iOS: State of the Platform part 2 - Market share and iOS 8

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
iOS State of the Platform Part 2: 2014 market share and iOS 8
If you missed Part 1, check out our review of the iOS platform in 2013.

When you take on the task of looking ahead at what's to come with Apple, you're dedicating yourself to wading through a lot of crap. The rumor mill is always active in the mobile ecosystem, but the Apple rumor mill is a never-ending flood of hopes, dreams, misinformation, and more than anything else: analysts that want to keep getting those checks. Because of all that, we can't go through every rumor that exists, and we have to try to focus in on the most plausible rumors based on some basic rational thinking.

For example, just because some fanalyst claims that Apple is going to revolutionize the world with a low-cost iPhone (over and over and over) doesn't make it true, nor does it make it even remotely believable given the way the company does business. So, we're only going to cover the rumors that have enough variation in sources to make them believable, or the rumors that make rational sense given what we know. We hesitate to call this section a "prediction" of what you will see from Apple, because it is far more just an educated guess based on trends and history. We don't claim to know the future. If we did, we'd be analysts getting much bigger paychecks from investment firms.

Market Share

This section is here partially for consistency with the Android piece as well as the first half of this article, but also because there is a bit to talk about in terms of Apple and market share in 2014. All things being the same, Apple is expected to hold steady in terms of overall market share in both smartphones and tablets. But, all things may not be the same for 2014.

In an interview in early February with The Wall Street Journal, Apple CEO Tim Cook spoke about what the company is doing in emerging markets. Cook was obviously a bit cagey, and didn't mention anything regarding Africa or South America (except for Brazil), but he did have some things to say about Asia and Oceania. Cook made the interesting point that for many countries in those regions, the iPhone is the first Apple product that consumers have been introduced to. The Mac and the iPod never made any headway in emerging markets, so Apple is really laying the groundwork right now in order to build in those regions. He also pointed to the large revenue that Apple has made from China in the past twelve months (around $30 billion). And, Apple is still looking to expand more. Cook finished off talking about emerging markets by mentioning that Apple still only reaches two-thirds of the mobile subscribers in the world, and it is planning to add another fifty carrier partners by the end of March.

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Despite this expansion though, Apple cannot compete on price without a major shift in the company's offerings. As we mentioned before, the company has brought the iPhone 4 out of retirement in order to hit the price points that customers want in regions like India. Depending on how well this works, re-releasing older hardware in emerging markets may be a trend for Apple. But, the low-cost space is getting very competitive, and it is unclear how well the three year old iPhone 4 can compete against devices like the Moto G.

In the end, we're expecting this to be another year of testing the waters in emerging markets for Apple. We certainly don't expect to see a newly made low-cost option, but there is a fair chance that those rumors could kick up for 2015.

Software (iOS 8)

Apple is essentially the only mobile company that controls everything from hardware to software (though Microsoft is getting closer to that with Windows Phone and its pending acquisition of Nokia), so there is always something interesting to talk about with both aspects. Because of this, we'll do our best to organize this in a good way, but there are certain items that can't be easily split between software and hardware, like Touch ID and the iWatch which are expected to be big for Apple in 2014 both in terms of hardware and software.

We know that iOS 8 is on the way this year, because that's just the way Apple works. Every year brings a new version of iOS, likely released in the fall. The trouble is that despite the wealth of rumors surrounding Apple and its plans, very few of those rumors tend to focus on the software, which is extremely odd. The rumor mill doesn't much care for software, unless you consider concept renders which are usually flights of fancy, but we think that is somewhat asinine. Software is the real driver of user experience, but it always takes a back seat in the rumor mill to hardware. The truth is that the real-world performance difference between a Nexus 5 and a Galaxy S5 will be negligible, but the clean software of the Nexus will certainly be noticed when compared to the bloat that Samsung provides.

This year is a flat number year (iPhone 6), meaning that the focus will be on the redesigned iPhone hardware, but that doesn't mean that iOS will stay the same, it just means we shouldn't expect another reinvention like iOS 7. More than likely, iOS 8 will be about polish and performance. As we said, iOS 7 has been relatively buggy so far, and the user experience just isn't as smooth as you would expect from Apple. iOS 7.1 will likely fix the majority of the bugs when it drops next month, but all software has bugs. It's a never-ending battle really. So, whatever bugs continue, we would expect to see eradicated in iOS 8, but more importantly, we expect that the animations of iOS 8 will be sped up so it doesn't feel so sluggish to navigate through the system. The layout and design are quite nice, but the slow animation to get into or out of a folder or app is unnecessary.

The overall UI for iOS 8 isn't expected to change much except for a bit of polish, but there will also need to be quite a bit of work done in order to get iOS ready to run on the rumored Apple iWatch (not the official name). That will mean slimming down the system and optimizing the UI for a smaller screen. A lot of the functionality will be stripped out when running on an iWatch, but it will still need to be able to run apps, and interact with your iPhone or iPad easily. Of course, a big push for the iWatch will be in health tracking, which brings us to:


There have been multiple reports that iOS 8 will have an increased focus on health and health tracking, which makes perfect sense because smartwatches right now are best used for health tracking and offloading notifications. We know that Apple has been hiring health experts, and is supposedly putting together an app called "Healthbook". Healthbook is rumored to offer exercise tracking like calories burned, miles walked, steps taken, and more. It also could offer other health tracking including heart rate, blood pressure, hydration levels, glucose levels, sleep quality, stress, medication reminders, and even data related to pregnancy.

The question right now is to what extent Apple will push into the health tracking world. The rumors have also mentioned Apple trying to "simplify" the aim of the iWatch, because pushing too far will not only make the product complicated for users, but it could also cause headaches for Apple itself. For example, in order to offer glucose and hydration tracking, the potential iWatch would need to go through regulatory approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Given the various production delays that have been reported surrounding the iWatch, it seems unlikely that Apple would want to add governmental approval to the list. However, it was reported that Apple met with the FDA at the beginning of February, so anything is possible.

The most reasonable expectation is that Apple will come out with the Healthbook app, which will offer the various features you'd expect including nutrition, exercise, and biometric tracking. Medication reminders sounds like an Apple move as well. And, heart rate, blood pressure, and sleep quality are likely options. The interesting move will be whether or not Apple offers an API for Healthbook, or if it will only be compatible with the iWatch. Apple has been known to allow for a rich accessories market, but that usually just means cases and docks and may not extend to wearables. We would also expect some tracking functionality of Healthbook, like the pedometer or run tracker, wouldn't necessarily require a wearable and would work simply using the iPhone's various sensors.


Also closely related to the reported iWatch would be Siri. Obviously, Siri has been a part of iOS for a while now, but as we mentioned before users have been somewhat reluctant to take advantage of the service so far. Siri and voice command in general is something that will likely be pushed to the forefront when it comes to wearable devices, because it is the easiest way to expand functionality. Text input on a watch screen would be nearly impossible without dictation, even with redesigned keyboards (which wouldn't exist on iOS anyway), and apps can't be too complex. There hasn't been anything by way of rumors in this regard, so we're going with educated guesses and hopes for the rest of this section.

One of the best possible updates to Siri, especially assuming it will be prominently featured on the iWatch would be a standard API to allow app developers to create custom Siri commands. Siri already hooks into a couple apps, but it would be far more useful if Siri could be commanded to find information from any app on your system. Of course, that is a big change that doesn't necessarily fit Apple's way of doing business, so if it does happen, expect it to be limited in some ways.

Siri is already quite skilled at organizing your calendar, but we are expecting those features to be expanded. We wouldn't be surprised to see a number of the options that we've heard in connection to Microsoft's Cortana be a part of a Siri update for iOS. This would include more times when Siri would engage in a back-and-forth to gather more information on a reminder or calendar event.

We would also expect a new set of Siri commands directly related to the Healthbook and health tracking. Of course, a lot of this would depend on what data is stored in Healthbook, but assuming most of what we outlined in the previous section will be part of the app, we'd expect Siri to let you set medication reminders, schedule workouts, and maybe log meals. There could also be a number of voice commands designed to help you parse the data stored in Healthbook, like finding out how many calories you've burned in the past week, or how far you've run.

Having just seen the reveal of the Moov, we can't help but wonder if Apple might try to make Siri into a personal fitness coach as well. It certainly wouldn't be something that we expect to happen, but we wouldn't completely rule it out either.

Touch ID

We're also expecting to see an expansion of the Touch ID fingerprint scanner and its functionality in 2014. This is another section that could fit into either software or hardware, but the hardware part of it all would be fairly short and read simply: "Expect all new flagship Apple devices to include a Touch ID sensor."

The software side of things is a bit more interesting, because it is widely expected that Apple will be opening up Touch ID to 3rd party app developers. Obviously, 3rd parties won't get access to your personal data, but it would mean that you could possibly end up using the Touch ID sensor to login to apps. It is unclear how much Apple will open this up though. It would be nice to see Touch ID usable by any app, but it is more likely that Apple would slowly expand the functionality. This could mean that with iOS 8 only certain apps would be able to use Touch ID for login. If Apple were to go with a limitation like this, the most likely targets would be personal finance, banking, and mobile payment apps.

It is much less likely, but it is also possible that the expansion of Touch ID could also lead to Apple offering multiple user support in iOS. The general thinking has been that Apple has avoided multiple user support in iOS because it wants people to buy multiple iPads, rather than just one to share. But, another issue could have been that Apple simply wants to avoid users needing to deal with a login screen. Touch ID would mostly remove that trouble, because the system would detect the user by fingerprint and skip any login screen altogether.

Up next: Part 3 where we cover the upcoming Apple hardware for 2014 including the iPhone 6, possible iPhablet, iPad updates, and the iWatch.

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