Apple introduced a cheaper version of its smartwatch, its latest attempt to broaden the appeal of its trend-setting products while many consumers are forced to scrimp during the coronavirus pandemic.
The scaled-down Apple Watch follows on the heels of a budget iPhone the company released five months ago as the economy cratered and unemployment rates rose above the levels reached during the Great Recession more than a decade ago.
- Apple highlight: New iPad Air
Now available in five gorgeous finishes — including rose gold, green, and sky blue — iPad Air features an all-screen design with a larger 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display, camera and audio upgrades, a new integrated Touch ID sensor in the top button, and the powerful A14 Bionic chip for a massive boost in performance.
Apple also took the wraps off a new high-end watch model, a next-generation iPad and a couple of new subscription services during a virtual event held Tuesday. The company normally also rolls out its new iPhones at this time of year, but production problems caused by the pandemic have delayed their release until at least October.
- Apple highlight: Watch sensor
Apple Watch Series 6 expands the health capabilities of previous Apple Watch models with a new feature that measures the oxygen saturation of the user’s blood, so they can better understand their overall fitness and wellness. Oxygen saturation, or SpO2, represents the percentage of oxygen being carried by red blood cells from the lungs to the rest of the body, and indicates how well this oxygenated blood is being delivered throughout the body.
CEO Tim Cook didn’t mention iPhones during Tuesday’s one-hour presentation recorded at the company’s massive, but now mostly empty, headquarters in Cupertino, California.
The Apple Watch has never come close to rivaling the iPhone’s popularity, but it does dominate the market for smartwatches. Canaccord Genuity analyst T. Michael Walkley estimates about 51 million Apple Watches will be sold this year, a 5% increase from last year. The research firm GlobalData pegs Apple’s share of the $64 billion smartwatch market at roughly 60%.
- Apple highlight: Family Setup
For the first time, Apple Watch can be set up through a parent’s iPhone with Family Setup, so kids can connect with family and friends through phone calls and Messages, stay motivated with personalized Activity goals, and express their creativity through custom Memoji. Parents have the ability to approve all contacts, so kids can safely use the communication features of Apple Watch.
The new discount model, called the Apple Watch SE, will sell for $279 and be available beginning Friday. The price is a markdown from the $399 that Apple is asking for the next version of its higher end watch, the Series 6. Apple watches have been selling for an average of $377, based on Walkley’s calculations.
Apple added more features to help the watch monitor its owner’s health, including a sensor that can read blood oxygen levels. The feature, specific to the Series 6, could be timely, given that COVID-19 frequently attacks the lungs.
- Apple highlight: Fitness+
Apple Fitness+ intelligently incorporates metrics from Apple Watch for users to visualize right on their iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV, offering a first-of-its-kind personalized workout experience. When a workout is selected and started on any of those devices, the correct workout type will automatically start on Apple Watch. During the session, the metrics from Apple Watch are shown on the screen and come to life for moments of inspiration.
Apple also announced a new fitness subscription service tailored for its watches for $10 per month, as well as a new option that will bundle its existing music, video, news and gaming services into a package that will cost $15 to $30 per month.
Tens of millions of people already subscribe to Apple’s various services, helping the company double its revenue during the past four years within a division that creates products for the more than 1 billion iPhones, iPads, watches and other devices that the people already use.
- Apple highlight: Subscription service
Apple One offers customers Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, iCloud, and more in one simple plan. The Apple One Individual plan offers a savings of over $6 per month, while the Family plan offers a savings of over $8 per month, and the Premier plan offers a savings of over $25 per month. Savings are based on standard monthly pricing.
The services division also includes Apple’s app store, which is under regulatory scrutiny for charging a commission of up to 30% for products sold through other companies who have no other option but to use the store to reach the mostly affluent consumers who buy iPhone products.