Posted by Jeevan Jayaprakash

In this issue, we look at the arrival of Apple Pay on web and mobile web, the updates made to version 1.2 of the Messenger platform and the potential implications of Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack from the new iPhone.

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Hi Mum! Said Dad

OS updates ushers in Apple Pay on the web

Conversion rates on mobile have traditionally been a bit of a sticking point for e-commerce merchants, although it has been on a clear upward trajectory recently. However, we may be set to witness a paradigm shift in this space with the arrival of Apple’s new operating systems.

iOS 10, watchOS 3 and the imminent macOS Sierra will allow retailers to incorporate payment by TouchID across web and mobile sites, overcoming the problem of consumers having to manually fill forms. iPhone users will be able to checkout with a fingerprint whilst iMac/Macbook users will be able to verify a purchase on a website with a finger swipe on their iPhone or Apple Watch. Google, not to be outgunned, also recently confirmed that Android Pay will be coming to the web/mobile web at their annual developer conference held in May.

This has the potential to be a real game changer for e-commerce, offering the first truly frictionless means of payment. With security on mobile transactions also another concern for consumers, there is an argument that people may be put at ease by seeing the Apple or Android Pay certified marks on e-commerce sites (after all, security specialists claim that Apple Pay is more secure than a credit card).

Apple Pay will be coming to mobile web. Image source: PMG

Facebook Messenger bots now accept payments

Keeping with the payments theme, Facebook’s VP of messaging products, David Marcus, has confirmed that the 30,000 chatbots currently available on the Messenger platform will soon be able to accept payments natively without having to send users to an external website. Users will begin to see in-line ‘Buy now’ buttons which will allow them to transact with the default card tied to their account.

Other notable additions that Version 1.2 of the Messenger Platform will bring include:

• The ability to place adverts in the News Feed that will have a “Send message” or equivalent CTA that will drive users to a Messenger bot.

• A welcome screen for bots which will provide information including category of the associated Facebook page, response time and bot capabilities.
• Users will be able to view ‘enhanced’ versions of mobile websites from within a Messenger thread. Developers will be able to utilise partial heights to allow for “richer interactions in threads without losing context of the conversation”.

On a more general note, we find ourselves at an interesting crossroads in the
e-commerce space. The likes of Apple and Google continue to improve the app and web experience (particularly with regards to payment) where as Facebook clearly sees messaging as the future of e-commerce. The latter still has it all to do but we feel that if it can find a way to address some of our early concerns, it could prove to be very powerful indeed.

Messenger bot payments in action. Image source: Facebook

The promise of voice

Comments from Apple’s Chief Design Officer, Jonathan Ive, seems to suggest that the removal of the headphone jack is part of a larger, well considered ploy to accelerate the move towards a voice driven world. He was quoted as saying “We’re just at the beginning of a truly wireless future we’ve [sic] been working towards for many years”. It wasn’t just about the bigger battery and the better camera then.

Apple’s new Airpods feature integration with Siri, allowing users to tap their earphones and speak in order to get things done hands-free. Indeed, macOS Sierra’s (launching next Tuesday on iMacs/MacBooks) major change is the debut of Siri on Mac with Apple going to great lengths to ram this point home. Apple are priming consumers for the future and you only need to take a trip down memory lane to see that what Apple says, usually goes (remember floppy disks and CD drives?). Although we are hearing the usual insistences of “No way am I spending £159 on a pair of Airpods. I just don’t need them”, we heard similar sentiments towards smartphones and tablets not too long ago. If anyone can change entrenched behaviours and bring about new ones, it’s Apple (along with some help from Amazon Echo).

To add to this, advances in Text-to-Speech systems means that computers are increasingly sounding more human — the WaveNet system from Google owned DeepMind is truly remarkable (if you do nothing else, just scroll down to see the difference between parametric, concatentative and WaveNet US English output). In another exciting development, German-based startup, Bragi, also recently announced a partnership to connect its smart earbuds to IBM’s AI engine, Watson.

On this evidence, the world depicted in the Oscar-winning movie ‘Her’, where humans and AI openly converse back and forth naturally through an earpiece (Airpods?!) might not be too far away.

One thing is for sure though, the ambition certainly exists.

Bragi Dash vs the Earbud from ‘Her’. Image source: MobiApps

Originally written as part of Hi Mum! Said Dad’s Weekly Digest.

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