Apple kicked off its annual developer conference on Monday, June 7, 2021. One of its big announcements was iOS 15.

iOS 15 makes experiences more intelligent and more intuitive. Apple is adding features that help its customers 100 times a day in little moments throughout the day, every day. In some ways, you could say that iOS 15 doesn’t really do anything new per se. It simply makes hundreds of little experiences every day better. Doing so demands thousands — if not millions — of hours of engineering, complemented by a strong vision and ecosystem strategy.

A few high-level impressions top my list. Apple’s iOS 15 is:

  1. Doing a lot to blend experiences in ways that only it can. Why? It’s one of the few (if only) manufacturers that sells multiple devices (e.g., smartphone, watch, smart speaker, laptop) to a single consumer or family. And it has a host of ecosystem partners that offer services that make these devices so valuable. iOS 15 showed us new ways of blending experiences, such as music or movies with FaceTime calls. iOS 15 will allow us to better share and blend media within our conversations and more. Longer term, these seamless and blended experiences should bring more consumers into the Apple ecosystem and increase the switching costs for current customers in a good way.
  2. Giving consumers a stronger sense of privacy through new security features and control of their data. I’m going to leave the deep dive to my colleagues at Forrester, but I personally can’t wait to bypass setting up accounts to do every little thing online. I’ve generated dozens, if not hundreds, of random email addresses to create temporary accounts rather than providing my own. Being forced to set up an account every time I want to order food, track a package, or browse a website is beyond annoying to me. I don’t want a relationship with every brand I make a purchase with. I want a choice.
  3. Making a case for the Apple Watch to be the next “it” device. Four years ago, I wrote a list of the killer apps that an Apple Watch would need to shift from “nice to have” to “essential.” The list included:
    • Notifications. (Apple checked this box on the first version.)
    • Payments. Yes, the Apple Watch has had payments for years, but Apple is making phenomenal progress with acceptance by merchants, transit authorities, venues, and more. Anyone remember MCX or CurrentC? I don’t.
    • Voice (assistants). Apple continues to improve here with Computational Audio, Spatial Audio, and its Bluetooth AirPod headsets that make this a great experience.
    • Identity. This is huge. I would have placed bets that this would be the last holdout feature. If I can go to the airport and navigate TSA without an ID or a Real ID, that is game-changing (for Apple and anyone else that gets this done.)
    • Health. Apple continues to build here. Apple is doing more than just adding sensors, collecting data, building insights, and nudging consumers toward healthier habits. It’s adding services for fitness classes. Apple knows it has a long way to go here. I appreciate the realistic tone: They’re enabling consumers to make better choices and improve their health and wellness. They’re helping consumers achieve better outcomes — not guaranteeing them.
  4. Continuing to focus on the best experience for the customer. Apple didn’t throw around a ton of buzzwords. I don’t think I heard about AI or machine learning. In 2021, there is simply an assumption that these technologies and more (think neural networks) are the underlying foundation that makes my phone, watch, media, communication, creation, etc., experiences better. It’s refreshing to have a company show us what it can do rather than talk about what a toolbox of enabling technology could do.
  5. Balancing the needs of developers and customers. Brands may not love that they can’t track website visitors’ eyeballs literally or send an endless stream of mobile notifications. The epic trial is still without a conclusion. Apple is always weighing how to satisfy its broad ecosystem. The balancing act is hard. Apple announced that it has 600 million weekly visitors to its App Store and has paid out $230 billion to its developer community since the App Store launched. Every app developer — whether a Fortune 500 brand with a banking or airline app or a small game publisher — will cheer new tools in the developer kit (how cool is it to create 3D images for augmented reality (AR) with an iPhone image?!) with what they may have lost in tracking technology as Apple looks to protect its consumers’ privacy.

More to come this week and next. I plan to dive deep into notifications, chat features, AR, computer vision, and audio improvements.