Today’s keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference highlighted a number of new features that the company has added to its mobile operating system. And while a number of updates will make life easier for users, there are also some new features that will compete directly with developers who build for the iOS platform.
It’s always a tricky thing for developers, who seek to provide applications which add value on top of the mobile hardware and software that Apple has released. But as time goes on, more and more of the applications that developers build end up being replaced by features that Apple builds directly into its software. With the launch of iOS 6, here’s a list of apps and categories that could be affected by features Apple has added directly into the OS.
Turn-by-turn navigation apps
Given the huge amount of work that Apple did to refine and upgrade its Maps application, this is probably the most obvious app category affected by the update. Google is the big loser, of course, since its maps were replaced by Apple’s own software. But there are a ton of maps applications that could be rendered obsolete, thanks mainly to the addition of turn-by-turn navigation.
The most obvious app makers who will be affected are probably Garmin and TomTom, famous leaders in the space that sell GPS-based navigation apps at a premium. Both have USA navigation apps priced at around $50 on the Apple App store today. Those companies were already feeling some pressure from smaller free apps, but it’s difficult to imagine anyone buying those apps once the iOS 6 update comes out and Apple’s Maps provides the same functionality for free.
But forget about the big guys: There are a number of startups and free apps that could also be hurt by an improved Maps app. Take Waze, for instance: it offered a free, turn-by-turn navigation app that was powered by crowdsourcing data from its users. There might still be some users who find this functionality a differentiator, but it’s a harder sell when the Maps app comes free and pre-installed.
Payments and loyalty program apps
The introduction of Apple’s PassBook could be great for consumers, as it has the potential to allow them to aggregate all sorts of “passes” all in one place: That includes stuff like boarding passes, store cards, and movie tickets to start, but there are all sorts of possibilities here to disrupt the larger mobile payments industry, as well as upend a whole bunch of smaller loyalty programs that are emerging on iOS.
There’s no shortage of loyalty apps out there — and in fact, one of the major problems with that industry is that today things are so fragmented that users never know which local merchant will support which app. Some players — like Square, with its Pay By Square app — have tried to tie loyalty into their broader payment systems, which Apple seems unlikely to totally disrupt.
The other big issue is that Apple has to prove it can get developers and merchants on board and convince them that they want proof of payments for movie tickets and airline boarding passes available all in the same app, as opposed to in their own individual apps. But if PassBook does gets traction, expect a whole bunch of standalone loyalty apps to fold.
Offline reading and bookmarking apps
When Apple introduced its Reader and Reading Lists in mobile Safari last year, a few people worried that the feature had the potential to disrupt mobile reader apps like Instapaper. Well, if that was part of Apple’s plan, the launch of offline reading lists in mobile Safari only threatens them even further.
The new offline reading lists will allow users to cache entire websites rather than just individual links. For users who have to date relied on Instapaper, Pocket, Spool, or other apps to save content for reading during their commutes or when not connected to the Internet, having the same native capability built into iOS could obviate the need for those apps.
Group and private photo-sharing apps
Apple’s announcement probably won’t affect the larger group of social photo-sharing apps — the Instagrams of the world, or those where the name of the game is making your photos available to as many people as possible. But there are a growing number of apps which have emerged around the idea of private sharing — that is, specifying exactly which family members you send pictures of your child to, or allowing folks who go on vacation together to all have the same group of photos without uploading to Facebook.
Apple’s revamped photo streams will allow users to create groups of photos and instantly share them with other users, as well as allowing those users to make comments on them. That could pose a threat to app makers like 1000Memories and others. It could also do away with the use case for online storage services like Dropbox where users upload groups of photos into folders and share them with others.
Mobile video chat apps
Prior to iOS 6, FaceTime only worked on Apple devices, and it only worked on Wi-Fi. Those two factors have led to a proliferation of mobile chat apps that competed directly with the video chat functionality built directly into iOS, apps like Skype, Tango, and ooVoo, among others. Well, Apple worked to solve one of those issues, by allowing users to make FaceTime calls on cellular networks.
The addition of Wi-Fi calling is unlikely to make a huge dent in the video chat competition, in part because the main differentiator for those competitors is multiplatform capability — being able to make calls across iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac operating systems. But it might mean that users who would have switched to an app which does cellular video calling might use FaceTime when dialing another friend with an iPhone — or they might do video chat when they otherwise would have done voice.