A new feature in the iPhone Photos app that arranges your photos into a slideshow with an emotional soundtrack also requires a subscription to Apple Music. A Fitness + subscription, Apple Watch, and Apple TV are required to access and view new fitness classes in Apple Fitness + on a big screen.
With macOS Monterey, soon to run on Mac computers and laptops, a new feature called Universal Control allows users to wirelessly sync their Macs and iPads and use a keyboard or mouse across both hardware components. AirPlay will also be available on Macs, allowing iPhone users to cast their phone contents onto a Mac screen. And macOS Monterey includes many of the same software updates as iOS 15, including an updated FaceTime experience and the SharePlay feature. Almost all roads lead back to another Apple product.
Not all of Apple’s newly announced software features were limited to Apple stuff. SharePlay will have an API, or application programming interface, a suite of software tools that other app makers can use to incorporate this media-sharing experience into their offerings. Some major content streaming app manufacturers have already signed up for their videos to be shared, including Hulu, Disney +, ESPN +, Twitch, and TikTok. FaceTime is coming to the web, which means Android phone users and people with Windows PCs can get into the same FaceTime calls they’ve been locked out of for years. Siri, Apple’s signature exclusive voice assistant, will be able to speak from Apple-approved third-party hardware. It doesn’t matter that Siri is still somehow ineffective; at least it works now with an Ecobee Smart Thermostat!
However, Apple’s differentiation will lie in the details. Just because you can use Apple’s software across different apps or devices doesn’t mean it will optimize on those devices in the same way as it would on an iPad or iPhone. For example, FaceTime on the web won’t have the latest SharePlay feature from Apple. Also, FaceTime callers on Android phones cannot apply effects to their video. And even Siri’s appearance on this Ecobee thermostat has a big catch: you have to buy a $ 99 HomePod mini, Apple’s answer to Amazon Echo, so Siri can work with non-Apple hardware.
Everything about Apple
Some technologists – and consumers – will argue that these fully integrated experiences are what make Apple products work better than other options out there. In some cases the argument is valid.
For one thing, there are security benefits. This kind of tight integration partially enables products like iCloud + which, when launched later this year, include security enhancements to Apple’s email client, unlimited storage for video footage captured by HomeKit-enabled surveillance cameras, and a VPN-like one Feature included that masks your web browsing in Safari.
Ben Thompson, analyst for the popular Stratechery newsletter and harsh critic of Apple’s App Store issues, points out in his newsletter that even he sometimes “enjoys the benefits of Apple’s deep level of integration, both with respect to individual devices “And also in their entire ecosystem.”
One specific example Thompson cites is using AirDrop as part of his workflow, and he says a new feature called Quick Note, which creates an ecosystem-wide experience for writing down Apple products, tried him to Apple Notes switch. “Yes, innovation comes from openness and the philosophy of making a thousand flowers bloom, but it can also come from control and the ability to integrate through unobvious interfaces,” Thompson writes.
Greengart from Techsponential is also somewhat optimistic about Apple’s prioritization of its own software systems and apps. He points out that Apple’s focus on its tightly integrated software usually follows some easing of developer access restrictions that Apple places on the sensors and APIs that run on Apple hardware, which in turn leads to better apps for them Consumer leads. “I expect that at some point developers will be able to play the things that are proven to improve the iOS ecosystem in that ecosystem,” he says.
You could even call it a rosy take on Apple’s approach – a fitting description of a walled garden.
More great WIRED stories