During its annual iPhone unveiling on Tuesday, Apple embedded technologies that have consistently seemed a year or two away from ubiquity in devices that will sell over 100 million units next year. In half of an afternoon, the company pulled these technologies out of the future and into our daily lives.
As usual, Apple isn’t first with these technologies, but its implementations are more refined, and delivered at greater scale than ever before.
Augmented Reality Will Be Everywhere
As mentioned in our coverage of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June [link to that piece], OS-level support for Augmented Reality will change the world of computing—and maybe the world generally. With the release of the iPhone 8 and iPhone X (in September and November, respectively), AR will be available on tens of millions of devices.
The cameras on the iPhones 8 and X (pronounced “ten” not “ex,” if you need to settle any watercooler debates) are tuned for AR. The phones boast new gyroscopes and accelerometers to track device position and movement, improved motion tracking and low-light capabilities, and new CPUs and GPUs tasked to the technology’s unique demands.
Brands should expect AR to be a table-stakes technology within a few years. Experimenting and investing now may convey some first-mover advantage; It will certainly build expertise to leverage later.
Your Face Is Your Passport
Forget fingerprint scanning to unlock your phone. The deluxe (starting at US$999!) 10th-anniversary iPhone X uses your face.
FaceID unlocks your phone and authorizes Apple Pay transactions. Apple is not first with the feature, but looks to have the first secure smartphone facial-recognition system unable to be fooled by tricks like holding up a photo. It’s achieved this with an intimidating array of tiny sensors around the user-facing camera that project 30,000 invisible infrared dots onto the user’s face to match against its map of your face.
Apple claims FaceID will recognize you even if you change your hairstyle, wear a hat or beard, with or without glasses, and as you age. No worries about security, either. FaceID stores data in the iPhone’s Secure Enclave—where TouchID fingerprints were previously stored—not in the cloud, so your data stays with you in a virtually unhackable repository.
You’re the Emoji
FaceID should unlock all kinds of digital experiences. One example is Apple’s Animojis, which maps facial scans of you making various expressions onto existing emojis to create an animation of a familiar emoji that has your expressions.
Sending a smiling cat that looks a bit like you is fun, but not necessarily more than that. Applying facial mapping to other experiences, though, could unlock viral brand activations that until now had been difficult or delivered unconvincing results.
Leave Your Phone at Home; Take Your Watch
The original Apple Watches were companions to the iPhone that didn’t do enough on their own. The new Apple Watch, with its LTE cellular connection, may give the iPhone itself a run for its money. Forget needing your iPhone; you can make phone calls and stream music from your wrist even if your phone is a thousand miles away.
Siri now also speaks aloud, the Watch boasts an 18-hour battery life, and it’s priced at just $399 (plus a $10/month data plan). Even more impressive, it’s only a bit bigger than its stylish, nicely sized predecessors.
Brands should start taking the smart watch seriously as the first—and sometimes only—screen on which to reach consumers.
A Reason to Upgrade Your TV
Whether in its groundbreaking Retina Display screen (upgraded to 458 pixels-per-inch Super Retina Display on the iPhone X), or the wide color gamut True Tone screen on the iPad Pro, Apple consistently makes its screens more beautiful.
That’s the case with the new Apple TV 4K, a set-top streamer that supports 4K resolution and High-Dynamic Range (HDR) images. Netflix streams some content in 4K ultra-high resolution, as do devices from Roku and Amazon. TVs are also starting to support HDR, but this has largely been a case of hardware waiting for content to take advantage of its features. Remember what happened to 3D TV in that situation?
Apple is solving that by delivering a tremendous amount of 4K HDR video for free. With the release of the new Apple TV, many HD movies purchased from iTunes will be upgraded to 4K for free. Millions of people will suddenly have at least some—and maybe much more—4K content. Upgrading to a 4K HDR TV makes a lot more sense now.
Never Buy Another iPhone Charging Cable
The iPhone 8 and iPhone X bring wireless charging to the Apple ecosystem. Again, Apple isn’t the first to offer wireless charging, but by January 2019, there should be well over 100 million Apple devices capable of wireless charging. That feels like critical mass.
With the price and privacy and security implications of FaceID, expect the iPhone X to garner the most headlines. But years from now, I wouldn’t be surprised if we remember this event for introducing mass-scale Augmented Reality and delivering true mobile internet access and communication without a smartphone.
Photo credit: Business Insider