Sugar Rushes, Content Beaming, Unplugged Ad Targeting And Other iOS 7 Adventures

Oh, look at that! It just got a whole lot easier to toggle off your iPhone's ability to track your virtual travels in order to target ads. Introduced in iOS 6, the “Limit Ad Tracking” option on Apple devices used to be so well hidden several clicks into the General Option menu that most users never would have stumbled upon it.

But with the new iOS 7, one of the changes has been elevating the visibility of the option exactly where users would expect it – in the Privacy menu. Okay, well, it is the last item at the bottom of a menu that on most phones will require a half scroll. And the feature is still phrased obtusely. Some users might be tripped up by whether on or off is the “Limit Ad Tracking” toggle state they really want. And there is no explanation of what any of it means anyway. The “Reset Advertising Identifier” option had a “learn more” link that threw back an “Access Denied” error message on my phone. Summing up, it seems the Ad Identifier is still pretty safe from mass shutoffs, but Apple is floating it to the top.



As for the rest of iOS 7, I will let the gadgetocracy deal with all the details. I am interested in some of the things that could impact marketers most that I have gotten to play with in the last week.  

Passbook has added a new “Scan code” feature that could prove enormously powerful. The iPhone’s built-in camera now can recognize a QR code that is designed to plant content into the app. This doesn’t work with any old QR code but ones that link to Passbook passes. In other words, print coupons can be encoded to become Passbook coupons. Print and out-of-home assets can be encoded to add loyalty cards and offers directly into Passbook for easier use. This could prove to be an enormous boost for marketers, and of course, for overall Passbook use. The only headache I foresee is its overuse. I am not sure the app itself has the tools for managing an overabundance of coupons and cards. Right now it doesn’t have an organizing tool.

The automated updating iOS 7 brings to the tablet is a mixed bag. On the one hand it diminishes app updates as a recidivism tool. For many app makers, regular updates not only kept content fresh but reminded the user that he or she even had the app on hand. That is still possible in iOS 7, which will update apps without manual interaction from the user, but it is a muted effect. Now the Update section of the App Store includes a record of recent auto-updated app that requires no interaction. It will be interesting to see how this might affect app reuse or uninstalls. Of course, the upside is that developers can count on more of their users working from the latest code.

AirDrop is going to be interesting. It uses Bluetooth to share a range of different content with other iOS users in close proximity. The sharing tool is built into Passbook as well as Maps, Photos, Contacts, Safari, and App Store, among other things. It worked like a charm. I sent samples of all the above across devices. My other device showed up as an identity in the Share window. One tap sent a message with a thumbnail and description of the item to my other device, letting me accept or decline. When accepted, it loads the content in its native app for immediate use. Two taps on the send button cancels the command. Most importantly, it works with Passbook, so coupons and cards can be swapped. One imagines that at some point it could even serve as a mode of transfer with merchants in-store.

There are a bunch of things I have not been able to try yet, including support for iBeacon. This Bluetooth LE device can be planted in a store to interact with users and locate them in venue without the cellular network, WiFi or NFC. Indoor and in-store mapping, geofencing, etc. now become much more interesting as these operations now can be linked directly into things like the Passbook. Yeah -- imagine offers popping up on your phone as you enter the relevant aisle of the store. Other in-store technologies have been testing this idea. iBeacon could give the model real scale and great integration with the rest of the iPhone.

It is also worth pointing out that in addition to the app updates, other aspects of the new OS streamline things for users in ways that dial down developers’ ability to get in the user's face. For instance, the alerting system is now divided into three buckets of Today, All and Missed. It is great for users that they no longer have to scroll through a mess of alerts to retrieve the one that mattered. But it also consigns many alerts to a Missed or All bucket many user may not drill into. Also, the Newsstand, once bolted to the home screen, can now be tucked into a folder. And the Newsstand icon no longer dynamically depicts the top tiers of digital magazines and their current covers. This actually makes a difference on a full-size iPad with Retina Display. I used to be able to spy intriguing new magazine covers just in the icon. No more.    

The thing that is most obvious to users and leads other reviews is the new aesthetic. Flatter, airier and with typefaces sometime so thin they make me squint, the interface requires any app developer to think about how much they want to bring their own internal interface and look in line with Apple's. Personally, it is the least appealing thing about iOS 7. The icons are now cartoonish in size and hue. And I shudder at the prospect of third-party apps following suit. My phone used to have a feeling of depth, of icons floating over a field of something. Now my phone looks more like a box of Skittles just melted on my windshield. 

1 comment about "Sugar Rushes, Content Beaming, Unplugged Ad Targeting And Other iOS 7 Adventures".
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  1. Tyler Loechner from MediaPost, September 19, 2013 at 12:46 p.m.

    After reading this, I went and checked out Limit Ad Tracking slider. There is no "on" or "off" indicator. Just blue or not blue. No idea if mine is on or off. And, as you pointed out, no idea what it means anyway.

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