Initial responses to the iPhone 5S were somewhat muted. It was in the weeks after release that marketers found the most powerful features had been downplayed at launch – particularly strange as iBeacons and Mesh Networking provide far greater opportunities for marketing than fingerprint scanners.
Faced by a shrinking marketshare and pressure from users to justify the high cost of handsets, Apple needs the iPhone 6 launch to be a complete success.
Apple has reportedly booked a launch event for September, during which we expect to see the new iPhone 6 debut, along with more details of iOS 8.
What we know for sure
All of the "certainties" associated with the new iPhone centre on iOS8, mainly because the latest mobile software has already been demonstrated at the WWDC 2014 event in June. There are two new features that will be of significant interest to marketers.
The ability to track general health, like blood sugar levels, could provide an opportunity for brands to create value-added apps and services for their iOS-using customers
Described as a health tracking app for interfacing with third-party devices like the Fitbit wristband, HealthKit is actually a software framework that developers can use in their own apps. HealthKit allows apps to capture and process health-related information, creating dozens of new opportunities for creative marketers.
Suppose your favourite sports supplement brand releases an app that incorporates elements of the HealthKit framework. While suggesting exercise routines and monitoring your exercise levels and blood pressure, it can recommend foods that will improve your overall health, and offer relevant product discounts.
The app could even use geolocation or iBeacon to direct you to the correct shelf position in store, saving you time and effort while shopping.
Obviously that’s a fairly basic scenario, but it shows how HealthKit could be used to create relevant and targeted ads that benefit customers. Similarly the ability to track general health, like blood sugar levels, could provide an opportunity for brands to create value-added apps and services for their iOS-using customers.
Getting in on the "internet of things" trend, HomeKit is Apple’s attempt at cracking the home automation market. Google may have bought up Nest and their intelligent thermostat, but HomeKit marks an altogether more ambitious plan from Apple.
If your customer is unavailable at the allocated delivery time, they can assign your courier a temporary "pass" to open their 'intelligent' door lock and leave the parcel inside. What PR value can you place on this kind of value-add service?
HomeKit provides a way for manufacturers of third-party intelligent devices (like garage doors, door locks, lighting and thermostats) to hook into iOS. Users will then be able to control these smart devices directly from their iPad or iPhone. iOS becomes the "glue" that allows digital devices to combine and communicate seamlessly, automating common household tasks and making our lives easier in the process.
Intelligent door locks offer a solution to the perennial problem of missed deliveries for instance. If your customer is unavailable at the allocated delivery time, they can quickly and easily assign your courier a temporary "pass" to open their door and leave the parcel inside. What PR value can you place on this kind of value-add service?
The customer gets their delivery and they don’t need to wait in for the courier – the perfect end to the dream online shopping experience.
Enhancements to existing functions
iOS8 also enhances several existing features. Siri, the voice activated "personal assistant", will feature improved voice recognition and an enhanced command set, for instance.
For marketers this should mean that users can access resources more easily using voice prompts. Siri will also support music tagging technology similar to Shazam – opening another new avenue to marketers looking to add value to existing campaigns.
IMessage has also been overhauled, adding true group messaging functionality. And in a move seen by some as an attempt to take on the unexpected success of Snapchat, users can set expiry limits so that the text and attachments auto-destruct within a given time.
What might happen
During most product unveilings, Apple saves one detail until the end of the presentation. And it’s this "one more thing" which fuels most of the speculation surrounding the iPhone 6.
Although Motorola and Samsung have equipped their flagship handsets with Near Field Communications (NFC) chipsets, Apple has so far resisted the technology. By placing the handset on an NFC "tag", users gain access to additional content like special deals, vouchers or even short video clips directly through their handset.
In many ways NFC has been superseded by iBeacons for proximity marketing purposes, so it is unlikely that the iPhone 6 will sport the necessary hardware. Unless Apple makes a move into credit card payment processing of course….
Now that Google, Motorola, Samsung and Fitbit have all made it to market with their own wearable devices, Apple is in danger of losing out on another front
Despite plenty of "genuine" leaked photos, Apple refuses to comment about a "super-size" iPhone designed to compete with large screen rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S5. If Apple do unveil handsets with larger screens, marketers have a lot more real estate to play with.
Bigger screens allow for better visuals that communicate marketing messages more clearly. Being that statistics consistently show iOS users to be the biggest mobile spenders, marketers have a great opportunity to use that new space to better effect. Assuming a larger device really is unveiled in September.
The legendary iWatch
Rumours of a wearable device, nicknamed the iWatch, have circulated for years. Now that Google, Motorola, Samsung and Fitbit have all made it to market with their own wearable devices, Apple is in danger of losing out on another front.
Apple’s wearable is expected to be a smartwatch that pairs seamlessly with other iOS devices. Because they are in their infancy and practical uses are not yet well defined, wearables present marketers with a blank canvas. Early adopters stand the best chance of making serious PR mileage if they can find an application that offers a useful experience to their customers.
The usual wait-and-see game
There is just over a month to wait to see if the iPhone 6 is worthwhile, and that the promised advances allow marketers and developers to create some truly life-enriching (or at least fun) experiences for the iOS using masses.
The iPhone 6 launch is crucial if Apple hope to recover some of their lost marketshare. The functions and features that have been announced so far show some potential for readdressing the balance – but will it be enough, or will Apple have to pull a truly unexpected "one more thing" out of the hat?