Today at the iPhone 5 launch event Apple announced a thinner, taller and faster iPhone. (See Danny’s hands-on first impressions.) Apple also reminded people of some of the software announcements made in June at its WWDC conference when it discussed the new iOS 6 extensively.
Among the earlier software-related announcements that were showcased again today were Siri, Apple Maps and Passbook, Apple’s mobile wallet.
Apple said it will launch Maps/local search with “100 million POIs.” It also showed off GPS turn-by-turn navigation and 3D imagery on its new 16:9 aspect ratio 4-inch display.
Several of the Siri enhancements were also discussed. Among them sport scores and standings as well as movie search (with recommendations) and local restaurant search with OpenTable integration. Apple SVP Scott Forstall also showed Siri being used to post Facebook updates.
Apple’s initial foray into mobile payments, Passbook, got a cameo as well.
Passbook will allow for storage of boarding passes, tickets and loyalty cards. It also accommodates stored value cards (e.g., Starbucks). In that context it will enable limited mobile payments. However in this round there’s no capacity to store a credit card or access to the iTunes stored credit card for transactions. There’s also no NFC capability in the phone for contactless payments a la Android/Google Wallet.
If Apple Maps and the associated local data perform well it will take a bite out of Google’s local search volumes on the iPhone. However the quality of the experience remains to be seen. In addition, an expanded library of structured content available to Siri should make the virtual assistant more useful and potentially capture some additional query volume, at the margins, that would have otherwise gone to Google. But local search is really where Siri/Maps could have a significant potential impact.
Most people today still don’t use Siri to search the web, however. A survey I conducted several months ago among 503 iPhone 4S owners found that 11 percent of respondents used Siri to search the web, while the overwhelming majority used some flavor of Google. A very small percentage used Yahoo and/or Bing.