The iOS 7 Game Changers

on June 24, 2013
Reading Time: 4 minutes

iOS 7 is a big deal, really big – the biggest change to iOS since the original iPhone. Indeed, it’s hard to prepare long-time users for how significantly different iOS 7 is compared to its predecessors.

Though still in beta, there are three new features that I think will be “game changers” – each will have a significant and lasting impact on users, developers, competitors and Apple’s bottom-line.

iTunes Radio

shared_controlcenter_lastframe_2xRadio is built right in to the Music app which is built right in to the OS. This is a key benefit of controlling your ecosystem, and here it pays off handsomely for users. “Radio” is simple to use, works well, is free, setting up new channels is a snap, and the selection is nearly endless. Not coincidentally for Apple, Radio’s clever design beckons users to spend even more money in iTunes.

Analysts have noted that while iTunes revenues continue to grow in the aggregate, per-user spend has dropped rather significantly. This at a time when Apple makes its hardware products almost fully dependent on iTunes. I can’t say this new service will help stem that tide. I do know, however, that iTunes Radio will be a smash hit.

For those hundreds of millions who have not yet settled on a streaming music service, iTunes Radio is the obvious choice. For those that have, the ease of use and superior integration of Radio may lead them away from their current provider. If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, for example, it will be hard to justify getting your (free) music anywhere else.

Biggest Impact: The music industry. Think of iTunes Radio less as a Pandora killer and more as a FM-radio killer.

Auto-updates

Never again visit the App Store to update your apps. It seems like such a small thing, I know, but auto-updates makes life with an iPhone much nicer, and more delightful. Updates and bug fixes occur behind the scenes now, and there’s no annoying red badge demanding your attention.

While better for the users, and likely to make fragmentation even less of an issue for Apple, there is a obvious downside: auto-updates alter how developers market their commitment to their app.

Though there are some minor visual cues in iOS 7 that alert users when an app has been updated, I suspect most users will no longer be consciously aware of the many new features and fixes in their (updated) app. If I am correct, allowing users to bypass the App Store “update” screen means app developers will lose a critical opportunity to highlight their work and deny them a rare chance to get directly in front of the user.

Biggest Impact: App developers.

But, wait. There’s more. Consider the possible implications of this seemingly minor new feature:

Apple, long just a hardware company, may soon become the only company on the planet, across any industry, able to reliably push to a billion (iOS) users the exact content of their choice. That’s unprecedented market power.

Biggest Impact: Cable television industry and content providers, to start.

AirDrop

index_airdrop_posterframe_2xAccessed from the control center, AirDrop allows users to quickly send files to other (nearby) iPhone user(s). It’s hard to overstate the potential of AirDrop. Truthfully, I’m not entirely sure how this feature will be used out in the world, or if carriers may attempt to impede it’s usefulness, or what the full security ramifications are. I just know it’s huge.

In fact, I predict AirDrop will have a paradigm-shifting impact on content sharing – which means it should have a paradigm-shifting impact on social sharing sites, particularly Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. Again: unprecedented market power.

It might be great fun to share a Vine with your followers, for example, but it may be far more impactful to instantly share a video with a small group of friends who are physically nearby.

To “airdrop” a video from my iPhone to yours, for example, or enable real-time multi-player gaming, which this does, or transfer information one-to-many (iPhone-to-iPhone-to-iPhone) could make AirDrop the single most important iOS 7 feature of all. As Apple notes, “anything from any app with a Share button” can be shared over AirDrop.

Biggest Impact: Social Media platforms. (Hint: Plus, the advertising industry.)

Bonus: Take heed, Silicon Valley, of that Apple phrase: “a Share button.” To not have your service listed as a Share button inside iPhone may permanently marginalize your platform.

The World Is Not Enough

iOS 7 contains many new features, new gestures and a rather jarring new visual language – with fully re-designed colors, iconography, and fonts. There is the very clever (and long overdue) Control Center panel and more robust notification options. Peer deeper, however, and you discover far more has changed than the visual presentation layer.

Focus instead on how all the files, photos, videos, URLs, contacts, music and everything else remain inside the tightly controlled Apple ecosystem. Map out the linkages between your iOS device, your content, and all the world wide web has to offer, and you see this clearly: more data than ever before flows through and within your iPhone.

Whether iPhone-to-iPhone(s), iPhone-to-iCloud, iPhone-to-iTunes, or iPhone to sanctioned services, such as Facebook and Vimeo, Apple manages the channel – and its a channel miles deep and miles wide, and nearing a billion users.

As the Apple user base expands outward with each new sale, Apple’s designers have pulled each user even deeper insider the Apple ecosystem.