What Apple's new hardware means for product designers
The September Apple announcement came with incredible updates to hardware and new and exciting opportunities to spend $1000 on your next phone.
For those creating software than runs on Apple products, new hardware inevitably presents new possibilities and limitations for designers. Here are three stand-out highlights from September’s announcement that designers need to know.
iPhone — AR Kit
Apple announced three new phones: the iPhone Xs, its larger cousin iPhone Xs Max, and the (relatively speaking) budget-concious iPhone Xr. (See our executive summary of the event for the differences between them all.) All versions have improved cameras (with a drool-worthy dual camera system on the Xs and Xs Max), better battery life, and the fastest processors we’ve seen yet.
In terms of how the release relates to designing for iPhone, augmented reality via Apple’s AR Kit 2 is perhaps most interesting. AR Kit 2 was announced in June, but paired with the new iPhone Xs and Xs Max, the experience for the end user is more elegant and realistic. AR Kit 2 allows for shared experiences between multiple people via iPhone or iPad, for example, in a game or on a project like a home renovation, according to Apple. Another feature, called Persistent AR, allows users to leave AR objects in physical location and come back to them later, such as a virtual piece of art or a puzzle. The other key feature is Measure, which does precisely what is says, allowing users to measure objects in the real world.
In the official Apple announcement, impressive new game experiences were demo-ed by Bethesda and Steve Nash. Both Elder Scrolls: Blades and Homecourt made even me, a serious non-gamer, take a second look at how AR in its evolving state is going to change the product design industry. AR Kit 2 is starting to allow enhanced product development, with end user experiences becoming more and more transformative with bigger, more beautiful screens.
Originally announced in June at WWDC '18, Apple didn’t spend too much time on Siri Shortcuts this time around, but it’s finally available as a part of the iOS 12 release.
Shortcuts promises to allow users to complete tasks via voice, and in less time. There are a number of new considerations and contexts to design for, which present exciting opportunities as product designers to think through how we want our apps to interact when accessed via Shortcuts.
A focus on health
Though there are less directly actionable pieces for designers to consider immediately with Apple Watch, there’s a redesigned UI, and key themes of “staying connected”, “living an active life”, and “managing your health.” As someone who is constantly overwhelmed and generally agitated with the inundation of content all day every day, I wasn’t all that interested in more ways to be connected. As a designer of apps, and like many others in the industry, I have been questioning whether the loops we’re designing are good for the world.
That said, I was happy to see Apple switch gears and reveal all of the Watch advancements that allow users to better understand their health, and even protect users in the event of medical emergencies. The Series 4 has an optical heart rate sensor which can detect low heart rate and can perform electrocardiograms (ECGs) (whether this is actually good or not, you can read an opinion on here). The Series 4 can also detect a fall, and if it does, it will notify 911 if you remain unresponsive for over a minute.Software Releases & Resources
On September 17th, iOS 12 will be available. A full breakdown of iOS 12 is available via Apple.
September 24th, MacOS Mojave becomes available. Here’s a full breakdown of Mojave via Apple.
Geoff Hackworth has written a terrific guide on how existing iOS apps adapt to the new screen sizes.