Will the New Apple TV Let You Call Local Businesses?

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There’s been lots of media attention to Apple’s hardware upgrades this week, particularly the new iPad Pro and AppleTV refresh. But there’s been little talk about one aspect of the latter: its potential for phone calls.

This is purely my speculation, but technically speaking AppleTV will run a forked version of iOS. It is therefore compatible with the “continuity” feature which lets Apple devices make or receive phone calls.

I recently argued that the feature could bring call commerce (a.k.a call monetization) to the desktop. This is because calls can be launched from web browsing, just as easily as they currently are on an iPhone.

The question is, does Continuity — given a nearby iPhone on the same wifi network —  make more sense on a TV? Think: making or receiving calls without getting off the couch (laziness: the ultimate killer app).

Before I continue, I must pause to acknowledge that getting phone calls on your TV has been a vision discussed for years, and implemented to some degree (albeit non-elegantly) by IPTV providers.

Could Apple’s better grasp of design and hardware/software integration finally solve this puzzle? One challenge is to avoid the interruptive nature of phone calls while watching shows and movies.

But that’s less of my concern. Back to call commerce, the real opportunity is with outbound calls. And that’s where aspects of the new AppleTV unveiled yesterday could provide an elegant user experience.

First, the remote: Since it has a voice input for summoning Siri and filtering entertainment selections, it’s technically eligible for phone calls. Talk into the mic and hear the call recipient through your TV speakers.

More important are the commerce aspects of Apple TV that bring calls to business within context. Indeed, Apple’s launch demos included shopping via Apple TV apps. Phone calls are the next logical extension.

The implication is that call volume could grow as a result — the underlying metric of the call commerce opportunity. Another important question, beyond volume, is how well will TV-launched calls convert.

Though most of the above examines technical capacity, it will really come down to context (read: comfort levels) of making calls from your TV. It could take a while to set in, but the potential is there.

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