Saturday, December 26, 2020

Apple Perfected Its Future - Cars, AR, and Health

 Apple's future seem secured.  It's making billions and there seems to be no end to how many iPhones it can sell.  And now, it's making Macs based on its own internally designed chips.  And the next steps for Apple will be critical for both the company and consumers like ourselves - staying in touch with our iPhones, consuming (sometimes working) media on the iPad, trying to stay healthy with the Apple Watch (or trying to avoid being connected too much), or creating, coding, editing on the Mac.  

What is the most likely to come out of Apple?  One would think it's going to augmented reality but you would be wrong.  It's health.  Whether this is on the Apple watch or in the background working with insurance and healthcare companies (whatever they are), it will be health that will impact Apple users for decades.  

HEALTH

The Apple Watch is the face of Apple's health push.  With Apple Watch 6, it has solidify it's place among consumers - people who want an extension to their iPhone, health conscious users, and athletes.  Personally, the Apple Watch 6 with its speed, cellular connectivity, and added health sensors (blood oxygen meter) has been critical in the last month (got Covid).  It has allowed me to stay in touch as well as being able to monitor my health.  Prior to that, I used it to keep track of weight loss and workouts.  

One of the most under appreciated part of Apple's health initiative is the Health app on the iPhone.

I have been using the Health app more in addition to the Activity app but it is in the Health app that I am able to find more information.  Some numbers are daily updates like the number of calories burnt, steps, and workouts while others like VO2 max and weight can be changed over time through hard work.  

Furthermore, Apple will add more sensors to the Apple Watch in the future - two Holy Grail features users are looking for - glucose level and blood pressure monitoring.  It will happen over time.  

PRIVACY

Privacy is the war being waged now between Apple on one side and the other side being lead by the likes of Facebook.  Although privacy does not have a tangible price tag that we see like on the Apple hardware, it is a feature that is going important to users as law makers all over the world are seemingly unable to come up with common sense legislation to protect consumer privacy and data.  Hence, Apple has stepped up to the plate - in the face of public opinion, Apple seems to be winning the privacy battle (Facebook employees point out Facebook hypocrisy in battle with Apple over privacy and Electronic Frontier Foundation sides with Apple against Facebook over privacy).

The main battle is the new privacy feature in iOS 14.3 that will offer users details on what information apps are syphoning from users - it will be like looking at nutrition information when you buy products from markets - privacy nutrition labels.  Not only is Facebook and other companies that trade and sell user information against such transparency, App Tracking Transparency is a new feature that will give users even greater control - it requires that users opt-in (instead of opting-out that is favored by social media apps) to allow apps to begin collecting user information (Apple Developer).

We will heard and learn more about this in 2021.  This is a multi-year battle between tech titans with a lot of proposals from Congress and the EU as well as additional hearings, lawsuits, and antitrust cases.  

AUGMENTED REALITY

Apple will be pushing hard in this realm - it's a decade long push.  As anything with Apple, we will not know what the company's full vision.  With each iOS update, each iPhone upgrade, and perhaps even new hardware like the rumored Apple Glasses, we will see Apple open up doors for users across the spectrum in many markets - cars, research, health, daily tasks, and, of course, mobile computing.  

It's likely the iPhone you already own already have some AR features.  And this year with the introduction of the iPhone 12 Pro joining the iPad Pro with LiDAR, Apple is pushing further into this potentially vast market.  

So far, my AR experience has been limited to placing furnitures in the house, having dinosaurs show up in the living room and having a moving Baby Yoda using Google in the driveway.  I look forward to experiencing more in the coming year especially if Apple does release new hardware to support it.

Even now, Apple's own website is limited (Apple Augmented Reality).  The Warby Parker is one of the most useful apps I've used.  The rest is placing plants, furnitures, and other objects in an area.  There are AR games and I have not been all that impressed with them.  Apple's own list of AR apps is a bit short (Apple).

APPLE CAR

If you're waiting to see if Apple will develop and manufacture its own car, I would bet against it at this time even though Reuters came out with an article professing that Apple will be releasing a car by 2024 with a new generation of battery.  I'm sure by now, you've heard of Project Titan, started as far back as 2014.  PT has changed and morphed over the years - from Apple developing a Tesla killer to just creating its own AI driving system that other car makers can use in their vehicles to improves in Car Play to making a car again or not.  

The situation for Project Titan is fluid with many changes in leadership as well as what Apple hope to eventually develop and release.  Will App ever release a car?  Personally, I doubt it.  We will have to see what the market is like in 4-5 years.  Apple certainly is capable of changing a market once it decides to enter it.  What's less certain is that there is a vast demand for an Apple branded vehicle even if it manages to develop one that is better than what Telsa and other automakers will develop by 2024.  Even now, late comer Toyota with its hybrid only push will be develop a prototype EV this year and could potentially have something on the marker by 2024.  And even now, traditional auto makers are taking the EV market seriously as more consumers demand electric cars with some governments like California are looking to phase out gasoline car sales as soon as 2035. And where California goes, so goes the country.

The most likely scenario is this.  As Apple continue work on Project Titan, what Apple is learning is also being translated to features on the iOS, OS X, and Car Play.  There could also be hardware improvements as the result of Titan research.  And it works the other way as well - mobile tech from the iPhone and iPad teams could end up in an Apple car.  So the research regardless of whether Apple will eventually make a car or just release a Car OS for automakers is helping Apple improve its line of products.  Even AR tech Apple is developing will work across all of its hardware.

I'm hoping Apple does release a car, plane, or even a personal transportation device (better than Segway).  But I would bet against that happening for now.

So that is where we are with Apple.  I am sure Apple will be leading the technology push for years to come.  Apple will continue to be predictable in some areas and surprise us in others.  Just make sure to check your expectations and expected to be surprised in the sense that there could be no surprises.  Apple has been some what predictable during the Tm Cook era.

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