Apple announced a big iPhone update, iOS 11.3, is coming later this spring with plenty of new features including Business Chat.
It’s a big deal. Imagine a day where you can quickly schedule a doctor’s appointment, buy new shoes or book a plane ticket, all from iMessage. Business Chat has the fundamentals to make that happen.
Business Chat will allow users to chat directly with select companies to start, including Wells Fargo, Lowe’s, Hilton and Discover. It’s a feature we’ve already seen in Facebook Messenger and will change the way we interact with companies from our smartphones.
Instead of having to call support, for example, users will be able to pop right into an app and talk with a business about issues, to schedule an appointment or even to make purchases.
In the screenshot above, for example, you can see an example where a user can purchase an item directly from Lowe’s, in this case a smart lock, using Apple Pay, right from within Messages.
I’ve used this feature before in Facebook Messenger and found it was much easier to interact with a company through chat than to call. I had to return a bag I had purchased and was able to reach right out, chat with customer support, and arrange a return.
I didn’t need to visit a company’s website, fumble with a separate app or look up a support number (where I’d likely have to dig around voice menus to get the right option only to be put on hold.)
Plus, instead of sitting around on the phone, you can just answer a message when you get one right on your iPhone. Your contact details are kept anonymous too, Apple says, and you can “stop chatting at any time” should you decide the conversation is over.
Apple will likely add more companies in the future, since the current selection is really slim, but Business Chat should be a huge new way to communicate with companies through iMessage without ever having to go to another app or website.
Look for it in the iOS 11.3 update this spring.