Monday, June 28, 2021

Google I/O and WWDC 2021 Happened: What You Need to Know as a Business Leader

Ben Johnson, SVP, Digital Products
Innovation / Technology

If you’re anything like most of our clients, you’re busy leading businesses and launching new initiatives. So, while you might know that Google I/O and WWDC (Google and Apple’s annual developer conferences) happened this month, you certainly didn’t have time to dig into what this means for your business in the short term and in future years. In the interest of conserving your brain space, here are the insights we gained during the conferences and what they mean for your business in the short, medium, and long term.

Short Term: Check in with your team right now and ask what their plan is. If there isn’t a plan, start to develop one quickly!

New Focus and Notification Updates in iOS 15

Customers with iPhones are all too familiar with the onslaught of notifications that hit the device’s lock screen. Apple is doing something to stem this tide by introducing new features in iOS 15 allowing users to enter a Focus mode, which limits the number of apps whose notifications will be displayed.


What this means for you: Push notifications are a key driver of app stickiness and engagement, and wisely managing the strategy will pay dividends when working with iOS 15. Consider building functionality to offer users more choice as to when and how they want to hear from you, and communicate what time sensitive alerts will bypass Focus mode. Identify opportunities in your user journeys to send thoughtful messaging that won’t be banished to the notifications digest.

App Store Updates

Google has utilized multivariate testing in their app listing pages for years now, but Apple has finally arrived to the party: App publishers can now test different page layouts and content in the App Store to better identify the right way to market their product.


Apps can also publicize In-App Events as highlighted search results or on your app store listing—great spots to drive attendees to a movie premiere, fitness challenge, live comedy show or streaming experience within your app.


What this means for you: These both represent large changes to a key entry point to your iOS app experience and, with the right level of attention, should lead to significant improvements in download conversion rates. Therefore, it’s important to start identifying which of your in-app events require the most attention so you can quickly take advantage of this new functionality. 

Security and Privacy

You’ve likely heard about Facebook’s disagreements with Apple, as well as Apple’s recent updates to discourage App Tracking. But what has received less attention is the fact that Apple will start providing privacy reports on app usage data, including any domain names from which your app requested information—photos, contacts, access to camera or anything else tied to permissions. If your products are powered by a third party, cut back on unused services and start providing users with an explanation for how you are using those services.


Like Apple, Google is also rolling out new privacy-focused features, including a log for app interactions, data access and network traffic from your device.


What this means for you: Review the third-party services you are using, identify how your app is communicating with the internet and audit how and when your app is accessing or storing user data. iOS 15 betas offer you the ability to preview the data that users are likely to see to better prepare for when the feature goes live later this year.

Medium Term: Plan to work on these in Q4 2021 or the first half of 2022

Matter: IoT’s New Standard


Connected device companies and phone manufacturers such as Google and Apple are adopting a new cross-platform IP-based protocol that will make smart home devices more inter-operable. This standard, originally named project CHIP (connected home over IP), is backed by the major smartphone makers as well as IoT behemoths like Samsung’s SmartThings. For consumers, this means simpler user experiences and more opportunities for smart devices in the home.

What this means for you: If you’re not building an IoT device, think about the new opportunities that may soon exist for you to more seamlessly communicate with the growing army of smart devices around your users from within your app. Businesses that are building IoT devices need to pay attention to the matter protocol; with more interoperability, users may prefer to use their smartphone’s home automation app instead of yours. Start thinking about how to accommodate this inevitability in your business strategy, and consider how your company or devices can provide added value.

Material You – Google’s Redesign


Google unveiled a completely new design system—their first major update in seven years. The fundamental difference is that Google is now allowing your users to choose the look and feel of the software they are using. As a brand, you’ll have to find ways to embrace the user’s desire for personal expression while still maintaining your brand identity. 


What this means for you: Expect serious redesign work on your Android app experiences. If you want to be ready for day one, you need to get started now, but user adoption of the latest Android operating system is much slower than iOS so a redesign could potentially wait until Q4 or H1 2022. Either way, expect more pressure to redesign as the tech giants launch their updates and users come to expect the change. Eventually, this new design language will make its way to the 2.65 billion Chrome users, at which point you’ll start to see some aspects make their way into website design as the original Material design did in 2014-2015. 

Apple’s New Live Collaborative Technology: SharePlay

Apple announced a new framework to make real-time, collaborative experiences across iPhone / iPad / Mac and Apple TV much easier to develop. Most of the examples centered around watching movies or television, or listening to music, at the same time with your friends during a FaceTime call.

What this means for you: If you’re only thinking about how this applies to media streaming apps, you might be missing the bigger picture. This framework isn’t limited to media and can enable you to more easily offer unique shared experiences for your business (commerce companies could offer live consults with collaborative shopping; productivity apps can offer easy sharing and group collaboration functionality; and health and wellness apps could pair friends who are exercising at the same time).

Google’s Push for Commerce Everywhere

Google announced a whole host of new improvements in the online commerce journey, including visual shopping of screenshots taken on your phone, a collaboration with Shopify to allow merchants to easily list on Google and the ability to purchase products from YouTube videos.


What this means for you: If you’re a merchant and using Google or Shopify already, re-think some of your current journeys, and your influencer based strategy, for those who are shopping via screenshot or YouTube. It’s worth taking a look at Google’s summary of their changes here.

Longer Term: Keep these in mind for an upcoming visioning / strategy session

The following items were announced in June 2021, but we anticipate, except in certain industries, that these developments are on the longer time horizon and worth keeping an eye on.

Digital Wallets / Car Keys

Apple launched support for Digital Car Keys in iOS 14, but Android now offers support starting with Android 12. Near field or ultra-wide-band chips are becoming a standard that all cars will adopt. Expect government IDs and other forms of identification to migrate here over time.

Apple Health Updates

You can now easily share health information with family members and health providers in the Apple Health App. This will continue to push the expectations of providers now that patients have the ability to easily share information with their care circle or family members.

3D Object Capture

Scanning objects into 3D assets just got a lot easier in iOS 15 with new software and standard lidar components in all current iPhones and iPads. This scanning tech offers a faster and more distributed way for companies to build up a 3D asset catalogue or for bespoke goods that need to be captured and shared more quickly through digital means.

Conversational / Search Improvements

A new language from Google LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) will make conversational interactions by machine much easier. This could be relevant for marketers as they try to humanize their AI bots. Many of these more human qualities could be baked into the systems they use. Let's hope there’s a way to make sure that these more conversational interactions align with your brand identity!


If you find yourself wondering what else is coming that you should be paying attention to, reach out, we’d love to help you think about how to improve or launch your digital products.