WWDC 2017 Social Comms (4): WebRTC and CallKit enhancements

Real-time communications becoming more flexible in iOS 11

I am paying attention to the announcements from Apple during WWDC 2017 that have an impact on its strategy around Social Communications. This article is part of a series that covers:

Apple’s WebRTC, finally

If you look really hard into the iOS 11 slide above, you can read “WebRTC support”. Actually, Apple is not bringing WebRTC just to iOS 11, but it will also be available for MacOS on the latest Safari version.

WebRTC is a new technology for web browsers that I already discussed — at very high level — in a previous post, but to keep it really simple it brings to web pages the ability to add real time communications with voice and video. Apple not supporting WebRTC before limited the appeal of the technology, because if a business wanted to add some sort of video-chat capability into their web services, they could be leaving out a big chunk of potential users (and usually the ones with higher spending power). This changes now, and makes the idea of adding communications to web services, or using the web to extend existing communication channels, much simpler and far reaching.

Obviously, WebRTC technology usage will grow from this launch, and this is making some people very happy. Like my friends in TokBox, which have been amazingly fast to also incorporate Safari support to their OpenTok platform:

Now joining a video conference from an iPad won’t require to install an app — and Cisco is already talking about this as part of their WebEx offering — . Since part of the iOS 11 focus is to bring the iPad into its productivity potential, WebRTC support becomes also a really elegant way to increase the iPad’s value as a PC replacement.

But going beyond productivity, with WebRTC support now people could be able to join a HouseParty from their phone browser, and experience the service before deciding to fully commit on becoming an app user. Or maybe Amazon could provide a more extensive approach to their Alexa video calling service, extending the reach and value of their Echo devices without requiring people that don’t have them to use the Alexa app.

Expect to start seeing “video everywhere” in the Web by the end of the year.

The new CallKit experience

This was not covered during the Apple announcements in the WWDC keynote but, after being able to test the first iOS 11 beta myself, I think it is relevant to also share the changes CallKit experience. It is small change, and it still doesn’t support the Apple Watch (which should be easy for Apple, but maybe this is another hint about a cellular version coming…), but the new UX addresses one of the issues I covered in my VoWifi vs. CallKit discussion:

See the WhatsApp icon that shows next to the “WhatsApp Audio” text indication? That and the usage of a different color scheme for the answer slider brings the right balance to tell users that this is a familiar incoming call experience, but highlighting that this is not a “regular” call.

With the previous CallKit experience, it was difficult for users to perceive the difference between a regular call and one from a VoIP app, which could lead to misinformed decisions around data usage or wrong connection quality expectations. I believe this new approach is much better, because it is still simple to understand, but gives enough clarity to the user that this is different from a normal call.

You can read on to the next article in my WWDC Social Communications analysis: WWDC 2017 Social Comms (5): HomePod and Social Communications

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