Apple rolled out iOS 11.3 today. Among the features are new and improved AR capabilities, health records, data privacy, Animoji, Business Chat, battery health and a few others.
Whether Apple can help mainstream AR in apps is an open question and worthy of separate consideration. The two features I want to discuss here are Business Chat and privacy.
The company first announced Business Chat at its developer conference last year, in June 2017. It’s initially going to be available in the US and Canada to enterprises.
Apple identifies retailers, banks and hotels as the initial categories of corporate users. In order to use it businesses must register with Apple and work with one of several customer service platform partners: LivePerson, Salesforce, Nuance, Genesys, InTheChat and Zendesk.
Consumers will see a chat icon on business profiles, where it’s enabled, “when searching for a business in Maps, Safari, Search or Siri on iPhone and iPad.” Apple says that conversations initiated on the iPad or iPhone “can be continued on Apple Watch or Mac.” Consumers can potentially receive notifications and attachments from entities they’re chatting with.
Apple has also integrated some tools into Business Chat that give it app-like capabilities: Apple Pay, Time Picker (scheduling tool that integrates with Apple’s calendar app) and List Picker (a way to show customers lists of products or choices). And Apple’s Messages Framework (for developers) allows for additional or more branded experiences on iMessage.
The most direct competitor for Business Chat is Facebook Messenger. However Business Chat is in a privileged position on the iPhone and will see uptake accordingly. Google and Microsoft also offer chat through their respective platforms.
Unlike AR, Business Chat is not a “novelty experience” and could have a meaningful impact on companies in the near term. The ability to get additional information in front of consumers and the integration of Apple Pay, makes it a potentially very effective tool if used creatively and correctly by enterprises. (Messenger has not really taken off in this capacity.) Hopefully it will be available to SMBs at some point in the near future.
Privacy as a marketing tool
Apple has long touted its approach to privacy as a differentiator vs. Google/Android and more recently Facebook. With iOS 11.3 it’s introducing a new privacy icon “whenever Apple asks for access to personal information to enable features, secure Apple services or personalize an iOS experience”:
iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4 introduce updated data and privacy information that makes it easier than ever for users to understand how their personal data may be used. A new privacy icon and detailed privacy information will appear whenever Apple asks for access to personal information to enable features, secure Apple services or personalize an iOS experience.
Simultaneously Apple is making a number of changes for European markets to comply with the forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation. According to a story appearing in Bloomberg, Apple will introduce more centralized and comprehensive privacy controls that allow users to download their data, correct their information and temporarily deactivate or delete their accounts. The article implies that Apple will roll out these controls globally after doing so in Europe.
Even though some of these measures are mandated by European privacy rules, they will almost certainly become a marketing tool for Apple in seeking to retain or win over new smartphone users.