Apple Responds to Sales Slump By Targeting Social Media Generation

Apple has always successfully courted the “millennial” demographic with its products, but the news at the tail-end of this financial quarter that the company had suffered a 16 per cent sales decline suggested that, for the first time in over a decade, they were failing to continue their extraordinary forwards momentum with their iterative mobile updates. Though they are far from a period of crisis, it was suggested by this strong financial downturn – the first time in 13 years that the company hadn’t increased their profits year-over-year – that they may no longer have the Midas touch when it comes to appealing to a target audience that they have played a huge part in creating.

This has evidently led to a strategic overhaul for Apple, made clear during their WWDC 2016 event. While the company’s press conference included software update announcements such as macOS Sierra and watchOS 3, my biggest takeaway from it was the huge overhaul given to Messages in iOS 10. Considering that to many text messaging is a feature that needn’t receive anything more than marginal upgrades, it was a big risk for Apple to dedicate so much time of their iOS 10 presentation to discussing the Messages updates, with it also being pitched as the focal point of the upcoming software release.

But Messages as we know it is changing, and Apple is clearly doing so in order for it to remain in line with messaging services such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which combine ease of use with a compendium of additional features that appeal directly to a generation that has grown up on social media. Emoji? Check. Animated sentences? Check. Full-screen effects? You betcha. While the reasoning behind these additions may be unclear to those who aren’t frequently sending stickers to one another over Facebook, this renovation of a core iOS feature that is otherwise frequently overlooked had to be done. Though I cringed as much as anyone hearing Apple’s Craig Federighi say “emojification” completely unironically, these are features that – despite many of our old-fashioned sensibilities – will appeal to an important and lucrative audience.

Apple Messages: The Features

Messages already does what it says on the tin, but with this iOS 10 update, Apple is following in the path of the likes of Snapchat by making it more fun to use the app. With digital touch video, Apple allows users to record short clips within the Messages app itself, allowing them to doodle over the video along with adding animated overlays. Users can also send links to tracks hosted on Apple Music, recommending music to their friends without them even having to leave Messages in order to hear them. The same works for YouTube videos, too. 

iOS-10-Messages

Then there’s the inclusion of predictive emoji, which with the click of a button introduces suggested emoji for various keywords within a sentence. For instance, if for some reason you decide to send a message to a friend telling them that you “love pizza” (because who doesn’t?) Messages will suggest that you replace those words with a heart and a pizza slice emoji. Handwritten text will allow you to forego messaging entirely, instead sending your friends little notes you’ve scribbled with your finger, while “invisible ink” blurs a message that will only be revealed when the recipient wipes their finger across it. You can even receive a destination in a message and then order a Lyft to take you there.

Such a swelling amount of superfluous features added to Messages could easily be derided as a cynical move on Apple’s behalf. It’s never not cringe-inducing seeing a middle-aged man earnestly discuss emoji in front of a room filled with other middle-aged men, and this was no different at WWDC. But messaging in general has now evolved far beyond what Apple’s built-in app has provided, which has coincided with the rise of ephemeral  messaging apps such as Snapchat. It’s clear that Apple has taken many cues from this service, and considering that they’re not alone in this, it therefore feels like a natural evolution for an iOS staple that was in dire need of a makeover.

You may deem iOS 10’s biggest new feature to be fundamentally useless, but for many the changes to Messages will see them actively looking to use the app, rather than seeing it as a useful if dull necessity of their iPhone. Though I really want to see more innovation from Apple moving forward, given the company’s tendency to rest on their laurels over the past year, in this regard I think it’s well worth their time to move with the tide of popular opinion rather than trying to create their own waves.