Another example from the event centered on a 27-year-old high school teacher going to the emergency room after her Apple Watch detected an abnormally high heart rate. According to the teacher, “My doctor said, it was your watch that saved your life.”
Apple has always presented its products as tools for creativity, productivity, and a positive, albeit ambitious, lifestyle filled with friends, family, healthy habits, and outdoor activities. Some of that was still on display at this year’s event, but there was also a new message. The company has positioned many of its products and features as safety nets in a shaky world.
Apple has announced new car accident detection technology on both the Apple Watch and iPhone that it says can determine the “accurate moment of impact” using the device’s barometer, GPS and microphone. “We really hope you’ll never need it, but feel a little safe every time you get into a car,” said Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of sensing and communication, during the announcement.
While it’s arguably a continuation of Apple’s focus on health features, particularly with its smartwatches, the focus on these intimidating use cases has raised some eyebrows among industry watchers. “It was a bit of a surprise to see Apple come up with a worrisome approach and position its devices as a potential life saver,” said Ramon Lamas, director of research at market research firm IDC.
“These emergency features are like the safety bags in your car: You don’t need them all the time, but you are grateful when you need them,” Lamas said.
The shift in tone comes as Apple faces a new economic landscape that could make it difficult to persuade customers to pay three and four digits to upgrade their devices — especially when some of these products are not fundamentally different from the previous year.
“Polishing on the revolution is not a bad thing, but if the portfolios tighten with the economy, these announcements will be much more difficult to sell without anything new,” said Eric Abruzzis, director of research at market research firm ABI Research.
Abbruzzese said a focus on health and safety could also help Apple boost its subscription services business, which has been one of the fastest growing revenue lines in recent years. As he points out, the satellite connection is “only free for two years.” (Apple has yet to specify how much it will cost.) Furthermore, “Advance Health Tools seems just another way to sell Fitness+ more aggressively.”
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