Apple September 2015 – Products redefined

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I love Apple products. They help me live my life. Other products would do the same but Apple make you feel that they are special.

The September 2015 launch started with this “Helping our users live a better day” and through my experience (others may not agree), Apple live up to this with the user experience that flows from hardware to software, from ease of set up to the customer experience.

The launch of September 2015 seemed to me to show the usual Apple products, improved but the product themselves redefined.

Mac books and iMac’s were not on the agenda but a product was there to compete in this space… the iPad Pro.

pc

iPad Pro

Hardware design around the iPad Pro pushes us closer to achieving the same interaction as the pen and paper but also that of a laptop. Additional extras are the Apple pencil and the foldable keyboard. The pencil appears really sophisticated with pressure sensitivity and the ability to detect the angle that you are drawing. It also allows for simultaneous use of a finger and pencil. My only concern here is that the stylus has never really taken off- is this any different? Is the keyboard any better than the numerous cheaper options out there?

keyboard-pencil

Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is coming of age- a focus on the useful apps rather than just being an extension of the phone. The time travel feature is a nice combination of tactile hardware (turning the dial) and the calendar scrolling through the days. Link up to GoPro and you have a camera display.

Apple TV

Apple TV is no longer seen as a locked down limited TV but with the ability to cast a device. “The future of TV is apps!” Apple TV was pitched more as a games console with apps that allowed for TV channels. An improved remote allows for a greater potential in what Apple TV can be used for. Siri is pitched as the primary method of control with filtering being voice activated. Cross app searching allows for apps like iTunes and netflix to be searched at the same time so that a tv programme can be found across apps. Subtitles can be added by voice command as can fast forwarding and rewinding.

This addition of the app store seems to be a way of encouraging people to develop apps specifically for Apple TV.

tv-apps

Elements of iOS8 have been brought into Apple TV, with the ability to drag up or drag down action panels is just like the functionality on the phone- the difference here is that it is controlled by voice activation. My feeling is that Apple TV in the past has been lagging behind. Now it is catching up and with the addition of the app store this will only get better.

from-bottom-of-screen

 

The introduction of the app store opens up potential to shop from Apple TV. The challenge here is a different sort of navigation. The online retailer, Gilt, overcome this with the use of cards to filter down shopping items and buy it now buttons.

gilt

guilt2

 

iPhone 6S and 6S-Plus

Same same but different… well not that different in appearance.

The camera functionality is interesting. Photos allow our moments to be captured. Apple have introduced a concept of “live photos” This is a photo that on touch shows a small bit of movement. This is just a short movie clip with the first frame as a still but it does add something special in a way only Apple can that enhances that relationship between user and device.

iPhone6S

The biggest change here is the screen. On the iPhone 6s there are different pressure level that trigger different output. They call this peek and pop when used with the iPhone. The idea is that a light touch on the home screen allows for a quick view inside the app. Release the finger and the app preview disappears. Push a little deeper into the screen and the app pops up and can be used. There is a break between viewing and doing.

peek

The iPhone has become a companion rather than a product. IOS upgrades are free and aligning with this is the new subscription model for the phones themselves. Pay a monthly fee and when a new iPhone is released, you get it. I think that this shows a mature reflection to the way that the products are now treated.

Strategic partnerships were used to bridge gaps

apple-hermes

  • Apple watch and the luxury fashion world- work with Hermes
  • iPad and the corporate office – work with Microsoft
  • iPad and the creative world – work with Adobe
  • iPhone and the pain of transferring from one operating system to another – an app to make the android to IOS move as painless as possible

 

Health

There was a lot around health and how Apple devices can help. The watch can be used to monitor during pregnancy, with the ability to display the unborn baby’s heart beat as well as the mother’s. From here the results can but communicated with the doctor. An iPad app was demonstrated to show how 3D apps can show scientifically accurate skeletal and muscular interactions that would help medics understand how to operate.

App on watch showing heartbeat of mother and child

App on watch showing heartbeat of mother and child

 

The impact on UX design

Apps now can be built to span across different types of devices, from watch up to tv. There are currently over 10,000 watch apps in the app store. The first thing that springs to mind is the difference in size. This has to be designed for. For me a bigger challenge is the hardware interaction for each device type. The Apple watch has a time machine function; a dial that can move you through a linear journey. The iPad Pro is not iPad sized- it is much bigger or can be split down into split screen mode meaning that apps can be different in size one a single device. The iPhone has introduced another dimension to touch and with that two more gesture commands. Then you have Apple TV. Using a mouse and a keyboard seems old news as touch has taken over phones and tablets. The challenge of the TV is using a remote to jump from one element to another. Card design is great for this as you move from product to product. With all of these elements should we design to keep all of this in mind or design different experiences for each?

To compensate for lack of control of a keyboard or mouse, voice activation is used for the watch and TV. Siri understands real questions. This breaks away from a traditional menu that is concise and has to be the same all the time to a filter system that is driven from a seemingly infinite possible combinations for questions.  An example was of someone watching a show and missing a bit. The voice command of “what did she say?” results in rewinding 15 seconds and turning on captions. Filtering has some sort of intelligence between the input and the output. Will this reflect in other areas of UX?

Small things like adding movement to photography will trickle into web design. This is a delighter now (something new that is exciting) but as it becomes well known and normal then this movement will be expected. Web pages may look very static without a bit of subtle video.

In summary

Screen size is smaller with the watch, gestures press deeper with the phone, a laptop becomes a touch device and the tv is open to app development. The use of voice control in the watch and the TV- siri from before but more sophisticated. The products have not changed significantly but the UX around how they all work together is changing all the time.

UX considerations:

  • Design for all device types and prepare for new inputs and gestures
  • Understand that the use of voice control could change the way we filter altogether
  • Movement may be a delighter now but it could be expected very soon

Just a quick round up of the launch and my thoughts on this. I would be interested to know your thoughts and comments.

 

Screenshots taken from the Apple event 9 September 2015

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4 Responses

  1. LePhil says:

    I think this is one of these years where Apple catches up with everybody else and integrate it well. As opposed to the years where they truly show one product that is years in advance.
    It seems that their pattern is depth first, then breadth… depth, then breadth…
    This will be a year where all the Android fans will say: XYZ has done that ages ago (maybe apart from the press-gestures).
    I liked your synthesis about the bridging to hard-to-reach-business through partnerships. I didn’t see it at the time.

  2. For me is just another proof for my opinion about Apple.
    There are the best company in re-invent a wheel.
    Their UX is impressive too.

  3. Ben Brown says:

    The muted response to this press conference shows how much we expect from each and every Apple event. I guess the question I ask myself is, is this expectation reasonable? Intel formalised this with their ‘tick-tock’ strategy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intel_Tick-Tock), deliberately having a two year period of evolution and revolution. With the press, fans and probably most importantly investors expecting constant innovation, sometimes things just take a bit longer to create and aren’t ready for the next big event. Roll on next year where we can hopefully expect some more revolution!

  4. Partly with you on this one Ben. Tick tock v apparent in iPhone.
    That said, I think part of the reason around the muted response is because some of the really interesting developments are long-game potential rather than short term sexy:
    – beefing up Siri as part of Apple’s response to the Intelligent Assistant moves from Facebook with M, MS with Cortana etc (this is the REALLY interesting, change the world, lets-all-pay-close-attention-please-as-this-develops stuff)
    – health – in the UK the NHS promise integration of health data with the patient record by (ahem) 2017 – their partnership with Watson, insurers etc (and the whole mother and baby thing) show the degree to which Apple wants to be with us at times where we’re prepared to spend more on quality.

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