There is a lot of chatter about the Apple iPhone launch tomorrow and whether Siri and HomePod will have a prominent role or any role at all. Given what is happening in the market and the onslaught of activity around Alexa and Google Assistant, it is logical to say that Apple should highlight Siri. However, many of those factors were true in June before WWDC and Siri still had a minor presence. Could the summer of voice be just the catalyst Apple needs to make Siri a star once again and offer more insight into HomePod capabilities? Don’t count on it.
The iPhone Will Rightly Be the Star of the Show
The event tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. Reports suggest that there will be a new iPhone 7s, a larger 7s Plus and a more expensive 10th anniversary edition, likely called iPhone X according to Ars Technica. No iPhone 8, but facial recognition to unlock the device and maybe new dynamic emojis. You get the picture. New phones with better screens (OLED anyone?) and cameras will be the focus. Mobile phones are still a big deal and the key driver of Apple revenue and profits. Apple sold 41 million iPhones in its most recent quarter that brought in $25 billion in revenue. Some analysts estimate that the entire smart speaker market was only $400 million last year. So, Apple will definitely focus on its flagship product the really moves the revenue needle.
Looking Ahead with Apple Watch and Voice
— AppleInsider (@appleinsider) September 9, 2017
Smartphones have been around for a decade now (see above) so we are largely in the world of incremental innovation. The question then will be what new stuff will people have to talk about other than how expensive the Apple iPhone anniversary edition is (i.e. rumored at $1,200). Apple Watch is likely to be that story. The rumors are heavy that the new Apple Watch will have LTE integration which means it won’t require proximity to your iPhone for connectivity. This really would introduce a new phase of mobile technology untethered from the smartphone.
An interesting aspect of an untethered smart watch with always-on connectivity will be user interface. There are a limited number of touch interactions on watch faces that offer a decent user experience. There is a handoff when the tasks get more complex to the smartphone today. What happens when the phone is no longer there but you need to complete tasks with the watch alone? This is where voice is critical. Apple has really nailed near-field voice recognition with Siri and AirPods. Watch and AirPod integration makes a lot of sense and voice in general seems like a necessity. This is where we may see some new Siri features, but don’t expect too much.
Don’t Expect Much About HomePod, Think AR
We already have reports that HomePod will be in limited supply this Holiday season and Apple has a lot of ground to make up to catch what Amazon and Google are doing. Almost anything they do at this point will be seen as too little and there is not much incentive to drive more demand for a product with limited supply. While others focus on smart speaker sales this year, Apple is more likely to put its efforts into iPhone and Watch sales.
Some big announcements around augmented reality (AR) could help drive iPhone sales and Apple already has a more robust program in that segment than voice. And, with recent announcements about Apple’s plans for original content production, you can expect something related to a new Apple TV and upgraded content experiences. What do you think? Hit me up on Twitter with your predictions.