As Apple Officially Rolls Out iOS 9, Its Screens Look Better Inside And Out
Bridging the gap between mobile web and apps is one aspect of Apple’s updates, along with mapping services that keep getting better.
The beauty and fun features associated with the gleaming iPhones and iPads get all the attention they richly deserve following any of Apple’s World Wide Developer Conferences. And that was certainly true with Wednesday’s “special event” in San Francisco, where the forthcoming iPhone 6s and iPad Pro were unveiled. But the steady, relatively quiet steps the company has been making on its operating system this summer are something brick-and-mortar marketers can truly appreciate.
With the full release of iOS 9, which has been in beta for the past few months, set for September 16, it makes sense to take a closer look at underlying technology that will make the new devices — as well as the existing ones — feel as good as they look.
Among a great many things, one important item for marketers that iOS 9 brings is the erasure of distinctions between searching for something — or someplace — using the iPhone’s mobile web and the contents of its entire App Store. Specifically, consumers will experience connections through iOS 9’s web and app inventory crawler, AppleBot, which will show results through the iPhone’s personal digital assistant, Siri, and the on-device search tool, Spotlight.
In a sense, the battle between the mobile web and apps is a proxy war between Google and Apple. Google’s AdWords and related marketing products still benefit from mobile browser based searches, but Apple, in turn, has carefully cultivated the rise of apps as the preferred mobile experience.
As a sidenote to iOS 9, it’s worth pointing out that Google has decided that if it can’t beat Apple at the app game, it has to join it. In May, the search giant said that its Google Now app, which is available on both its own and Apple’s systems, “understands” the context of 100 million places.
To a lesser degree, naturally, Facebook is following suit with “digital personal assistant,” M, which is built into its separate Messenger mobile app. While it can’t scour through all the available apps in an iPhone or one powered by Google Now or Microsoft’s version of the digital assistant, Cortana, M does offer a direct connection between consumers and businesses.
While it took two years for Google to follow Apple’s groundbreaking iBeacon platform with its uriBeacon and that system’s iOS compatible successor, with the recently released Eddystone, it’s likely that Google will follow Apple in integrating its browser crawling with app crawling as well. But for the moment, the AppleBot is where it’s at.
The direction is clear: Search is making a leap from the public browser and into the private space occupied by mobile apps which, increasingly, are capturing consumers’ attention and dominating all other forms of media engagement. But businesses will need help in navigating this new, wider territory.
And it’s all thanks to the emerging use of “universal deep linking.” In general, deep linking directs a user to their desired page within a website or an app, skipping the landing page in order to get them directly to the specific information they are looking for.
What’s the benefit for location-based marketers?
“Location-based targeters can also take advantage of deep linking because mobile web utilizes a little piece of code called the ‘geolocation object.’ Assuming minor collaboration with the app, the site can retrieve and asynchronously ping the users GPS to obtain the most accurate user location and share that with the app.
“Since advertising inventory with precise location parameters is highly coveted and more expensive, publishers can command higher rates for this inventory in open exchanges,” Oliphant continued. “That in turn incentivizes all players to work together toward achieving better location accuracy.”
Building A Better Map
Apple Maps has gotten better reviews over the past two years for its functionality and design.
While Apple Map users will appreciate the new transit directions — including subway entrances in “flyover mode” — and features like “Nearby,” which is similar to what Google has done with its micro-moments, giving its business partners curated results for search queries asking for something “near me,” there is also a great deal more service for global marketers to appreciate.
Even before iOS 9, Apple had expanded its self-serve, local business listings tool, Maps Connect. Early on, Maps Connect offered support only for small businesses in the US and UK. The past few months have seen a rollout across Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Maps Connect has added new features to make it faster for businesses to update their contact and location data. For instance, a business with multiple outlets can now upload a file with all of its locations, instead of adding them one-by-one.
In addition, Apple has, in its low-profile way, sought out help from outside companies. Maps now comes with reviews from TripAdvisor and Booking.com, along with photos from Yelp, which can help a business provide more information, is big.
And although Apple helped elevate the role of beacons as an in-store marketing tool with iOS 7 two years ago, it’s also been adding separate capabilities for helping marketers provide indoor navigation with its Footprint floor plan feature and its Breadcrumb location tracking system.
In a show of how Apple is looking to strengthen its ability to help consumers navigate a business inside and out, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s managers partnered with Apple to create an indoor map and other mobile tools designed to give users a “virtual guide.”
More recently, geo-data specialist Factual struck a deal with Apple to provide Apple with access to and tighter integration with its Global Places data.
As the competition for location services pits Apple in a closer race with Google and Facebook, along with a host of other startups looking to capitalize on consumers’ and business’ demand for geomarketing assistance, the new operating system is looking even more attractive than the company’s new devices.