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Apple iOS 7 Provides Enhancements to Improve Native Apps for Pharma and Healthcare

Intouch Team

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Background

On June 10, 2013, Apple released its first publicly available beta of iOS 7, the next version of its mobile operating system. A few months later, Apple announced the new iPhones® 5c and 5s, with both devices shipping September 20 preloaded with iOS 7. Though this operating system has a great deal of new features and enhancements, there are several that will be of particular interest to the pharma, fitness and healthcare marketing worlds. This document highlights four noteworthy changes and how they may affect both native apps and digital sales aids for the pharma industry.

New Interface Design

Apple CEO Tim Cook described iOS 7 as "the biggest change to iOS since the iPhone." While the operating system gained several new features and functionalities, it’s the user interface that received the more significant redesign. The new "flat design" brings a minimalistic approach to application interfaces. Additionally, applications that were developed, approved and launched in previous versions of iOS will appear differently in iOS 7. As experienced pharma app developers know, all updates to app designs and user interfaces must be identified, documented and approved. Applications that require regulatory approvals are at a significant disadvantage due to the process and timelines associated with acquiring approvals after the final iOS version is released to developers and the final enhancements are completed.

Control Center

With the updates to the Control Center, accessing commonly used system settings in iOS 7 will be as easy as swiping up from the bottom of the screen. The new Control Center includes settings such as Bluetooth, WiFi, screen brightness controls, a flashlight, a calculator and other utilities. This new method of accessing the Control Center may drive some design and user experience decisions. For example, some applications were originally designed to allow users to interact with the app by swiping up from the bottom of the screen to access a playlist, a menu or other settings. With this gesture control now built into iOS 7, application designers must consider other options to allow users to interact with their apps.

App Store Improvements

One helpful aspect of the update is the introduction of automatic app updates to eligible devices. If enabled, this feature removes the red badge icons from apps on home screens and instead forces app updates to users. The need to quickly update medical apps — especially dosing calculators and other apps essential to patient safety — can be critical. The ability to automatically update an app in the background can ensure that a patient or HCP is always using the latest version of an app.

Notification Center Update

With the previous version, users could access application notifications and other general updates in the Notification Center. The enhanced version includes more information, as well as three tabs — Today, All and Missed — to sort and filter notifications. As patients continue to use mHealth apps to manage their lifestyles, the use of the Notification Center can offer a convenient place to proactively display reminders or missed event notifications. For example, a patient using an mHealth app for medication reminders may see these reminders in the Today tab or be alerted to missed appointments in the Missed tab.

Summary

Apple is applying six years of data on how users interact with the iPhone to create a more engaging experience. Though the list of new features and enhancements is long, this document has focused on those most relevant to the unique needs and challenges of the pharmaceutical industry. While some new features — such as the new interface design and Control Center access — can cause challenges for apps already in the field, other updates will ultimately allow marketers to create more engaging apps that deepen the consumer’s relationship with a brand.

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