Earlier today, September 7th, 2022, Apple held their fall announcement event where they shared the details of the newest line of upcoming products, including the iPhone 14 lineup, new Apple Watches, and updated AirPods Pro. This article summarizes some of the key considerations and strategic pillars product owners and app developers should keep in mind when thinking about building apps for this new hardware.

iPhone 14

Always-On Display

iPhone 14 introduces Always-On display functionality. The display can drop to a 1Hz refresh rate, making the new Lock Screen even more useful, keeping the time, widgets, and Live Activities available at a glance. The Always-On display will keep sensitive data from appearing on the lock screen for all to see. Live Activities introduced in WWDC22 helps users stay on top of the things happening in real-time, such as scores of their favorite team and food delivery order. Live Activities, in conjunction with Dynamic Island, a newly introduced feature, allows new communication, sharing, and intelligence features that change how users experience iPhone apps.

The redesigned Lock Screen offers a multilayered effect that artfully sets the subjects of photos in front of the time and allows all kinds of customization options to make the Lock Screen unique to the user. Users can choose widgets, customize the colors, and use emojis, photos, or built-in wallpapers. Widgets were mentioned to be redesigned, but details are yet to be unveiled.

Dynamic Island

In previous iterations of the iPhone, we saw Apple try to minimize the much maligned “Notch”. With the iPhone 14, it seems that Apple has chosen to embrace the Notch and finally give it a purpose. As a means to engage users with in-app content, Apple introduced the pill-shaped Dynamic Island.

The Dynamic Island is a space at the top of the iPhone 14 screen that surfaces alerts for background activities and enables access to controls for apps running in the background. For example, the Dynamic Island grants users access to Music app controls without requiring the user to open the Music app. In another example, a user is able to see that their Lyft ride is two minutes away without navigating away from their current text message conversation.

While developer documentation has not been published at the time of writing, we suspect that the new Dynamic Island API will tie in closely with the Live Activities API included with iOS 16.

Apple Watch

Apple announced three new versions of the Apple Watch: the Series 8, second-generation SE, and Ultra versions. These new models include hardware additions that could enable exciting new experiences that weren’t previously possible.

New Sensors

First up, new sensors exist within the Apple Watch Series 8. Temperature sensors have been added with the primary purpose of helping track and predict menstruation and ovulation cycles, and new 3-axis gyroscope and g-force accelerometer sensors have been added to detect car crashes and help send assistance during emergencies.

These features are great on their own, and we’ll also be on the lookout to see if developers will have direct access to the readings from these new and enhanced sensors.

Readings from the new temperature sensors could allow watch apps to implement functionality oriented around detecting temperature changes either inside of the wearer for health-tracking purposes or within the wearer’s surroundings. And the new motion-tracking sensors could over a greater degree of fidelity in understanding the user’s movements, on both a micro scale in their wrist movement and on a larger scale in analyzing the movement of their entire body.

Action Button

The new Apple Watch Ultra has also added a dedicated hardware action button to the side of the watch. The intention of the action button is to allow users to quickly and easily trigger functionality with a physical button while running, diving, wearing gloves, etc. Apple has also indicated that the behavior of this button can be customized by the user, allowing them to trigger the action most relevant to them.

We expect developers will need to add support for the new action button through two mechanisms. First, watch apps will need to be updated to be able to respond to the button action when it is pressed and trigger the relevant action. And second, a customization view will likely need to be offered that will allow users to select the app-specific behavior that they’d like triggered when the button is pressed.

Strategically, it’ll be important to optimize the options offered to users for the action button to ensure the most important or common tasks are available for users to select in their customization list.

Higher-precision GPS

The Apple Watch Ultra also features an enhanced set of GPS functionality that offers more precise tracking than ever before. This will be especially handy for any standalone Apple Watch apps that provide navigation, workout tracking, and other GPS-based features, and the additional precision may allow us to offer more detailed tracking experiences than we’d previously been able to implement with the previous hardware.

“Adventure Devices”

The combined announcements of the Apple Watch Ultra, low-power mode, and the Satellite SOS feature on the iPhone 14, prove that Apple is targeting these devices as “adventure devices”, meant to be used in outdoor environments, off the grid, in extreme circumstances, and for a long time. These, combined with the ongoing efforts over previous years to make hardware that’s more resistant to impacts, drops, scratches, and water, show that Apple is committed to building devices that can withstand anything from normal wear-and-tear to heavy sporting conditions, and everything in between.

Next Steps

We’re eager to dig in on the technical documentation that will help us understand the details of what it’ll take to leverage the new features on these exciting new devices, and will be following up with our clients with additional details on anything that should be part of their development roadmaps. And, most importantly, our team has already started placing their own pre-orders to make sure they’re scoring their own new devices on day one!

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