Apple’s moves to the future — Polish, privacy, Pad, and purpose

in Biz/Gadgets/Media

I have thoughts on the announcements Apple made at it’s annual “Welcome independent developers who want to see how we’re building native features that make your apps obsolete” event. I thought to keep my yap shut on this one, but since my most-read post ever came after a WWDC and I saw some meaningful moves, I figured why not…

Polish

While many of the iOS 13 improvements are incremental, and things that have been available on Android for some time, the level of polish was something we haven’t seen from Apple in the post-Jobs era. There’s a renewed attention to detail and innovation that feels like you’re watching an animated render in a new episode of Black Mirror, as opposed to working software.

Dark mode looks so good, it makes you wonder why it isn’t the way things have always been. Swipe-to-type is in the main keyboard and looks to work well. Sharing suggestions will be helpful if the algorithm is right. Siri’s voice is far more natural and the suggestions finally make sense. Face ID is so fast, we’ll stop noticing it’s there. And the photo app upgrades, both in browsing and editing (including video!) were the first tech thing I’ve seen in a while that felt magical. Little clunky UX pieces were fixed.

(By the way, the photo presentation where the guy swiped through each of his daughter’s birthdays in reverse order was breathtakingly moving. It was absolutely Jobs-ian.)

You know how in Star Trek, and to some degree, Star Wars, one of the hard things to believe is that everyone’s tech is the same brandless interface? For the first time, iOS 13 showed me something that I could see becoming just that.

Privacy

Even with all the discussion I’ve seen, I don’t think most people understand how transformational the Apple sign in may be. Companies griping about being forced to use it will shut up and get in line if they want to be on the platform. And a login that controls the information shared and never gives the third party your “real” email address?

Welcome to privacy as a product. The platforms have overplayed their hands and Apple smartly and boldly is stepping in like a beleaguered father taking the contentious toy away from fighting tots.

Every time I see something like this, a disruptive approach that platforms hate, but users may like (even if in the end, it gives them less from a provider), the words of my friend on onetime CTO, Jeremy Dunck, ring in my ears:

“Defaults matter.”

Those of us who work in product and media may configure to the gills, but our dads, wives, and friends don’t.

So in one deft move, Apple may have crippled the ability of others to engage in user customization and email communication while making their own ability to customize become the new best-in-class. We all take a step back, while Apple stays still, becomes the new vanguard of personalization, and looks like a privacy hero to the average consumer.

It’s regressive, a little disingenuous, and absolutely brilliant.

Pad

I paid extra-close attention to the iPad section, as I use my Pro as my primary device. Nominally making iPad it’s own OS shows a renewed focus, but the biggest move is making the Safari browser a desktop tool as opposed to mobile. The best manifestation of that is the ability to use full-blooded Google apps in the browser. For me, that and a few other work apps that require a non-mobile access point, it becomes the last tipping point to me no longer needing a traditional computer.

Of course, a better files interface; external storage access; and better multitasking help that cause.

But buried where only developers and power-users pay heed was an easy way to transition an iPad app to Mac. We are going to wake up in a couple years and wonder when the two product lines merged without us noticing.

Purpose

The final piece of the puzzle is only clear when you step back and look at all that was demoed. Set aside the goofily-priced Mac Pro (complete with $1,000 monitor stand), and you’re looking at an ecosystem that is finally starting to feel seamless. Not only to all of the devices talk to each other, handing off tasks and data, but other items in my life finally just work alongside. The best example of that? My Xbox controller now works for games on any Apple device, making my Apple TV a sometimes substitute for a console.

I’m not saying it’s 100% there. But Apple has very nearly created a complete “Life OS.” Watch, Phone, Pad, speaker, earbuds, car screen, TV. If not seamless, closer to it, and a step away from dropping a chip in your neck, which you might trust them to do if they deliver on the privacy piece.

And if you are a platform or product that depends on Apple devices to reach a large share of your audience, now more than ever, it’s their game to call.

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