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iPhone lockscreen – ground zero for mobile interaction

There have been some huge developments in the custom software field this year. From machine learning, neural networks, and self-driving vehicles, to Watson integration, virtual reality and A.I., it was a big year in tech. But one of the more subtle changes in iOS 10 might be just as important for how millions of individuals interact with their devices — the lockscreen.

For years, the lockscreen has been a promising nascent environment for app developers to expand their functionality to. As we talked about last week, utilizing push notifications can dramatically improve app adoption and retention. And those push notifications more often than not land on the lockscreen.

The same is true of productivity-minded enterprise apps. If your employees or clients or partners don’t have to navigate all the way into your app to do what they need to do or get what they want, they can be far more productive — less steps equals less wasted time. For example, when it comes to emails, I would wager a majority of emails you get can either be deleted on sight, archived or flagged for follow up just by reading the subject line and snippet. To be more efficient, email apps ought to allow you to perform those actions directly from the lockscreen (and many of them do). The same is true of messaging apps, CMS apps, social networking apps, etc. The less steps you have to take to get where you want, the better.

Last year, Apple changed the game with 3D touch gesturing on the iPhone 6s, and that functionality has expanded with advances in the iPhone 7. With the ability to sense how hard you push down on the screen, the iPhone now allows you to do even more from the lockscreen without having to open the actual phone. By sensing you’re pressing down hard, the iPhone can launch a whole host of new/expanded options for what you want to do with a given notification.

But, forward thinking companies are going even beyond that. Betting big on notifications as the frontier of news consumption, digital-native publisher Mic has enabled video stories directly from the notification screen. In as crowded an environment as media, companies have to find better ways to get their content in front of media consumers that present the fewest hurdles possible. Mic basically built their entire app as a notification engine.

The Nieman Lab, one of the foremost think tanks for the journalism industry, predicts this trend will not be isolated to Mic, but rather will pervade the entire media app ecosystem:

Your mobile lockscreen is the prime real estate — it’s the gateway, and the place apps battle for your attention. Until recently, the standard notification — targeted at 131 characters or less — was the only way to compete in that space. With the debut of iOS 10, we’ve been given a whole new set of tools to experiment with in the notification universe. With one flick of the finger/3D touch, readers can be exposed to expandable, dynamic notifications that can feature bold visuals — from photos to video — accompanied by a more in-depth story summary. These tools are allowing us to embark on a whole new form of storytelling with very little cognitive overhead. I see a near future where your favorite story or digest arrives each morning in the form of a notification that expands, allowing you to swipe through reading a synopsis for each story, with the ability to read the full story right there.

Your industry may not be as cutthroat as the media industry, but the lessons hold nonetheless. The lockscreen really is ground zero for mobile interaction on the new iOS. To be successful on this new battleground, you have to design with lockscreen interactions in mind. You have to make the barrier to entry to your app as negligible as possible, and accomplishing that seems more and more to require lockscreen expertise.


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Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis is a veteran entrepreneur and founder of Dallas-based digital product studio ENO8. Jeff founded ENO8 to empower companies of all sizes to design, develop and deliver innovative, impactful digital products. With more than 18 years working with early-stage startups, Jeff has a passion for creating and growing new businesses from the ground up, and has honed a unique ability to assist companies with aligning their technology product initiatives with real business outcomes.

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