Code-phrases on Siri and four more things brands should know about from Apple's WWDC 2018

Y&R London's creative technologist has distilled the top takeaways for brands from Apple's developer conference so you don't have to watch the entire thing before your next client meeting.

Yesterday at 9am Californian time (6pm in London) Tim Cook and co took the stage in turn at the McEnery Centre in San José to tell the world what Apple have been getting up to lately. I settled in with to my sofa with a perfectly modest glass of Bordeaux, and my MacBook Air - how else is a self-respecting ad gal to consume this nerd-fest?

The annual developer mecca saw some 6,000 developers flock from around the world to hear what they’ll be getting to play with as they imagine tomorrow’s apps. And at $1,599 (£1,199.39) a ticket only available to the lucky few who win a lottery, they were eager to get going.

As rumours had predicted, no hardware announcements were made, and the event focused on the operating systems Apple make to run their world-famous devices (iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS). As a developer-focused event, the announcements were a heady mix of consumer features and back-end spec science.

A big umbrella theme of the two-hour presentation is Digital Health in all its forms. Parallels with Google’s recent I/O keynote (announcing their "Digital Wellbeing" initiative) were striking, and speak volumes about how consumers the world over are feeling about the love-hate relationships developed with the devices they can’t live without.

But it would be far too obvious if I waffled on about Apple’s advanced Do Not Disturb feature, or the new parental controls they’re bringing in for iPads. You’ll find those round-ups on other sites. I’m here to focus on brands and how they might use Apple’s latest features to their advantage. You with me?

This year’s WWDC Keynote did not deliver the sort of ground-breaking space for brand innovation WWDC17 did, where we saw the launch of the Messages App Store, Stickers, and ARKit amongst others. In fact, this year, incremental improvement of two of the above three were presented, and the entire event had an air of refinement versus disruption. But if one digs a little deeper, there’s still plenty to get excited about.

You might not be grappling for the phone to your favourite production company before you’re at the end of my missive, but you’ll definitely be wowing in your next PPM. Here are the 5 ways brands can play with Apple’s latest technologies, iOS12 and macOS 10.14, both of which roll out in autumn.

Augmented Reality just got way more interactive

ARKit 2.0 launches this autumn. This tech allows brands using AR Kit in their apps to leave augmented reality objects linked to a specific place, or tied to a specific physical object. Think of being able to view constantly updated digital content on your iPad whenever you point it at your fridge. Or leaving digital objects hidden around the home for family and friends to find using their own devices.

But way bigger news still the creation of a new type of file that allows AR content to be rolled into web browsers, and inside Messages and apps on Macs. This "USDZ" format will give AR the kick up the butt it needs to go from sweet gimmick to immersive storytelling tool. Adobe is integrating it into Creative Cloud this summer. Think AR characters inside branded content, and the ability to place a pair of shoes your bestie sends you in a text in your wardrobe, to see how they look. Social shopping will be transformed.

Siri Shortcuts is a new space for your brand to help its audience live their best lives

In iOS12, Apple will launch the Shortcuts app. It lets you design series of events you can trigger by whispering a custom phrase to Siri.

What the fudge am I on about?

Imagine this: you’re busting out the office for the evening. If you’ve set up a "leaving the agency" shortcut on, well, Shortcuts, simply saying "Hey Siri, I’m headed home" could cause her to send your other half a text with your ETA, pull up your commute details, turn on the heating at home, and launch your favourite podcast.

How might your brands play in this space? How do your consumers currently interact with the brand, and what are new ways of integrating into these pre-scripted life scenarios? Think your bank reading out your balance before you decide between tube and Uber. (We’ve all been there.)

Stickers are coming to the camera inside Messages and FaceTime, and it’s a huge deal because brands can get involved

I said it when they launched stickers for Messages and I’ll say it again. This represents an incredible way for the brand to infiltrate one of the most intimate digital spaces a person owns: the messages they share with friends and family.

The world is going mental for stickers these days, and for a fairly good reason. They’re a quick and fun way to pep up your otherwise mundane daily content. You’ve probably used them on Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and in Messages on iOS. Now they’re coming to the camera inside of Messages and FaceTime. And in the latter, they even track your face and move with you. Third-party sticker packs will be available on launch; contrary to Instagram Stories stickers, which are still, only released by Facebook themselves. It’s not hard to see how fashion, beauty, and lifestyle brands can get in on this action.

Users just got way more control over notifications

Apple is introducing finer controls over the notifications that pop up on the lock screen, and can even suggest when a user should turn them off if they’re coming from an app they don’t engage with very often. The lesson here is don’t bombard your user with notifications, because it’s never been easier for them to banish you straight off the lock screen and out of their minds. Don’t worry though, this is a good thing, because it helps reinforce the building of human-centric digital experiences. Brands who get this will win.

Apple News just came to Mac

That fantastic news aggregator you cannot get enough of on your iPhone? It’s coming to Mac in September, meaning users will soon be consuming news content in a whole new (roomier) environment. And although Mr Cook did not touch on the recent news of their apparent foray back into ad land (something they’re calling "Apple Network" - a platform serving ads across apps and partnering with other tech giants such as Snapchat to create personalised experiences), it’s not hard to see that if digital ads come into the News space, we could be dreaming up new banner formats by the year’s end (hello, IAB!). 

If you’re ready for a full nerd-out then, of course, your next stop (or was it your first?) should be some of these most complete hubs: The Loop, Apple Insider, and Daring Fireball. But for the rest of you who have to run to a client meeting, remember one of the above five points, and you’ll be golden. 

Gracie Page is a creative technologist at Y&R London

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