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What Apple's Big Announcement Means for Government

Larger iPhones, Apple Pay and the Apple Watch will all impact the public sector.

Cupertino, Calif., was abuzz on Sept. 9 as the world anxiously waited for CEO Tim Cook to take the stage and unveil the latest innovations from Apple. This was the largest and most anticipated product announcement since the death of company co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs in 2011.

In the company's keynote, Cook revealed a new set of larger iPhones, Apple Pay and the much anticipated Apple Watch -- all things that will have an impact on the public sector. 

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

Apple announced two new versions of the iPhone, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

The iPhone 6 is notably thinner than the iPhone 5S, and comes equipped with a 4.7-inch Retina HD display, while the iPhone 6 Plus comes with a much larger 5.5-inch Retina HD display. Both new phones run on the new A8 processor, which is 25 percent faster than the previous version and 50 percent more energy efficient. Another notable upgrade came to the iPhone’s activity tracking coprocessor, the M8, which can now track distance and altitude. 

Pricing will start at $199 for the iPhone 6 (16 GB) and $299 for the iPhone 6 Plus (16 GB). Both phones will be available Sept. 19 and will run Apple’s newest operating system, iOS 8, which the company is touting as "the biggest iOS release ever." 

Apple Pay

In addition to hardware, Apple set its sights on disrupting the way people pay for products and services. With the new Apple Pay functionality, users can link their credit card information to their Apple account so they can pay for goods and services without using a physical card. This new service uses a Near Field Communication (NFC) sensor, which is embedded in the new iPhone models, to securely pass payment information wirelessly to a credit card terminal when authenticated by a password or fingerprint. This new service will be available in October for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus users.

Apple Watch

In addition to the new iPhones, Apple officially jumped into the wearables market with the announcement of the much-anticipated Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch connects users to the iPhone through via low-grade Bluetooth to provide a seamless way to access, receive and respond to information from your wrist. It comes bundled with applications such as Maps, Mail and Messages, and will open the door to third-party applications through a new software development kit called WatchKit. Using WatchKit, developers can build applications that work on the watch but leverage the processing power of the iPhone.

The Apple Watch also will focus on health tracking via the Activity app and a series of embedded sensors that can calculate pulse, steps, distance and much more. The Apple Watch will be available in early 2015 in three different models: the Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. Pricing will start at $350. 

What Does This Mean for Government? 

The new Apple announcements have a few major implications for government:

  1. Information on your wrist: 2015 will be the year your agency will need to be accessible through the wrist. Citizens will gradually expect more information via third-party apps to be delivered on their wrist. Moving forward, think about how you can extend notifications and alerts to your citizens through their wrist in a mutually beneficially way. For example, if a constituent is late with paying his water bill, could you notify him on -- and let him pay from -- his watch? 
  2. Payment through your phone or wrist: As Apple’s payment system goes live this October, you should be asking yourself -- does your current credit card processing system support NFC payments? If not, get ready, because the requests for Apple Pay as an option are on their way.
  3. Public health on your wrist: The campaign for healthy living may get a boost through the integration of heart, activity and other tracking built into the new wearable. The new device -- along with its health app, third-party apps and the companion HealthKit development platform -- plays nicely into the movement toward a quantified life through which people pay attention to key measures of health, wellness and exercise because, well, even most Apple users would do well to lose a few pounds.
All three of these represent a shift in the way government interacts with the people it serves – an impulse felt across the industry, not just Apple – which means the buzz around the office about the new products may serve as a timely catalyst for a review of your approach to privacy and information stewardship.

The day ended on an even more upbeat note: U2 performed a new song, and Apple revealed that all iTunes users would receive the band's newest album for free -- now available for 500 million people around the world.

What do you think of these new gadgets from Apple? How do you see them impacting government?

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