Apple Keynote

I ‘watched’ the Apple Keynote on Tuesday as per usual. And yes I plan to replace my 2-year old iPhone 4s. My immediate impression after the event: nice phone, fingerprint authentication is cool, 64-bit is great. But overall an iterative not innovative launch.

On Wednesday, I caught up on my reading. If you have not, check out these three stories:

MONDAY: PayPal unveils Beacon, a Bluetooth-powered add-on check-in device and opens its Mobile In-Store API

TUESDAY: 

WEDNESDAY: Estimote Details iOS 7 iBeacon Support For Its Contextual Proximity Shopping Devices

TL;DR: Ad networks are playing with geo-fencing, but PayPal is looking to use a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) device to actively recognize consumer location and facilitate deals and payments.

Apple is calling their version of a similar tech ‘iBeacon’ and looking to kill NFC before it gains any traction in the U.S. market.

And, a PayPal competitor in this niche took all of one day to announce their in-store device will be compatible with iOS7.

On Tuesday I commented to Josh Benton at Nieman Lab that the fingerprint scanner night be the biggest long-term feature on the new phone. It makes authentication and payment almost frictionless. But the real story is a lot bigger than that.

Om Malik connected a few more of the dots: 

“In the near term, the M7 sensor (a new motion processing chip) essentially opens up opportunities for new fitness applications. M7 will help create a personal computing fabric that will reside on our person — be it wearables such as Nike Fuel band, a smart watch or whatever. Sensor data is a way for apps to get ‘senses.’  …The M7 sensor processor, Bluetooth LE support and iBeacon are part of the efforts Apple is making to push “low power everywhere.”

So what is the message from Apple?

  1. We killed Flash and are coming for NFC.
  2. Smartphones are computers, not phones. (We already knew this thanks to Clayton Christensen.)
  3. The smartphone is a life tool. (More below)
  4. As per #3 utility, not content will be the primary use for these devices.

‘Utility’ is a much-abused term. But in other words, smartphones are quickly replacing or augmenting every task the average person performs in their daily public or private lives from dawn to dusk.

Call it the ‘life support’ strategy: Your phone can wake you up in the morning and warn you of too much CO2 in the house; Track your morning fitness routine and still get you to work on time; Get you deals at Target and check your credit card balance; Let you buy lunch and count the calories; Alert you to breaking news and route you around traffic on the way home; Set your home DVR to record ‘Breaking Bad’ or order and play Season One on Netflix.

Those categories look like:

  1. Internet of Things
  2. E-commerce
  3. Quantitative self
  4. Content

Media organizations are mostly focusing on #4, making content look good on a small screen. That consumer need is a key experience for journalists, but it ignores the powerful potential of the new news bundle.

The print newspaper has comics, classifieds, display ads, sports agate, events calendars, games, coupons and more. The typical news website has some of those features, the typical news app has – news.

This of course is where it gets tricky. How does a media company get involved in remote sensors, e-commerce or fitness apps in a way that serves the community and holds some promise of revenues?

No idea.

But look at the facts. A majority of U.S. adults now own smartphones, and they will soon be using them for everything. Everything. Newspapers are good at one thing and unfortunately journalism needs some help to be self-sufficient.

We can keep working on the things we are good at, or we can learn to do new things that consumers want, and advertisers need. Those lessons probably involve hiring a native app developer and spending some money on research and development. Get used to it.