Apple’s WWDC 2020: What caught our eye

Chao He

June 24, 2020
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) is taking place virtually this year due to COVID-19, and the keynote included quite a few noteworthy additions to the ecosystem. Many of the changes will immediately be seen and felt by users, like a redesigned home screen and major revisions to iMessage, but there were also subtle features that may end up having an oversized impact on the entire user experience. So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are a few tidbits that caught my attention.


First up, CarKey. I recently took delivery of a Tesla Model Y – my first brand-new car since 2008 when the iPhone had not yet celebrated a birthday. In the dozen years since, automotive user interfaces have advanced tremendously – my Model Y can be summoned, parks itself, pretty much drives itself, and feels like a spaceship inside. A far cry from the aforementioned ’08 model that still had a cassette tape player.
But back to CarKey – Apple and BMW have teamed up to offer a feature that Tesla has had for quite a while now – the ability to use your phone as a key, as well as a “remote” of sorts. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power of connectivity – my Tesla also has sentry mode which records local video when it detects unknown motion, which certainly can be replicated by Apple’s CarPlay environment down the road.
One novel feature of CarKey that even my Tesla doesn’t have – you can temporarily lend your car to someone else virtually through iMessage, a feature that I’m actually surprised Tesla hasn’t implemented yet. It will be interesting to see if the mobile device / automobile landscape will become a fragmented ecosystem, where a subset of users solely utilize Superchargers and Google Maps in their Teslas, but another subset uses Carplay and Apple Maps on supported automakers, and you have to choose one or the other.
I happen to like both Apple and Tesla products, so it’ll be interesting to see if there will ever be a “unification” of standards.

Spatial Audio

Next up, spatial audio. In a nutshell, AirPods will be able to use accelerometers and gyroscopes, along with 3D audio effects, to make it sound like you’re hearing environments as if you were physically present.
This one is really intriguing to me because as content consumption becomes more and more personal, I think virtual experiences that focus on re-creating reality in a high fidelity manner will really stand out.
3D audio is already available but being able to sense a user’s physical orientation and adjust sounds based on movement is pretty cool… think of a sitcom that feels like you’re actually sitting on the couch in between your favorite characters, or action scenes where you can turn your head to hear different effects.
This is only possible with Apple’s famed vertical integration, utilizing headphones that provide motion data directly to audio processors and amplifiers that adjust in real-time for immersive experiences.
I’m really looking forward to building on this technology.

App Clips

Last but certainly not least, App Clips. Of all the things Apple introduced, I think this one could end up being the most useful for digital commerce experiences.
Basically, this feature allows a small snippet of an app to be run on a phone even if that phone doesn’t have the main app installed… in the video they showcased using a “clip” to show a payment interface for a parking spot, without needing to install a full-blown app. Craig even admits that “there’s an app for that” has become part of our lexicon, but there are situations where installing an app is too cumbersome.
When it comes to digital commerce, user experience is paramount. Needing to browse into an App Store, download an app, sign in, then interact with a single feature is a recipe for attrition and uninstalls.
While features like Sign in with Apple and Apple Pay have removed a great deal of friction in the buyer journey, I think App Clips provide a crucial element of an intuitive, frictionless digital experience.
I can already think of a plethora of use cases for this feature, and am definitely looking forward to recommending this to existing and new clients.
Honorable mentions go out to camera indicators that show you when the camera is actively being used (just like laptops do) and Apple Watch hand washing detection to make sure you’re scrubbing COVID-19 into the drain where it belongs.
What did I miss? Let me know via Twitter or LinkedIn.

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