Apple continues to innovate through design and the use of context to create highly intuitive experiences for consumers. Examples include surfacing:

  • The most important apps, widgets, and information on home screens on the iPhone based on time of day, location, or other inferred needs.
  • App Clips, with just the portion of the app a consumer needs in his or her moment and without forcing discovery and download of the full app (e.g., paying for parking, ordering a coffee from a new shop, etc.).
  • Routes that meet a consumer’s needs — for example, the fastest or flattest cycling route through large cities such as San Francisco, New York City, and Beijing.

One of the enemies of context has been consumer privacy. Our research on context in mobile has often argued for a “big mother” rather than a “big brother” approach to the use of consumer data. Apple emphasized consumer privacy throughout the keynote at Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2020. Apple will use a combination of tactics, including holding the most personal of information securely on the phone or hardware itself. Moreover, Apple expanded the usability or use cases of its “Sign in with Apple,” giving consumers more nuanced control of how their location is tracked and offering transparency around what data third-party developers are leveraging.

Who benefits from the design brilliance that Apple is injecting into its operating systems for its smartphones, watches, tablets, and other devices?

  • Among other attributes, consumers seek convenience in the use of devices and services. What this means for consumers is difficult for them to articulate. They translate the intuitiveness, enjoyment, and efficiency of experiences into phrases like “it simply works” or “it is so easy to use.”
  • Forrester has been writing about the use of context to enable convenience for consumers (see report). Updates to the operating systems give enterprises the tools they need to meet and exceed consumer expectations, whether it is creating shortcuts for consumers by anticipating their needs or offering seamless experiences across devices and interaction modes (e.g., chat, voice, icons, etc.).
  • The tools for developers up-level all experiences while simplifying development and speed to market. Rising tides lift all boats. The evidence is in previous development tool releases such as ARKit. Apple released ARKit in 2015. Its App Store now boasts 10,000 apps from 7,000 developers (see report).

The announcements today may feel incremental to nondevelopers, who were likely cheering loudly in their homes and chat rooms around the world. Consumer responses along the lines of “I just love it” or “I just picked up my phone, and it worked” don’t do justice to the work it takes to simplify experiences year in and year out. Apple experiences continue to delight consumers, even if they can’t tell us why.