Evolution not Revolution

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 (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

By Andy Hastie, Experience Director

As the tech world waited with baited breath for the annual unveiling of yet another inspiring leap forward, the rumour mill turned out to be remarkably accurate. We waited, like children on Christmas morning, for the unveiling of the shiny new toy that would dazzle us for at least the next few months – but I can’t help feeling a little disappointed.

This was not the next step in technical innovation that we had all come to expect from the Jobs era. This was product evolution. The phone has got a little bigger, better, faster… some have suggested this is playing catch-up with Samsung. Now the iPhone comes in two sizes, which I can’t believe was ever part of Jobs’ vision, but then Cook is a pragmatist and Samsung have conclusively proved there is a market for larger phones. Apple pay – the new contactless payment technology – was a logical next move considering how many credit cards Apple have access to (800M+). It was a move hinted at when they added touchID (the fingerprint scanner) to the 5S and will finally give most of us a use for the Passbook app. This should see a major shift to contactless payments (so long as the latest debacle with iCloud hacking hasn’t dented their reputation too much!).

As for the Apple watch, the latest addition to their ecosystem, it seems to be an extension of your iPhone rather than a standalone device – a potential limitation for application in healthcare. It doesn’t push the boundaries like the iPod did for MP3 – and you can’t help thinking who is this for? At $350 it’s not for the man in the street and the product design isn’t really going to appeal to those who can afford it. Other than telling the time, it’s a perfect accessory for payments and notifications, but it’s probably the four sapphire lenses, infrared and visible light LEDs along with photo-sensors that can detect your heart rate that will prove to be of most interest to the healthcare community.

For us, the real innovation behind Apple’s latest releases has to be iOS 8. With the development of the Health, Home, Cloud and Gaming kits, Apple are extending their reach beyond their traditional products. These APIs (application programming interface) will allow us to rethink how we interact with our users and how they engage with our apps on other devices (even non-apple ones) – this is their venture into the ‘internet of things’. Collecting and quantifying data about your health, your environment and serving it back to you through one cohesive interface has been the holy grail for many healthcare professionals for years. Of course there are privacy issues to be considered and Apple have been clever to stay away from terms like ‘Electronic Health Record’, but the potential for health tracking is perhaps only exceeded by the challenge of regulation within the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. With most companies still struggling to get their heads around social media, expect to see very tentative adoption of this technology by the big pharma companies.

iOS 8 also finally brings the enterprise architecture that Microsoft have been planning to use as the USP for Windows Mobile:Improved security, expanded data protection, single sign on for enterprise apps, mail encryption, together with all the device integration and management elements that you would expect from an enterprise infrastructure.

From a development perspective, the additional screen sizes for iPhone 6 and 6+ will bring new challenges to maintaining a consistent user experience across existing mobile applications – although the new phones will scale up your existing apps, don’t expect interfaces to retain the high quality seen on retina HD versions. The 6 plus also comes with added layout possibilities that are more akin to a mini iPad.

So no revolution, just evolution, and for us humble developers – more screen sizes to design for… including a watch face. With the iPad being conspicuous by its absence, rumours regarding the next big release have already started circulating. So while the watch may have failed to captivate, don’t despair, it doesn’t look like Apple will be going away any time soon.

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