Gracie Page of Y&R: how the iPhone X will revolutionise the ad industry

This week tech giant Apple held the first major event in their freshly finished Steve Jobs Theater on billion-dollar Apple Campus, with the iPhone X (pronounced “ten”) glistening as the jewel in their 2017 crown. One announcement stands out as an innovation with the propensity to change the face of advertising.

Unfortunately for the company, the vast majority of their grand reveals had been leaked in the “golden master” copy of the development code (that’s the final version used to launch products, once all beta testing is done) last weekend. But in classic Apple style, theatrics galore filled the amphitheater on the complex widely considered as Jobs’ ultimate design project, as hardware and software updates and re-thinks were announced to the world officially, and in style.

There’s plenty to be excited about as consumers of the smartphone that sits just shy of the thousand-dollar price tag (RRP $999). Wireless charging based on the already-widely-adopted Qi standard (and the allowance of third party suppliers to build charging stations) will help continue the charge in cable-less tech, while a new lighting setup made specially for the iPhone camera’s “Portrait” mode means the company continue to help amateur phone-photographers around the globe up their game. The disappearance of the home button, which has arguably much deeper implications for the future of mobile devices, marks a move away from touch-based interfaces. Coupled with innovations from other major tech players this year (Alexa, anyone?), the industry continues to hint that the interaction model of the future is most certainly not finger-to-glass-centric. And this brings me to the very thing we all need to get our heads around now.

Face ID

Code-named Pearl ID until now, the launch event has confirmed Apple’s newest user interface has nothing to do with your hands, and its name says everything you need to know. Face ID is set up by scanning your head from several angles, such that it builds a model of your face in much the same way you set up Touch ID with your finger on your current iPhone.

Now facial recognition works to help you accomplish all manner of tasks: from unlocking your device (they’ve brought it to iPad too) to authorising payments, your face is your new fingerprint. Since fingerprints are unique to each of us, this change is not driven by a security consideration (even if it is just the need to make sure a pesky imposter isn’t tapping into the Circle line with your Apple Pay). It is driven by something far more telling of what’s going to happen over the next five years: the de-leveraging of touch interfaces in favour of more organic ones (face and voice).

So how will this affect the advertising sector?

The software is already able to detect when you are looking at the screen, or not. It’s not hard to see how eye tracking, and facial expression recognition can be used to understand if a user is engaging with an ad, and if so, how they’re feeling about it. Earlier this summer it was revealed that similar technology is already being trialled in the movie sector by Disney. The implications of this alone on how platforms like YouTube and Facebook determine “views” or “engagements” are not hard to see. However, the extent to which the tech will be used to track, record, and report user engagement on the device remains to be seen, and will surely become a hot topic of debate in the coming months as software is developed that pushes the boundaries of not only the code, but also the law.

One thing is for sure: facial recognition interfaces are set to fundamentally change the way users interact with their most intimate of devices. And this is big news for all of us in the business of understanding consumers and building relationships with them for our brands.

The third generation of Apple Watch was also announced, along with LTE functionality. In plain English: you can make calls with your Watch, and it’ll share your phone number. Mobile operators have already started announcing pricing plans to incorporate the new device into your existing contract. For the first time since the launch of the first iPhone ten years ago, this marks Apple’s acknowledgement of a reality where you don’t have your iPhone on you wherever you go. A prime example of classic Apple self-cannibalisation, one can only admire their ballsy attitude to out-innovating themselves, before a competitor does. But for now, I’ll content myself with one simple question: what will advertising on the Apple Watch look like?

Gracie Page is a creative technologist at Y&R London.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.