Animoji will sell iPhones
It's been a bad year Apple firmware leaks. Last month it was unfiltered HomePod firmware accidentally placed in a public directory. This weekend it was iOS 11 Gold Master (GM) firmware leaked to a news outlet.
Leaks happen. They suck for Apple, which loses the value of surprise at the upcoming keynote, and all the employees who have their weekends shattered, their grand unveilings ruined, and will face yet tighter and less convenient disclosure policies going forward. But, they can also help consumers get an earlier, if murkier, glimpse at what's coming up next, so they can better plan their purchases.
I have no beef with leaks. Revel in them or avoid them as you wish, just like you do movie trailers, script leaks, and episode bootlegs. The choice is entirely yours. Just don't read the spoilers and then claim nothing surprised you and everything was boring. Because that's a dick move.
Which brings me, circuitously, to Animoji.
The power of emoji
A funny thing happened at WWDC 2016. Apple's vice-president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, announced "larger emoji" for the company's iMessage platform, and he got one of the biggest rounds of applause at the event.
Understandably so. Messaging is ludicrously popular on mobile. China basically runs on WeChat, Facebook has launched and bought almost as many messaging services as Google has abandoned. And iMessage is the most popular app on iOS.
People love messaging but, increasingly, they love messaging not just with text but with stickers, emoji, and similar visuals.
That's because text, by itself, is a dry, emotionless, and easily misconstrued. Text someone you'll be late and they're likely to get upset with you. Send them a funny sticker or emoji of you racing their way, though, and you just might get a smile instead.
Rumor has it Apple had an even bigger emojification feature planned for the event — one that would emojify the sender — but weren't quite happy with the results. Animoji, if the leaks are right, seems like a vastly better idea and implementation.
Apple has been experimenting with animated emoji for a while. Apple Watch at launch featured animated faces, hearts, and hands. Animoji take things to the next level.
The Animoji apparently let you "create custom animated messages that use your voice and reflect your facial expressions."
You'll presumably need the more expensive iPhone X — or iPhone 8, iPhone Edition, iPhone Pro, or whatever Apple ends up calling the next(er)-generation OLED iPhone — for them to work, but that's the point.
I'm buying tongue-in-cheek when I say a feature like Animoji will sell iPhones. Kind of. The original iPhone lacked many features found in other smartphones of the day but had a user experience so compelling many people didn't care. They just saw the pinch-to-zoom, CoverFlow, rubber banding, and were blown away.
It's those small but incredibly important little touches that speak to people and influence purchasing decisions. Things that take complex new technologies like multitouch and make them relatable.
Animoji and other fun new features like Face ID will help do that for the new sensors in the new iPhone. They'll take complex new technologies like real-time 3D scanning and make them relatable.
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.