On September 20th Apple released the latest version of its iOS operating system, iOS 15, and with it a range of new features. The developments demonstrate three growing areas of focus for Apple and address three bourgeoning consumer issues: 

1.Privacy

At the core of IOS 15 are a series of updates which seek to protect user privacy and, more specifically, give greater control to users over their personal data. The updates build on the somewhat contentious app tracking transparency features which came out in iOS 14 and saw push back from social media platforms concerned about the challenge they represent to their ad businesses. IOS 15’s raft of privacy updates include:

  • Privacy report cards – which will highlight how apps are using the permissions you’ve granted them, which third-party domains they contact and how recently they made contact
  • Mail privacy protection – including preventing marketers from being able to track you and allowing you to keep spammers out of your inbox through the random generation of email addresses
  • Private Relay – a yet to be released feature whichwill prevent sites from being able to identify you as you browse, hiding your IP address and encrypting your traffic.

2. Distraction

Aside from privacy, Apple is building on previous endeavours like Screen Time, to assist consumers in their battles with digital distraction.

‘Focus’ is a new feature, which as the name suggests, attempts to help users ‘find focus’. Whilst our phones give us instant access to information, they are also highly addictive and a persistent source of distraction. Research indicates that our perpetual phone checking prevents us from achieving a state of ‘flow’, in which you are absorbed fully in an activity and highly productive.

Apple’s new feature attempts to address this by putting control in the user’s hands – you can automatically filter notifications and apps on your Apple devices based on your status. By setting your device to a certain ‘Focus’, for example, Personal, Work, Exercising, Gaming or Sleep, it will hide distractions, filter notifications and inform friends that you aren’t available.

3. Audio Immersion

Spatial audio’ continues to be an area of focus for Apple with the addition of dynamic head tracking to Apple Music. Unlike traditional audio, spatial audio offers a far more immersive experience by delivering sound to your ears from different directions (instead of listening to a stereo mix of left and right) in a similar way to how you process sounds in the physical world.

Apple’s latest feature goes a step further – instruments and vocals have a fixed (virtual) place and, should you turn your head, that sonic element will remain in place, just as if you’re at a live gig. 

All three of these updates demonstrate a continued shift by Apple to counteract over-stimulation and help people engage and consume in a less distracted manner. Given that the iPhone helped create a world of hyper-stimulation, it will be interesting to see how consumers embrace this new direction of travel. Further, how ad-based business models predicated on garnering attention will respond to these updates that will shape a lot of consumer behaviour in the times to come.