Travel Gear

How the new Apple innovations may change travel

The Apple Watch and the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will make travel better.

The Apple Watch and the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will make travel better.  (AP)

Apple’s announcement last week about its new iPhone 6, Apple Watch and Apple Pay should be exciting for travelers for all the new functionality it will give people. 

Over time, Apple’s innovations may change many areas of travel, from how you pay for things to how much time you spend at check-in lines. 

American consumers have already started embracing the convenience of e-commerce and mobile wallet technology.  For example, mobile airline boarding passes are commonplace now, as are apps like Starbucks that allow you to buy credits and use them to purchase items with your smartphone. 

While it will take time to feel the true impact of Apple’s innovations, here are some ways they will set the stage for changes in the travel industry.

Payments on the fly

It’s a cool concept.  Tap your phone and walk away with your purchase without ever pulling out your wallet.  The Apple Pay system—which uses fingerprint verification and an encryption system that doesn’t transmit credit card information–claims that it’s going to keep you better protected against fraud. 

We’ve already seen a handful of retailers and travel companies, including Disney, partner with Apple Pay, but that’s only a small percentage of the overall retail marketplace.  Apple Pay’s impact on travel will come down to one word: acceptance. 

Those who travel and try to use their American Express card know this firsthand.  Many merchants in foreign locales don’t accept American Express, requiring travelers to carry Visa or MasterCard. 

Yet, with 500 million iPhones sold in the world since the first iPhone in 2008, it’s only a matter of time before more phones are in the hands of travelers. 

American Express, Visa, Mastercard and Discover make 1.7 billion cards today. So I wouldn’t bet against the demand of Apple Pay.    

In the short term, the heart of Apple Pay will be confined to in-app travel purchases that will enhance and simplify the mobile booking experience. 

Unlocking your room and your hotel experience

Hotels are already recognizing the power of smartphone technology to enhance the guest experience.  Starwood began testing new app capabilities that allows guests to be alerted about their room status and sends them a virtual key that enables them to unlock the door using their smartphone.  This allows them to bypass the front desk and go straight to their room.  What’s next?  Future Starwood plans include being able to recognize that the guest has entered the bar, serving up a message to confirm they want their favorite drink. 

We’re entering an era of personalized one-to-one service, designed to enhance the hospitality experience on many levels.  Smartphones are at the heart of this transformation. 

Make like you’re on assignment with National Geographic

While you’re not exactly a professional travel photographer just yet, your Facebook friends don’t need to know that.  One of the biggest changes to Apple’s phone is the camera on the iPhone 6 that enables you to take better stills and videos.   According to Apple, the new phone eliminates the need to tap the screen to bring pictures into focus.  It also features a faster lens that will improve overall image quality and results in low light environments.

High-definition video is upgraded as well, doubling the frames-per-second recording speed.  It also has  a new image stabilization feature but is only available on the iPhone 6 Plus.  Another added capability with the new iOS 8 operating system is the time-lapse feature.  Make sure you grab a small tabletop tripod, and bring it on your next trip to take advantage of a setting sun, a sea of clouds, or an amazing sunrise.

Combine these new capabilities with your favorite photo apps and you’ll have your friends convinced you’re an up-and-coming photojournalist.   I’ve used an app called Dynamic Light to enhance sunsets and water shots, but there are plenty to choose from.   

Staying in control of your home while you travel

In June, a few months before the unveiling of the iPhone 6, Apple unveiled something called HomeKit.  Available with the new iOS 8 operating system, it provides a framework for developers to create products that allow people to monitor their homes from a single device regardless of where they are in the world.  This will include thermostats (through Nest), lighting, alarm systems and more. It’s part of the connected home and Apple wants to be at the center of it.  For travelers, it will help lower anxiety because people will be notified when something needs attention. 

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Mark Murphy is a noted travel expert, author and founder of TravelPulse.com.  You can follow him on Twitter at @murphytravels.