Travel Tech

One of the most important technology releases of 2014 finally saw the light of day over the last 24 hours. Apple have unveiled the iPhone 6, and there is no doubt that there will be a torrent of pre-orders for the new device when it goes on sale in a few days time. Apple have also sought to extend their product line by releasing a phablet-sized session of the iPhone 6, which the consumer electronics giant has named the iPhone 6 Plus.

The power of Apple

The impact of the release of a new iPhone cannot be underestimated. Just outlining some of the raw data related to Apple makes this abundantly clear. Firstly, according to Forbes magazine, Apple have the largest market value in the world of any corporation in any industry. Forbes rates Apple as the 15th largest corporation on the planet according to the sophisticated matrix that it uses to judge the world’s biggest companies, with a market value of bordering on $1/2 trillion.

Additionally, Apple recently achieved the massive feat of displacing Coca-Cola on top of the authoritative Interbrand list of the world’s most significant brands. To put this achievement into perspective, Coca-Cola had previously topped this list for thirteen years. Finally, the iPhone is the biggest selling smartphone in the world, and although Samsung has done a sterling job of capturing the East Asian marketplace, the iPhone is still the only smartphone that can guarantee queues around the block for its release.

So although Apple faces challenges in the tech market from companies based in emerging economies, not least Samsung, but also manufacturers who are lesser known in the West such as Huawei, it remains the market leader by some distance, and also carries a fashion cachet that no other brand has come close to matching.

In order to announce the iPhone 6 to the world, Apple held a major unavailing event in Cupertino, California. So what can we expect from the iPhone 6 when it finally hits the stores? Well, firstly it is a slimmer, slicker, more processor intensive and longer lasting upgrade to previous versions of the iPhone.

New iPhone 6 tech

In terms of new innovations included in the iPhone 6, although the Apple following community always hopes for a revolution, it would be reasonable to say that this device represents more of an evolution. Apple have evidently concentrated on producing a device which delivers a slick, intuitive and highly functional package. But there aren't a huge number of innovative features compared to previous iPhones.

However, it must be said in mitigation that implementing innovative features obviously gets ever more challenging as the public becomes more accustomed to this form of technology. The ‘wow factor’ is now much harder to achieve than when the iPhone first hit the High Street in 2007.

One big inclusion in the iPhone 6, though, is Near Field Communication (NFC). This technology enables the iPhone to communicate with other devices in its vicinity which also possess the technology. It is primarily viewed as a mobile payment system, and it is clear that Apple is primarily targeting such functionality by including it in the iPhone 6.

Another important announcement made at the California conference was the release of Apple's first smartwatch. For months the analyst community had been expecting this to be known as the iWatch, but as it turns out all of the speculation has been completely incorrect.

The Apple Watch is Apple's first wearable form of technology, and will compete with the existing Samsung Galaxy Gear. Some tech analysts have criticised this new product for being merely a companion device to the iPhone, but as wearable technology takes off the Apple Watch will unquestionably become the market leader and sell a significant number of units.

Opportunities for travel companies

Both the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch offer opportunities to travel-related companies. The NFC technology included in the iPhone has the potential to be massive in the next few years, as mobile payment systems become ever more convenient and popular. It has already been predicted that mobile phone payment systems will completely replace cash and credit cards by 2020. This may be a rather rash presumption, but it is unanimously felt by industry analysts that mobile payment is here to stay, so travel businesses would do well to pay heed to this viewpoint.

Additionally, the iBeacon technology included in the iPhone 6 offers a range of marketing and commercial opportunities to travel companies. As reported by the Digital Tourism Think Tank previously, Apple have already entered into testing agreements for iBeacon with a raft of airlines, major hotels and museums, which include Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, EasyJet, Japan Airlines and Mariott International.

The Apple Watch may be a bit of a niche technology at this point in time, but it could offer many opportunities to travel-related companies in the future. One example of this is Vueling’s partnering with Sony to create the concept of a smartwatch-based boarding pass. Apple Watch could offer a great deal of convenience to consumers once it begins to take off.

So there was much for travel companies to pay heed to in the iPhone 6 reveal event, and if such devices perhaps no longer represent a quantum leap in technology, the commercial significance and opportunity afforded by them should be acknowledged.

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