What iOS 6 Means for Small Businesses
Unless you live under a rock (or are utterly disconnected from Western media), you will know that Apple has -again - been making headlines for various reasons. A few days ago, Apple published its sixth major release of software update for its mobile devices, iOS 6. Apple claims to have over 200 new features, improvements, or fixes added into iOS 6, but a lot of them may be minor or uninteresting to you.
So, as a small business manager or owner, what does the iOS 6 update mean to you, and why should you care? Let's start by looking at four of the biggest additions to the software: Maps, Facebook, Passbook, and Siri.
One of the most prominent changes in iOS 6 is the introduction of Apple's own Maps service. Previously, they had teamed up with Google and the iOS Maps apps was using information pulled directly from Google Maps. This was great, because Google was constantly updating their maps, correcting faults, adding and revising locations and business, and combining locations with reviews.
iOS Maps now has the same idea, but has been redesigned and pulls different information. Currently, the app is not as polished as the old Google Maps app, but with the help of users and a devoted team, it is progressing quickly. The app connects with Yelp to show reviews, photos, location and contact information. It also features new turn-by-turn navigation with spoken directions, real-time traffic information, and a 3D view.
As the iOS Maps app is very new, it is filled with bugs and irregularities. We're talking a lot of bugs. As in, we're talking about creating random new airports in the middle of nowhere. It is interested Apple decided to ship Maps in it's current state… But, as time passes, the app will undoubtedly be updated and fixed. You can help this process go by quicker by tapping on the Report a Problem link within the app.
In previous releases of iOS you could share photos, links, text, and other media by using the direct Twitter integration. In iOS 6, it is still there, but there is also the added functionality of sharing on Facebook. But it goes beyond what the Twitter integration did; your Calendar and Contacts apps will add in Facebook events and friend information (respectively) automatically, even if the content changes.
One of the most notable new features in iOS 6 is the introduction of the new app Passbook. Passbook is essentially your digital wallet for various store cards, tickets, passes, and coupons, where companies can give you a loyalty card of sorts with a multitude of information. It is a great idea help to organize your cards, but it's true value will depend on how widely used it becomes.
Siri, the speech recognition software introduced in iOS 5, is now much more intelligent in iOS 6. On top of all the functionality is had previously possessed, Siri can now launch your apps , let your know about sports games, post directly to Twitter and Facebook, additional restaurant information such as costs, locations, and reservation-making, display movie showtimes and reviews, and, what I personally happiest about, better international support, which is great for all us Canadians.
The voice assessment has been much improved, but it is still not perfect. It works quite well with plain-speak language, meaning you do not have to articulate and emphasize every syllable, but there may some inaccuracies.
The biggest thing to take away is, just like Maps, Siri's Yelp and Google integration. Siri will show you relevant (usually location-based) information, and with more improvements, users are getting better tailored results.
So, What Does This Mean for My Business?
31% of Americans (similar stats can be found for Canadians) use their mobile device as their internet access (Reference: Pew Research 2012). And a large percentage of those people are using iPhones and the iOS software. People are increasingly using mobile devices for local-area searches (i.e. "Where can I get pizza within a 10 minute walk?") to quickly get the info they want, and if you are not getting noticed by the first few search results, you are going to have a hard time getting noticed at all.
So what can you do? Now more than ever, it is absolutely crucial to have an online presence. Note that doesn't translate to "get a website." No, your business needs to have a much broader online range than that.
- Get yourself on Yelp, and encourage customers/clients to post reviews. Not only will this (literally and figuratively) put you on the map, it will help determine how you can improve your business.
- Have a Facebook Page, and promote yourself by holding giveaways, posting fun, useful, relevant information.
- Search engines take into consideration how often you update your website. Blogging regularly will help keep your site fresh up top of search results. Try posting a couple times per week, but if you cannot make that work, at least once a week is recommended.
- Having a presence on other user-generated-content or social sites is very helpful as well. Sites like Twitter, Google+, TripAdvisor, and YouTube can considerably benefit your overall search engine performance.
Have you tried out the iOS 6 update? Personally, I like it very much. I think it is a slick upgrade with some nice functionality fixes, great new additions, and a lot of potential for users. For now we're just going to forget about the disaster that is Maps, because you can expect to see a lot of improvements in a next little while. I'd be interested to know how iOS 6 works out for you and what your thoughts are, so leave a comment down below.