Apple Wearables and Desktop Siri: Two Takeaways from WWDC

One of the most important occasions of the year kicked off in San Francisco this week for Apple developers and enthusiasts: Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

While major hardware announcements are typically saved for other special events scheduled throughout the year, WWDC has established itself as the the unmissable annual event where Apple’s top brass announce big news that impacts the developer ecosystem – namely, updates to operating systems and apps. This year was no different: Tim Cook and several executives took to the stage to introduce a series of big improvements, including major fixes to WatchOS (and the arrival of WatchOS 3) and changes to flagship properties like Siri, which will now be available on desktop.

Building a Better Wearable

Ever since launching in 2015, the Apple Watch has struggled in an already-crowded wearables market. Verto’s latest numbers show the Apple Watch lagging far behind the installed user base of other popular Apple products, such as its iPhone and iPad lines.

Apple Watch owners comprise less than a tenth of those who own iPhones. In fact, Apple Watches comprise less than four percent  of of all of Apple’s mobile devices (iPads, iPods, iPhones, and Apple Watches) owned in the U.S.

While the low numbers are partially due to the fact that the Apple Watch has only been on the market for 14 months compared to its much older brethren, it’s clear that Apple is hustling to make the product more appealing to a wide variety of consumers: Cook’s WatchOS keynote included crucial speed improvements to the newest release of the watch’s software, and a subtle repositioning of the watch as a fitness tracking, productivity, and safety wearable.

The Stickiness of Siri

Another big announcement from WWDC: introducing Siri to the desktop (or technically, to MacOS, the new name for OS X). It’s actually not a surprising move: according to our latest research (see below), Siri is one of the stickiest apps in iOS, only trailing Safari and the App Store. (Stickiness reflects the average stickiness with the property, and we calculate it as the share of the monthly users who also use the particular property daily. Read more about this metric and our methodology.)

Bringing Siri to MacOS creates a seamless experience between Apple’s mobile and desktop devices and also allows Apple to show off its latest improvements to its voice-activate assistant, which now faces stiff competition like Amazon’s Alexa.

Apple also announced that it’s opening up Siri to developers for the first time with its new SDK,  an effort to quickly increase the potential user base in the face of an increasingly competitive market. It’s a bit of a surprising move for Apple, which used to rely solely on secretive in-house development for all its apps.

The question is, will these developments help Apple’s devices gain traction in the market? The Cupertino company is still recovering from its disappointing Q1 earnings numbers and flat sales growth in the U.S. and Europe, traditionally its strongest retail markets.

While the cheaper, smaller iPhone SE could help the company gain market share in places like China (and other major Asian markets), the company is clearly exploring other ways to remain relevant and exciting to its existing users as well as reach new audiences. We’ll be waiting to see what happens this fall, when the latest batch of software rolls out and when Apple is expected to announce its next generation of hardware.

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