Once the undisputed tech darling of Wall Street, Apple (AAPL), the creator of the most revolutionary product ever, the iPhone, has come under a lot of scrutiny over the last year. The biggest question mark regarding Apple is whether or not the company still has the ability to innovate and change the world as it has managed to do time and time again in the past.
After the passing of the company’s founder and visionary leader, Steve Jobs, questions immediately began to surface about the future of the company. In the years since Mr. Jobs’ death, the company has not quite been able to push the envelope as it once was able to do, with the only real new product being Apple Watch.
Wearable technology was a huge buzz word a few years ago, but so far it has yet to really capture the world as was previously expected. Google (GOOGL) failed with Google Glass, and Apple has not exactly had a blockbuster hit on its hand with Apple Watch.
Not only has Apple Watch failed to deliver the breakout product that Apple really needs, iPhone sales have started to slow, which is the real financial problem that Apple has to address. The iPhone accounts for roughly 70% of Apple’s total annual revenues, so its importance cannot be understated.
The stock took a pretty big hit following the company’s most recent quarterly report, with results missing on both the top and bottom line. The report sent shares crashing, and while the stock has begun to recover, as Wall Street opted to look at the reality of the figures. Apple reported $10 billion in profit on $50.6 billion in revenue. Those numbers are huge, and while Wall Street wanted more, there is no denying the strength of those figures.
Innovation remains the primary concern regarding Apple under CEO Tim Cook, so there is a lot riding on any event the company holds.
This week the company is hosting its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). While there has not been any earth-shattering announcements, there have been a few notable announcements, and we want to take a look at five of the top announcements made so far.
Apple Watch gets a lot of upgrades
It’s hard to get a 100% accurate number of Apple Watch sales, but analysts estimate that the company sold around 12 million Apple Watches during the first year the product was on the market. The watches had an average selling price of $500 a piece. If those estimates are close to accurate, that means Apple Watch is around a $6 billion business. It also means that Apple controlled around 61% of the global marketplace for smart watches. Some call that figures a success for a new product; others think the watch is a flop. The reality is that the watch has a lot of hurdles to overcome, but Apple announced some big changes at this year’s conference, which could help boost sales. A new operating system WatchOS 3 was unveiled, that promises much faster app performance thanks to something the company calls Instant Launch. According to Apple, apps will now launch seven times faster. There is also a new Control Center, which you can access by swiping up from the bottom of the watch face. A new safety feature allows you to call 911 just by holding the side button for a few seconds. To lure in more developer activity, Apple is allowing access to Apple Pay, which should spur a wave of new apps that Apple hopes will make Apple Watch the “must own” watch that it has always envisioned.
Another one of Apple’s products that never really lived up to expectations was Apple TV. Rumors that Apple would eventually launch a complete television set have been around for years, but that expectation is now a distant memory, and Apple has instead opted to focus on its Apple TV set-top box. There is a lot of competition in the sector, with Roku players and Amazon’s (AMZN) Fire Stick aggressively competing for market share. There is little to differentiate the various options, so it is important for Apple to continuously look to improve Apple TV. There were a few upgrades announced at this year’s conference that should work in the company’s favor. There is a new Roku-like remote for iOS, and Siri improvements are coming to the iPhone remote app, making it easier to navigate the menu options. Another exciting new feature is Live Tuning. This feature allows viewers to launch a live stream on an app. One feature that will definitely be welcomed by Apple TV users is Single Sign On. Using just one single app, users are now able to log into all of their various accounts, including Hulu, and Netflix. A few new apps to expect include Sling, Fox Sports Go, NBA 2K, and Minecraft.
Apple Pay is expanding
Payment processing is a huge market, and Apple wants to expand the presence of Apple Pay in order to gobble up a greater share of the market. The service is being expanded from apps to websites. Up until this point, people could load their card information into Apple Pay and use the service to buy products at participating retail locations, or to purchase things inside of apps. Now the service will come to websites as well. The financial implications could be huge. Retailers, on average, get 20% more visits to their mobile websites than their mobile apps, and the majority of online shopping still occurs on desktop websites, so bringing Apple Pay to these sites offers a lot of room for the payment service to expand. Users will have to own an Apple Mac and an iPhone, and be surfing on Apple’s Safari browser, which could limit the amount of expansion, but it still creates exciting possibilities for the company as competition heats up in the sector. Google (GOOGL), for example, announced earlier this year that it is moving towards bringing its own system, Android Pay, to websites as well, so this move by Apple comes at the perfect time to fend off any additional competition that may arise from Android Pay.
Mac operating system rebranding
For the last 15 years, Mac users have identified their computer’s operating system as OS X. This will no longer be the case, as it will now be called MacOS, with the newest version dubbed MacOS Sierra. The biggest change to the new operating system will be the integration of Siri. It has been five years since Siri, the company’s voice assistant, was introduced, and it will finally be available on the Mac, and like the expansion of Apple Pay, is another move that plays catch up with Google. Google previously announced that it would expand its voice-powered assistant to multiple devices, so while Apple’s move is significant, it does begin to paint of picture of a company that is more in catch up mode than innovating. Apple Pay will also be included in the new operating system, as well as an auto unlock feature. The unlock feature allows you to unlock your computer when your iPhone or Apple Watch is nearby.
iMessage gets upgraded
There is a so-called “chat war” taking place, and Apple is moving to better compete with major upgrades to iMessage. Some of the new features include messages in disappearing ink, as well as fireworks that will take up the entire screen. In the past, Apple has tended to keep its messaging on the conservative side, but the rising popularity of services such as Snapchat and WhatsApp, Apple needed to begin adding more fun features to iMessage, and that is is exactly what users can expect. New features relying on emoji and visual effects should keep iPhone users from switching to other messaging programs. This is important because the goal of all the major tech companies in today’s world is to keep users in their own ecosystem, and messaging is a major part of that equation. Users will also be able to start sending handwritten notes to other iMessage users. One of the bigger changes is that the app is now going to be open to outside developers. This will allow for a future where money could be transferred through messages.