WWDC 2024: Apple Just Gave Brands a Three-step Roadmap to Great Apps

July 2nd, 2024

Closeup of iPhone 15 Pro Max Closeup of iPhone 15 Pro Max

By Zach Tarvin, Director, Golin Chicago

Apple’s Shared the Path to Great Apps for the Fall, Will Brands Take It?

It’s July. The grills are lit for barbecues. The ice cream is being scooped. And across the globe, developers are hard at work preparing for this fall’s software releases from Apple.

Last month, Apple unveiled it software roadmap for the next year across its six software platforms and flipped the script on consumer AI by making it a feature with Apple Intelligence instead of just another LLM product.

With public betas of this fall’s release due to hit consumer devices in just a couple weeks, it’s time PR practitioners and marketers start thinking about how their brand can best show up for a release that’s full of new customization and automation opportunities.

Customization comes for iconic” brands

In 2020, the new widget system in iOS kicked off a torrent of TikTok trends using apps like Widgetsmith and Apple’s Shortcuts app to fully theme iPhone Home Screens.

iOS 18 will let you change the appearance of every app on your Home Screen. Want larger apps icons with no names? You got it. Want to tint all your apps a nice aquamarine to match the beach photo on your wallpaper? The system will color every app for you.

But you can also choose to set your apps to use a dark mode appearance either based on the time of day or all day.

For brands, updating their app icons to reflect the latest  Human Interface Guidelines for iOS 18 should be a non-negotiable. Failing to do so risks an app looking out-of-step, out-of-date, and—depending on the selected tint color—downright bad.

The fix is straightforward, though. Brands may choose to follow in Apple’s guidance and tweak their existing icon with complementary colors or choose to create new artwork dedicated to dark mode. Looking good in a tinted appearance is as simple as starting with a grayscale symbol.

Is your brand still using its word mark as its app icon? This might be the time to consider if this best fits the reality of a user-customizable future.

Widgets take control

Customization was kick-started by widgets, and this year takes widgets to yet another new level. A new Control class of interactive widget allows apps to include their widgets on Control Center, which is now fully customizable for the first time.

screenshot of updated widget center for iPhones

And these controls can go beyond just Control Center—you can now swap out the flashlight and camera controls from your Lock Screen to actions that best suit you. Use it to start a workout, re-order your favorite dish for delivery. Your imagination’s the limit.

For the brands that are moving to make iOS 17 their minimum supported operating system this fall, this means interactivity can arrive for existing widgets and conditionally extend further for those who update to iOS 18.

Smarter with Apple Intelligence

Behind those interactive widgets are the App Intents framework. Shipped initially to help developers bring frequent actions and features of their app to Siri and the Shortcuts app, intents also power interactive widgets and—next year—give apps new super powers with Apple Intelligence.

Where other AI products can only act based on their training data, Apple Intelligence uses a set of foundational models on-device to power new experiences across iOS. From generative art in Images Playgrounds, custom emoji with Genmoji, to a new, more conversant, more context-aware Siri, Apple Intelligence is a massive leap forward in how we’ll use our Apple devices at work and at home.

And there’s an app-integration story there for brands, too. While Apple’s initial set of Apple Intelligence-focused APIs in the App Intent framework are geared toward photo editing and more productivity-focused features, those APIs will expand over time. And, if brands are already being good platform citizens and using App Intents in their widgets or Shortcuts, they can now better suggest their intent and use to the system with new search cues and action discovery.

While much of Apple Intelligence’s story will be told in 2025 and future software cycles,it marks the start of a new chapter in how we consider everyday use of AI. Instead of hallucination-prone, context-starved conversations with chatbots that really only get the context of what we’ve said to them before, the intelligence here is rooted in the information available to our device from the apps, behaviors, and services we use and how we use them.

Sure, you can choose to have Siri pass off your request to ChatGPT (and eventually other models) if a request requires world-knowledge, but on-device processing and the details of how you really work with the content you’ve got in front of you? That’s a better copilot than Copilot long-term.

Brands, dust off those icons, get those widgets ready for controls and before you know it, you’ll look like the smartest brand in the age of Apple Intelligence.