The Most Important Update from the “Apple Event” Isn’t Wireless Headphones

Yesterday was the biggest day of the year for Apple. At the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, Apple did it’s annual show & tell of it’s latest innovations.

There were definitely some exciting, and significant hardware unveilings.

Of course, there’s a new iPhone 7 & iPhone 7 Plus. Black, Gold, Silver, Rose Gold. And Jet Black.

Also, the new iPhone is dust resistant. You can even fall in the pool with it.

There’s a new camera, too.

The most talked about news of the day though was about the headphone jack. Or rather lack-there-of.

RIP Headphone Jack.

I was most interested to to hear about the software & services announcements though. Apple execs shed some light on how Pokemon Go fans around the world can now Catch-Em-All right from their Apple Watch. And that teams can more effectively collaborate through iWork. Apple also has 17M subscribers to Apple Music.

But all of about 1 minute was spent showcasing iOS1o iMessage. 🤔

One of the only tweets I could find that discusses the significance of the new iMessage

Apple demonstrated the new iMessage at WWDC but just skipped over this yesterday. Here’s a quick recap of the features in the new iMessage in case you missed the first announcement in June:

iMessage is now more vibrant, social, and expressive. You can animate your messages, send “invisible” ink messages, “slam” your messages, or even write messages in your own handwriting.

There are all sorts of new effects too, like fireworks, or crazy dance party.

Rave
Boom!

There is also an entirely new App Store. Right within iMessage. The new iMessage platform will make it easier for app developers and companies to build mobile experiences, and for users to get access to the services they most frequently use, without ever leaving the app.

I love the new sticker store in it. Language today is visual. Apple will now make it frictionless for consumers to find, install, and seamlessly start using emoji, gif & stickers. Beyond the sticker store, many of the apps that we already use (payments, shopping, ride-sharing, etc) will also occupy some real estate, again right within our iMessage app.

Apple iMessage Store

So why are stickers, emojis, gifs, and apps within iMessage the biggest news from Apple?

This is when it starts to feel like Messaging is actually the “New Browser”

Apple’s iMessage already reaches about a billion people daily. With this update, Apple will become an even more integral part of their consumers lives — and Apple can continue to build an even more lucrative empire in addition to selling phones, watches, laptops — and all the new dongles that go along with these products.

This new iMessage also directly puts Apple head-to-head with the other global messaging platforms like WeChat, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Line, & Kik.

WeChat is now a key competitor. WeChat is what happens when an entire country skips over desktops, laptops, and jumps headfirst into mobile. WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, is the most valuable company in China. They’ve proven that messaging can be used for payments, advertising, and communicating with your favorite brands.

Facebook is also now a direct competitor. Facebook has been making huge strides in the messaging space starting with the acquisition of WhatsApp, and pulling out Messenger as a standalone app. There’s now more than 1B users on Messenger and since April there have been over 11,000 bots built on the platform. Messenger users can order an Uber through Messenger, save files on Dropbox, get personalized workout routines from Nike Jordan or even get some beers delivered.

In the iMessage update, Apple emulates some of Snapchat’s key elements too (Apple’s invisible ink feels similar to Snapchat’s disappearing messages).

Finally, Apple is taking a page right from Line and Kik who both have popular sticker stores. Stickers aren’t just fun, they can be extremely profitable. Line pulled in about $270M last year from sticker sales alone.

Apple has to see all of these various app elements as ways to drive engagement and revenue in their own platform. Even though the majority of Apple revenue comes from iPhone sales, this is a smart hedge so they don’t just become a $600 brick where other apps rule their software domain.

From an AdAge article written yesterday - “Apple has been most successful when it builds platforms and lets developers and brands innovate on top. Apple CEO Tim Cook noted at the keynote event that there have been 140 billion downloads from the original App Store, and it generated more than $6 billion in revenue last year.”

I don’t expect that to diminish.

Apple is making a smart & strategic move in that messaging will continue to grow. Apple already says iMessage is the most used app on Apple devices.

iMessage is a huge opportunity for brands to build new experiences for their customers. iMessage comes with massive built in distribution. Branded stickers are a great organic way for brands to enter the new App Store.

iOS10 Stickers that we worked on with L’Oreal “BeauMoji”

Brands can also build a new type of collaborative app. In the image below, check out the simple “ice cream builder”. It demonstrates how collaboration within iMessage can work.

Another example of this collaborative app could be a grocery list app, say for roommates or couples. This grocery list app can enable two people to easily add, update, and share items needed for their home.

Or how about a group ordering app for your office. Imagine having everyone from your office pick out their favorite cup of Starbucks coffee & pay for it through iMessage.

Companies can also make lightly branded, fun, addictive games — played between two people.

We’re working on some concepts like those above at Snaps.

There will also be totally new platforms created within the iMessage platform. It’s really a new wild west for entrepreneurs and developers. I think iMessage is multi-billion dollar opportunity for new companies to emerge.

I am excited to see this platform develop (and the company I’m at, Snaps, is already building first-to-market iMessage experiences for major brands on it). While it may take #Courage to lose your headphone jack, it should be a no brainer to start building for and using this messaging platform.