Last week was an interesting week in the world of technology and gadgets. Google’s Android 5.1 started rolling out, bringing fixes and some new features to the popular mobile os. Google calendar is finally available as a native app on the iPhone. And Apple gave us a spring forward event to begin the season… While the event was ostensibly to give more details about the Watch, but they pulled out a surprising one more thing in the form of the new Macbook.
The two products are a technical marvel and are a testament to the engineering and design prowess that have made Apple’s devices some of the best in the world. A laptop that is so thin and — if the display is anything like the display in my retina MacBook Pro – has one of the finest displays out there for a consumer grade device. Or a smart watch which may not have been the first in its category, but with its concepts will likely reinvent the category.
Take a step back from all thats shiny in these new devices however; look under the sapphire glass screens and the aluminium unibodies, there are changes, subtle and not so subtle. Changes in how you use devices and how they work. And that… that is what is really exciting.
The always on, always connected nature of todays’ devices makes everything accessible everywhere and anytime, dramatically changing our relationships with the world and with the devices themselves. A few years ago it was all about the apps. Year on year apps became personal, social and relevant. And relevance is key. Relevance defines how an app is used and how long a user keeps using it. The challenge of relevance is met by the science of understanding intent.
There was a time when customers depended on upgrading the raw processing power of their machines to reduce the time taken to complete their work; working hard; now they dependent on their components being smarter.
Let’s start with the Force Trackpad in the new macbook. The trackpad can be setup to accept user input on the basis of the pressure of the touch. The trackpad does not physically move down, but it provides a haptic feedback. While it can be described as a trackpad which has new ways to track clicks; the heavier push could be called a middle button click; I imagine when this technology can be extended beyond the trackpad (or a bigger trackpad) as an example for someone with Arthritis or RSI wrist injuries. Depending on how a person moves their wrist or attempts to slide their wrist on the trackpad, focus between apps may change, the pointer may start auto moving in the direction of the movement.
Predicting a users requirements or intents is not new on mobile phones and devices. Implementations like iOS’ Passbook feature which shows elements like tickets and boarding passes on the phones’ lock screens around the time you would need the ticket. Google Now works on a similar principle, but it’s cards are even more varied, providing content from PoI near you to integrations with Duolingo to teach you a second language.
The newest and probably most intent driven gadget currently is the range of smart watches, arguably championed by the Apple watch.
Where does the intent begin – Lift your wrist and the watch instantly shows the time. When Steve Jobs launched the original iPhone, he described the killer app as the phone call. For the Apple Watch, the killer feature is the ability to tell time.
Essentially, the WatchKit SDK extends already existing control features in your phone into readily executable actions. And the actions stay relevant to what you want to achieve at that time. Unlock your hotel room, by connecting to an App provided by your Hotels (Starwood’s SPG app in this case.)
Messages, notifications, actions, if it uses your wrist, it needs to be very short and very fast. From the app developer’s perspective it changes the relationship between their application and the user. No longer can you just design an app and hope that the immersive experience which a mobile device imposed would hold a users attention. As more and more users want to save every sliver of time that they can, an apps relevance and its ability to recognise a user’s intent will become the ultimate goal.