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The Privacy Guardian of Big Tech Strikes Again!
24 Jun 2021
Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference 2021 (WWDC) took place this month from June 7th – June 11th. More than 28 million developers in the community had the opportunity to preview many exciting new features in the upcoming iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and watchOS 8.
At Shape, being the leading mobile experience partner in this region, we followed the event closely, and would like to share some of the key takeaways with you.
Privacy, Privacy, Privacy!
Apple is clearly playing the long game here to position itself as Privacy Guardian #1 in the world of Big Tech. From requiring opt-in to be tracked across apps and platforms in iOS 14.5 to Mail Privacy Protection across the operating systems. This means that a well-known KPI like mail opening rates will now disappear from the email marketing dashboard because senders won’t be able to use invisible pixels anymore in Apple Mail. On top of that, the IP address of the user will be masked so it can’t be linked to any online activity or location.
The same goes for Safari where Intelligent Tracking Prevention is also enhanced by hiding the user’s IP address from trackers. This will effectively shut down the user’s IP address as a unique identifier in connecting their activity across website and in profiling users. If you’re subscribing to iCloud, Apple takes it even further. A new feature, Hide My Email, lets users generate random email addresses when they sign up for a new service but wish to keep their personal email address private. Built directly into Safari, iCloud settings, and Mail, Hide My Email enables users to create and delete as many addresses as needed at any time, letting the user control who can contact them. In iCloud+ (which is a free upgrade if you’re already subscribing to iCloud), there’s also a new, VPN-like feature called Private Relay which allows users to browse the web in a more secure and private way. When browsing with Safari, Private Relay encrypts the web traffic from the user’s device. No one between the user and the website can access and read it, not even Apple or the user’s network provider.
Many people are asking why Apple can take all these new steps to increase privacy and transparency in tracking user behaviour. The answer is probably that they can afford it because they’re still also very much a device-driven business compared with the other Big Tech companies – and if Apple can set the bar higher and get their standards to become the users preferred standards, then it will put much more pressure on their competitors. Another perspective could be that Apple’s fight for greater privacy could force some industries – especially media - to move from being primarily funded by advertising to a subscription-based model. Apple would then receive a cut of the subscription revenues – 15-30% - through its in-app business.
Another interesting new feature in iOS 15 is Focus which are meant to assist users in reducing distractions during the day. Focus filters notifications and apps based on what a user wants to focus on either by creating a custom focus or suggestions based on-device intelligence. This also means that Focus can block incoming notification to indicate that a user is not currently reachable.
To also reduce distraction, iOS 15 also introduces a new notifications experience. There is now a summary which collects non-time-critical notifications for delivery at a more opportune time, such as in the morning and evening. Notifications will – like in Focus – be prioritized based on the user’s interactions with the apps being used. This whole new way of stacking notifications means that digital product owners’ messaging must be made more relevant than ever in order to get prioritized. So, our advice is to revisit your push strategy and evaluate if any changes should be made in order to get a high priority status. The product owner would be able to push notifications as “Time Sensitive”, but these can also easily be turned off.
Meeting and Sharing
Apple must have been inspired by Netflix parties and has definitely also witnessed the surge of video calls. The new FaceTime not only comes with improved sight and sound but also the possibility to send links to Group Calls where a new grid view enables participants to see more faces at the same time – and where e.g. Android-users will also be able to join the calls.
And then there’s SharePlay. Users will now be able to watch a TV show or movie from Apple TV+ and other streaming services in sync or share their screen to view apps together. SharePlay works across iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Disney+, HBO, Hulu, Paramount+, TikTok, Twitch, and many others are integrating SharePlay into their apps. The social viewing experience just expanded significantly with SharePlay. Letting users share an app experience is something we believe should be explored also in business apps going forward.
Take Care of Each Other!
The Health app is getting a new sharing tab that lets users share their health data with family, caregivers, or a care team. It also includes Trends which gives users a way to focus attention on meaningful changes in personal health metrics, and Walking Steadiness is a new metric that empowers people to proactively manage their fall risk.
Apple – like all the Big Tech players – are looking to conquer life sciences territory and Apple is supremely positioned to do so, being both a hardware and software company. Financial services were first up for disruption when GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) began to look into other industries. Now, the time has come for life sciences because GAFA always follows the money and industries which still lack a great customer experience. Expect that many more brands – and not only healthcare and pharma brands - will begin to explore the opportunities to improve people’s well-being and quality of life through their digital products – if, of course, users are willing to share their health data.
Reality Will Be Even More Augmented
At WWDC 2021, Apple announced a significant update to RealityKit, its suite of technologies that allow developers to get started building AR (augmented reality) experiences. With the launch of RealityKit 2, developers will have more visual, audio and animation control when working on their AR experiences. But the most notable part of the update is how Apple’s new Object Capture API allows developers to create 3D models in only minutes for AR using iPhone photos. Usually, creating these 3D models is one of the most time-consuming processes in making great AR apps. These often take hours and cost a lot of money.
First, the developer just takes take a series of pictures using an iPhone to capture 2D images of an object from all angles, including the bottom. Then using the Object Capture API on macOS Monterey, it should only take a few lines of code to generate the 3D model. Retailers like IKEA, Wayfair, Etsy and others are using Object Capture to create 3D models of real-world objects — an indication that online shopping is about to get a big AR upgrade. Wayfair, for example, is using Object Capture to develop tools for their manufacturers so they can create a virtual representation of their merchandise. In the coming period, we expect to see many more retailers and manufacturers investing heavily in AR apps now that it has become so much more feasible to let customers preview products.
These were the some of the highlights from WWDC 2021 that we chose to share with you. We hope you find the many new opportunities just as exciting as us – but also that you are prepared to revisit your mobile strategy in order to navigate the new privacy landscape. Maximising personal relevance and creating value-adding customer experiences will certainly be an even more important key success factor going forward.