A new bar set for brick and mortar, Apple Watch gets fitter, and AR gets a punch in the arm.
It was a day that both Apple enthusiasts and those of us who work in the mobile industry had been anticipating: the annual keynote from Apple in which its CEO unveils the latest iPhone and other products. Every year, this event propels the entire industry forward in new ways — often dramatic ones — and the implications for mobile are often enormous.
Predictably, the spotlight was on the new iPhone X. Mobile screens are increasingly the first and only screen consumers turn to, even for television content, and the iPhone X is designed for this new reality. There’s no home button, and no bezel, so the screen-to-body ratio is higher than other iPhone models.
While there will undoubtedly be countless words written about the iPhone X, we wanted to take a moment to provide some focus on key takeaways we’ve observed:
Apple Continues to Reinvent Brick & Mortar
It’s no secret that brick & mortar retail businesses have been struggling for some years now. Some retailers are finding ways to use their apps to drive foot traffic to their stores (like Target and the Japanese retailer MUJI), but there’s still room for some grand thinking when it comes to drawing people to stores. Apple has previously defined the retail experience with its store layouts, its Genius Bar and its well trained staff. With this keynote, Apple delivered again. It’s launching ‘Town Square’ locations where programs like “Today at Apple” (workshops and classes around photography and design) can celebrate and support creativity while building a sense of community — and highlight the value of Apple’s products. Our data indicates that the Apple Store App saw well over 2.5 million monthly active users in the US in August alone, and if you’ve gone to an Apple Store recently, it’s probably been crowded.
‘Town Squares’ will make the value of the brand and the products still more apparent and accessible, but in a new way that is likely to resonate with its growing global audience. Tapping consumers’ passion and need for community could be a new direction for brick & mortar as they look to draw in consumers in new ways. This applies to any business with both a brick & mortar and app presence.
Apple Watch Takes a Great Leap Forward
With the launch of the 3rd generation Watch, LTE has now been integrated, making it even more useful and more autonomous for users on the go. For consumers, the integration of cellular access means one can go for long runs and rides, as well as go about many daily activities while streaming their favorite songs, receiving messages, taking a call...without needing their phones. This is an update we expect many fitness enthusiasts will gravitate to and fuel sales for both first time Watch buyers and upgrades for existing users.
For mobile marketers, it means that the device will become more popular, and Apple Watch apps will too, particularly in fitness. The total number of apps with Apple Watch hasn’t seen large growth year-over-year, but key categories like Fitness and Heath have seen an increase of 15% since a year ago. Also, the Apple Watch Series 3 has advanced heart rate monitoring, giving app developers within the Fitness category even more possibilities.
Improved Augmented Reality Functionality
Pokémon GO’s success last year marked a tipping point for AR (augmented reality), making it popular on a massive scale. With the new iPhones, Apple is embracing that sea change in a variety of ways, from playful, proprietary Animojis to integrated software that is built specifically for AR. Basically Apple is making it clear that as far as it’s concerned, AR is no passing fad. It’s preparing its devices to keep up with a game-changer. Pokémon GO and face filters like those pioneered by Snapchat made AR mainstream, but we’re only seeing the beginning of what this technology can do on mobile. Take a look at the MLB.com At Bat app to see how AR on mobile can radically change how users engage with the world around them — it’s quite something to see sports stats overlaid on the field, as demonstrated in the keynote.
As always, the Apple keynote dazzled and gave food for thought. We’ll track how things unfold with ‘Town Square’ and the concept of building community within brick & mortar, how the new Apple Watch affects Apple Watch app activity, and how developers integrate AR to deliver innovating and engaging new experiences — so stay tuned.
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September 13, 2017Mobile App Strategy