Apple’s Big Day: What It Means for Local Tech

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apple_logoIt’s that time again. After plenty of buzz, Apple is set to release several new products today amidst the usual pomp and circumstance.

There are a few other things to keep an eye on this time around. In addition to the release of the iPhone 6 and iOS 8, Apple is expected to finally introduce the iWatch as well as a new payment system compatible with both new devices.

From the local perspective, the new payments system is definitely the attention grabber. Will Apple finally make consumers comfortable paying with their smartphones instead of cash or cards? It certainly seems like they could be taking a step in the right direction. Here’s a look at how all of Apple’ expected announcements might impact the way local is done:

It’s been reported that Apple is expected to add a payments product to complement its growing line of iDevices. There has been speculation that the new iPhone will include near-field communication, which would allow shoppers to pay with their phones. Apple has already entered into deals with American Express, Visa and Mastercard. In addition to its partnerships with the the major credit card brands, Apple has entered into agreements with CVS and Walgreen’s.

This is something local marketers and small businesses will want to watch because it signals that smartphone payments at brick and mortar retail establishments are finally getting some traction. With over 15,000 locations combined, the two drugstore giants provide a fertile proving ground for the new tech.

It will be interesting to see if people are comfortable enough with the new system’s security to forgo traditional methods of payment. The success or failure of Apple’s experiment with CVS and Walgreens could have major implications regarding the near future of smartphone payments.

After years of speculation, it looks like Apple will finally release a smart watch. The details about the iWatch are pretty sparse, but there is some speculation as to both its form and function.

The rumor is that it will have a curved OLED display and will come in two sizes. It is expected to integrate with Apple’s existing HealthKit and HomeKit platforms, which track vital signs such as a user’s heart rate. It will be able to perform mobile computing tasks and support third party apps. It will also allow users to control Bluetooth LE devices remotely.

The first thing to keep an eye on here is whether or not the iWatch bursts out of the gate and starts a trend. It’s questionable at this point whether or not there is a huge demand for a device like this, but if it catches on, it would be kind of a big deal. It would be another viable platform on which to base apps around as well as opening new doors for local business in the health and wellness sector. Finally, it looks like it will be tapped into the new payments product, which ties it into the broader question of the viability of smartphone payments.

 iPhone 6
The word is that the iPhone 6 will feature a faster processor, a slimmer frame with a sleek, new design, larger display and a more scratch-proof screen. Along with the new payments tech, it’s the improved battery that should make the biggest difference for local.

The rumblings say the iPhone 6 will come in two different sizes, one with a 4.7 inch screen and one with a 5.5 inch screen. It’s pretty much accepted that the larger version will feature a battery with considerably longer battery life. It also looks like iOS 8 will allow iPhone users to turn off apps they aren’t using to conserve battery life for the first time.

Longer battery life means both an increased window of opportunity to reach people through their iPhone and increased reliability on the purchasing side. As people grow more confident that their iPhone will be there for them when they need it, that could lead to them growing more comfortable depending on it to make payments.

iOS 8
iOS 7 brought dramatic visual changes, but iOS 8 will have more emphasis on utility. The biggest changes center on Apple’s role as a gatekeeper for user’s information. While Apple builds software around more personal information, like payments and your pulse, it appears to be pulling back in other areas. For instance, iOS 8 will offer permissions making it possible for a user’s location to be tracked by a specific app only while that app is in use.

The iOS 8 could throw a wrench into marketing plans based upon gleaning information from random iPhones within a retail space. The iOS 8 will create a dynamic MAC address, which will regenerate every so often, that will render a lot of the technology used to gather small data useless. The new OS seems to be designed to level the playing field between users who demand privacy and marketers with an undying thirst for data.

Mason Lerner is a contributor to Street Fight.