Smart IxD Lab


Thoughts, observations and experimentation on interaction by: Smart Design

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As always, excitement and speculation were running high around Apple’s annual developer’s conference, WWDC. It was no different here at Smart, where we all gathered around screens to watch what was being announced. Here were some of our initial thoughts:

Apple is fighting the perception that they’re losing the Android war, and this keynote, especially the beginning, was a response to that.

Nearly every major new OS or iOS feature seemed to address integration of some sort in an exciting way. We can’t wait to see if it lives up to the promise. Particularly iCloud enhancements, HealthKit, HomeKit, new Spotlight, and family sharing features. It’s exciting because this integration fits better into our lives, potentially helps with the disjointed systems that have evolved and connect beyond the personal user.

It was, however, strange to not mention the Beats acquisition at all, except for a phone call to Dr. Dre. Punishment for the early leak?

Apple are really good at iterating on their own stuff, and Yosemite is just another level of refinement.

Easily the best set of features on Yosemite and iOS 8 is Continuity. So many tasks are now cross-platform that enabling that makes perfect sense. Like Tim Cook said, this is the kind of thing only Apple can really pull off, because it owns the whole ecosystem. Airdrop between devices will get rid of all the ridiculous hacks (emailing or texting yourself) to move files between devices. Yes, it’s amazing this is a promoted feature in 2014.

iCloud Drive
iCloud feels like it’s still playing catch up to DropBox and Google Drive. The price is good, but it felt like they needed to take a great leap here to move people away from existing storage solutions. For example, just back up everything, everywhere. All of your devices are backed up, period. Then charge for additional storage. Cloud storage is cheap. It’s not hard to have 100gb of media that could be in the Cloud.

iOS 8
Interactive notifications are something that Android has had forever. Now Apple’s got its version and it’s a great addition. We’re curious how it’ll work on the lock screen when you’re not logged in.

How will this work with swearing? Or sexting? We don’t want any of the guys who were onstage to be predicting sexting.

What’s interesting is that it’ll take into account who you’re talking to and adjust. That’s really interesting predictive technology. This is a way for your phone to say, Hey, I get you. It’ll make the phone feel smarter. Although could be tricky with multiple users of the same device.

Since all the data is being stored on the device, what happens when the device gets stolen? Do you have to start over?

Passbook for health apps. Is your insurance going to integrate with it? Do you want to give an integrated package of your health data to Apple (or anyone outside of your healthcare provider)? It has some promise, but the infrastructure, particularly on the hospital/healthcare side, just isn’t there yet. If it works as well as Passbook (which is to say, not very), it won’t be very useful. Even though it’s ambitious and potentially noble, another concern is this’ll be too much data, that it’ll lead to false diagnoses.

We’re speculating that this is the software precursor to any sort of wearable device from Apple.

This was the biggest change that Apple announced, and potentially the most game-changing.

Apple almost never introduces something we’ve never seen before. They only fine-tune existing things. Extensibility is an example of this, as it’s been in Android for years. App sandboxing has been both a huge selling point and a huge pain point. It’s way more secure against viruses, but it also prevents data and functionality from moving between apps.

It’ll be tricky for developers, but the downside is that it could be crazy and make iOS feel like Android. We haven’t fully comprehended what this will mean yet.

Why wasn’t Siri incorporated into Spotlight? Will it be part of Extensibility? The other big (unsaid) revelation is that Siri is always on, always listening. Will it be cued into your particular voice? Or if everyone’s iPhones are on the table, by saying, “Hey Siri,” will you be able to turn them all on at once?

The piece we were the most excited about had some of the scantiest details. The “industry partners” here were also underwhelming thus far. Without a big name appliance partner like GE or Whirlpool, the service feels limited. “Scenes” is an interesting metaphor for a programmed cluster of behaviors though.

It makes sense Apple made their own programming language. It’s so Apple. It was a little unclear how it really integrates with Objective-C/C though.

Swift’s visual Playground reminded us of Bret Victor’s work. It did fall a little short when during the demo, he couldn’t drag the visuals and change the code.
So while there was no hardware announcement, there was still some meaty additions to the Apple cannon…and some accompanying unanswered questions. We can’t wait to get our hands on the new software and try it out.

Posted by: Dan Saffer

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