Tuesday, October 02, 2018

New Hardware Telegraphs Apple’s Future

Ben Johnson
Technology / Mobile

A few weeks ago, Apple unveiled five new devices for their Holiday 2018 lineup. Here’s a list for those of you who weren’t counting (iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max, iPhone Xr, Apple Watch Series 4 40mm, and Apple Watch Series 4 44mm). Here at Rightpoint we try to anticipate where the puck is going, so that you don’t have to and this year’s announcement telegraphed some pretty exciting possibilities for the future of mobile computing. Of all the announcements we wanted to highlight three key areas to pay attention to: screen sizes, advancements in on-device computation, & Apple Watch.

Get Ready for More Rounded Corners
There’s something quite telling about the uniformity of the screens that Apple unveiled. Across the board, they each pack a tremendous amount of pixels, but they each do so with edge to edge displays, rounded corners, and an increasingly diminishing bezel. What this means for app publishers is that the screens we design for are no longer nice predictable rectangular boxes nestled inside the outer shell of the phone, these screens are the phone and with that comes a need to design for new affordances (such as the lack of any physical home or back button on the iPhone) and an opportunity to take advantage of the edge to edge real estate. In addition to the new iPhones, the Apple Watch also showcases a rounded display (more on the Apple Watch below) so it seems only natural that the rest of Apple’s products (Mac, iPad, etc) will all be rounded and edge to edge in the future.

On Device Machine Learning Is Taking Off
One of the announcements you may have missed is that the iPhone Xs includes a new processor, the A12 Bionic, which features a dedicated 8 Core Neural Engine. Did I lose you? This may just sound like technobabble, but the part to pay attention to is the 8 Core Neural Engine bit. With this chipset, Apple is making a significant investment in enabling on-device machine learning. The Neural Engine powers advanced computational photography (Portrait Mode), as well as Augmented Reality, and a lot of behind the scenes recommendations and optimizations. Running advanced machine learning algorithms on a phone has been computationally challenging before, but the new phones are already 5 to 10x improvements in speed. Over time, this type of investment in on-device ML will enable countless new experiences and apps should start to feel a whole lot smarter.

Watch Out, Apple Watch is Here to Stay
If you thought the Apple Watch wasn’t a flagship Apple product, think again. September’s release was a huge milestone for the product and from personal experience I am incredibly excited and optimistic for the future of Apple Watch. Not only was the hardware a big step up from previous iterations but Apple seems to have found a true calling for the device: Health & Notifications. For app publishers, you may not need to build an Apple Watch app but you certainly need to think about how your notifications will show up on the new form factor. For health and fitness brands, an Apple Watch app is almost a must. Look out for a future article on wrist computing.

 

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