After all the excitement and pageantry that was Apple’s Big Event in San Francisco last week, the team at Apple is now back at work.
This week iOS 9 dropped — and with a good deal more peace in the valley than the introduction of iOS 8 late last year brought along with it. With that release, Apple Pay has managed to capture all four major card networks in its web with Discover now a part of the Apple Pay party (along with yet another crop of issuers and some British banks to boot), and we can see Passbook fade away and become just Wallet.
But that’s not all! Too busy thinking about all the wonderful ways you could use a $100 Apple Pencil? Afraid to upgrade to iOS 9 because you just finished the therapy sessions you needed from last year’s upgrade and you don’t think you can handle the stress all over again?
Good news for you then: PYMNTS has all the scoop that is Apple this week. (And, double good news, it’s probably fine to update the OS.)
iOS 9 – Responsible For 75 Percent Less Twitter Rage Than iOS 8
Things did not go as well as Apple might have hoped when it released the iOS 8 upgrade last year. The initial release was accompanied by a series of bugs, one of which actually prevented phones from making or receiving calls. The software update additionally required a significant amount of storage — about five gigabytes — on the device when installed wirelessly over the Internet.
But after a few patches, the Apple base caved, and now 87 percent of iPhone owners were reported to have installed some variation of iOS 8 when the newest update dropped this week.
Things this year seem to be much more relaxed – if a bit muted.
The general consensus is that iOS 9 is a software much like iOS 6 was — an intermediate improvement that hasn’t so much transformed the product so much as it has smoothed out some of the rough edges.
“This is a necessary spit-and-polish release that followed two bigger, transformative releases,” Ars Technica wrote. “There’s some good stuff here, but nothing that’s quite as all-encompassing as iOS 7’s complete redesign or iOS 8’s introduction for Handoff and Continuity and Extensions.”
There was, however, one upgrade that got many reviewers’ attention.
The first was the packet of upgrades to Siri, Apple’s digital personal assistant.
With a new screen of her own, Siri now presents users with suggested contacts and apps based on how the user interacts with the phone. Call your boss a lot in the AM? Siri will list her as your first contact in the AM. Call your mom at night? Siri will also note that and change up her recommendations based on the time of day. She does a similar trick by tailoring her recommendations based on what types of taps the user engages in throughout the day.
The “Siri Screen” also keeps a running newsfeed throughout the day, as well as shortcuts to nearby places. “She” can also be further customized to make traffic and departure time recommendations.
Notably, these are not terribly new features if one is an Android customer.
Google’s Now service already does most of this, as does Microsoft’s Cortana program (in Windows 10). Many reviewers have also noted that Siri’s predictive features need a bit more development on the personalization scale – as Google Now and Foursquare are both reportedly more prone to useful suggestions.
But the potential — for phone navigation that is made radically easier and more efficient — is there, according to the experts.
Someone just needs to develop it.
Plugging Security Holes
The new update also comes with some sense of urgency this year, as without it iOS enthusiasts are apt to be tapped by what many are calling a “nasty bug” that is easily and quietly exploitable via Apple AirDrop, iOS and Mac OS’s filing sharing system.
Mark Dowd, an Australian researcher who heads up Azimuth Security, told Forbes that the flaw would allow an attacker to drop malware onto a target device. It could also possibly open the door to iOS tweaking that would make the exploit workable, even if the intended victim rejected the incoming file.
The goods new here is that an upgrade to iOS 9 significantly mitigates the problem. The bad news (despite all the headlines to the contrary) is that the iOS 9 upgrade does not fix the problem — it only makes it a little less severe. According to Dowd, the upgrade “hasn’t fully fixed the flaws,” though he does note the exploit does become somewhat harder to access with the upgrade in.
The sorta-good news? iOS and Mac sandboxes keep apps in their own container, which means the data in the apps is safe. The sorta-really-bad news? Once installed, the malicious apps get many of the powers regular apps have to access and control parts of the phone, such as reading contacts, gaining location information and using the camera.
Discover Jumps Into The Apple Pay Conga Line
Better late than never, as they say.
As of the iOS 9 release, Discover is officially on the Apple Pay bandwagon and apparently determined to make up for lost time.
Discover is pushing Apple Pay with its 49 million-wide user base with a 10 percent cashback offering valid until the end of this year for up to $10,000 on in-store purchases, the company said in a statement.
But wait, there’s more.
As an added bonus to its customers with a Discover It Miles, Miles or Escape credit card, the company will also be offering an extra 10 airline miles per dollar until they hit the bonus cashback spending limit.
“We are excited for Discover card members to have the ability to use Apple Pay. Rewards have always been important to our cardmembers, and we want to make sure they receive a generous offer for shopping with Discover and Apple Pay,” said Heather Roche, vice president of rewards at Discover.
Discover is also doubtlessly (if a bit less vocally) excited for what they hope Apple can do for its user base, a subject the card network is intimately interested in as of late. Earlier this year, Discover rolled out a new scheme to offer endless double cashback to new customers at the end of their first year since joining.
Being so open-handed with the rewards isn’t cheap for Discover.
The added incentives to boost Apple Pay adoption comes as part of Discover’s effort to further expand its user base.
While only time can tell what offering a generous 10 percent cashback to its users would mean for Discover, the company is sure feeling the strain of going the extra mile to lure new customers. Earlier this year, PYMNTS reported a rise in Discover’s payments volume and loan portfolio, which grew by 6.4 percent. Its net income fell by a third in the last three months of 2014.
The culprit? Discover’s rewards program, which racked up $178 million in losses.
Whether doubling down on rewards is a good move for Discover, it is certainly great news for Apple, which has succeeded well with card networks and issuers (another crop added this week!), but has struggled to gain traction with consumers and merchants.
The vast majority of stores still don’t take it and according to PYMNTS/InfoScout figures, a whopping86.9 percent of iPhone users reported never having tried the service.
A lotta cashback could boost shopping – and adoption and usage. And even better, Apple managed to get someone else to foot the bill.
The Roadshow Begins
Now that all the new stuff is out there, Apple’s executive team is going on the road to sell it.
CEO Tim Cook was spotted hanging out at Apple’s NYC store with SVP of Internet Software and Services Eddy Cue. Cook was in New York for an appearance on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert.
Cook was incidentally the second celebrity appearance at a NYC Apple Store this week: The Kardashian sisters appeared in SoHo to promote the launch of their new paid apps/websites. (More on that harbinger of the apocalypse in tomorrow’s edition.)
And Cook is not out there alone promoting Apple to the people.
Payment services VP Jennifer Bailey will also be making a public appearance at Re/code’s upcoming Code/Mobile conference.
Tim Cook said that 2015 would be “the year of Apple Pay.” That didn’t so much happen, though it was the year of the iPhone 6.
Hey, if at first you don’t succeed — well, there’s always Stephen Colbert.