior and current context. So, don’t throw out your text-based chat efforts. If I can dictate into a live chat window, I can move really fast — even with asynchronous use cases.
3. Blurring the roles of services, apps, and devices — or Apple’s devices. During Apple’s announcements earlier this week, I started to make a mental list of the apps, notifications, and services that I may no longer need. Let’s start with my favorite: healthcare and wellness. I currently mash together two sleep apps, but I’m not sure I need either of them now. I still need both of my identification and insurance cards in California, but I can see a future where I need neither, including to fly. Next are the applications and notifications I use to track deliveries. I like this idea if the data is accurate and useful. And then there’s the combination of my podiatrist, chiropractor, and physical therapist. Apple hasn’t replaced any one of them yet, but I can imagine it. And for Facebook, with Apple now tracking my friends’ birthdays and letting me share photos and videos more easily, the clock may be ticking … well, until I decide to hang out with them in the metaverse.
What it means for brands. You’ll need to build real and sustainable advantages and continue to reassess what that bar is over time. Most brands are unlikely to outspend Apple. Regulations and governments will protect some industries. Companies like Apple will force your pace of innovation if they (Apple) think they can do better for their customers. First, data won’t be enough: You’ll need insights built on longitudinal data. Just like its OS and device counterparts (Android and Google, Samsung), Apple has a breadth of data. Niche apps will have deeper data today, and soon Apple will as well. Second, analyze partnering with Apple. Take advantage of the platforms for car, home, and health. This means pooling data and establishing interoperability with new brands and possibly even with competitors.