Apple and 2014: iBeacons, iWatch, Siri Handsfree and More – Interview with Ryan Faas, Apple Tech Journalist

Earlier, we had a chance to interview Jason Snell, a popular tech journalist and Apple expert. Jason shared his thoughts about Apple, iOS ecosystem and iDevices. This time, we’ve been lucky to have Ryan Faas talk about Apple and the year 2014.

Ryan Faas is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about Apple products and services for more than a decade. He writes for Computerworld, Macworld and other leading publications that cover Apple, iPhones, iPads and the iOS ecosystem. His recent views about iBeacon and location-based services from Apple have been great expositions on Apple’s 2014 plans.

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He shared some of his opinions and thoughts on Apple’s 2014 outlook with iGeeksBlog. Here’s the interview:

iBeacons and Location Tracking

iGB: Let’s begin with iBeacons for 2014. You wrote a terrific piece about Apple’s focus on contextual location services. How far do you think Apple would be taking this technology this year? A few thoughts on adoption by retailers, app developers, and how it will change or possibly revolutionize a user’s life?

Ryan: Apple is clearly promoting the possibilities of iBeacon in its store, but I think the real innovation and adoption is going to be led by developers and businesses that choose to deploy iBeacons. With several companies offering very low cost Bluetooth LE beacon devices, there’s a lot of potential. Having said that I think adoption will be somewhat modest during most of 2014 as companies trial the technology before making a major commitment. Although retail seems to be the big iBeacon focus right now, I think we may see bigger growth will coming from event venues like stadiums, theater and performance spaces, and convention centers deploying beacons as navigation and information solutions.

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iWatch and Features

iGB: Wearable seems to be the buzzword for 2014 and it’s hardly possible that Apple will stay out of this market for long. The iWatch is definitely on everyone’s radar. Smartwatches have not yet found massive adoption in the market: is it because the market isn’t ready for it yet or is it because products have not been really compelling? And what kind of a feature – in your opinion – would make for a compelling product in the iWatch?

Ryan: Looking at the wearables category today, the biggest impact seems to be fitness trackers, partly because they have a clear and immediate value to people – if you look at a Fitbit device, you know exactly how you’ll use it. I think most people don’t see that level of clarity with smartwatches yet. Ironically, activity trackers may help make the case for a smartwatch as the begin to blur the line between the two categories, a process already underway if you look at the devices shown at CES. I think Apple will wait until the company can articulate and refine a use case for an iWatch that’s more revolutionary than serving as a sort of remote for your iPhone, which is what many smartwatches seem to be focused on to date. My best guess (and it is a bit of guess) is that Apple will incorporate some health or physical routine monitoring capability that delivers unexpected value while also providing a lot of contextual data – possibly something like the Nymi heartbeat authentication device that I wrote about recently in relation to a new Apple patent.

What’s Next?

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iGB: iPod (2001), iPhone (2007), iPad (2010). And incremental upgrades to each of these products. Each was a true innovation of sorts. But a new product of this sort (targeting a new product demographic) has been missing for quite some time now. Could 2014 be a time for a new product from Apple? Tim Cook did hint at the AllThingsD conference that this is an exciting year for Apple.

Ryan: I’ll admit this is a bit of guess on my part, but I think the next industry that Apple could disrupt may be the auto industry. If you look at the acquisitions Apple has made, particularly around mapping and navigation, it’s clear that Cook and the rest of the executive have an agenda and that they’re assembling a lot of interesting resources in a space that matches up well with in-dash systems. Apple has already been pushing the Siri Eyes Free functionality that lets a driver interact with Siri using a button on the steering wheel. Apple also announced its iOS in the car initiative alongside iOS 7 at WWDC in June, though almost no information has really come out about it since. Nevertheless, a majority of developers surveyed by Appcelerator named that as their next key platform – above Google Glass – and that indicates that there’s huge potential there. Will Apple get there in 2014? I’m not really sure, but it’s definitely a possibility.

On Tech Reporting

iGB: What’s one area that the media is not focusing on, when we report about Apple and its products/services?

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Ryan: Apple in the enterprise. Granted, this is an area that I’ve specialized in covering over the past several years, but the truth is there’s still a sense out there that Apple isn’t interested in business and enterprise customers despite the success of iOS in business and Apple’s role in launching the BYOD movement. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Macs and iOS devices integrate very well with core enterprise systems like Active Directory and Exchange and have a range of enterprise-worth security and management functionality. iOS 7’s enterprise additions – and the fact that Apple makes it so much simpler to deploy iOS updates than any Android manufacturer – really make the iPhone the logical replacement for the BlackBerry.

Apple and Google

iGB: Apple and Google. Which areas would these big companies compete in 2014 (Search/Siri, Wearable tech, Apps)?

Ryan: I think the biggest area is going maps and location-aware features and apps. Apple’s Maps app got off to a horrendous start in iOS 6 – it was essentially the 2012 version of the rollout – but Apple has really poured resources into that, often without anyone really noticing, and iOS Maps is often on par with Google Maps in my experience. As context- and location-aware apps become more common, I think we’re going to see a really interesting feature war between Apple and Google. Of course, that context awareness includes other areas where the two companies already compete – Siri vs. Google Now, iBeacon capability, and so on. That could easily extend to Apple in-dash car integration. Both companies are making a push for automakers to offer embedded support and features for their platforms, with Google introducing its own in-car initiative this week at CES.

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We thank Ryan for this wonderful interview where he shared some excellent thoughts about what we should lookout for from Apple this year.

Jignesh Padhiyar
Jignesh Padhiyar is the co-founder of who has a keen eye for news, rumors and all the unusual stuff that happens around Apple products. During his tight schedule, Jignesh finds some moments of respite to share side-splitting contents on social media.

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