Apple has unveiled its Series 6 Watch with a blood oxygen sensor to help detect signs of Covid-19, alongside new versions of its iPad, Apple One subscription bundles and a fitness class service to rival Peloton.
The string of announcements came during a virtual version of Apple’s September event on Tuesday, an annual affair in which the company typically unveils new iPhones.
The company has had to delay the release of its smartphone by several weeks, forcing it to focus on the supporting cast of products and services it is relying on to be its newer growth engines amid a mature mobile phone market.
The key feature of Apple’s latest watch, the Series 6, was a blood oxygen monitor that uses a series of sensors to measure light reflected off a wearer’s blood.
Blood oxygen levels are typically used as a measure of fitness and heart health, but the company said it would also investigate whether the indicator as well as the Apple Watch's heart rate monitor, could be used to detect early signs of influenza and Covid-19.
It said it was working with Seattle's Brotman Brady Institute for Precision Medicine and the University of Washington on the study.
Apple also launched a lower-cost smartwatch, expanding its range as it sought to make the Apple Watch a potential first device for children. The Apple Watch SE, the first time it has launched a cheaper watch alongside a new model, costs £269 compared to the £379 of its higher-end Series 6.
It came as Apple said children will be able to use the watch without an accompanying iPhone, with parents able to monitor their location and control with whom they are able to communicate.
The company announced cheaper and more powerful versions of its iPad tablet, with a new design that puts its fingerprint sensor in the power button. Sales of the iPad rose 31pc, the most of any of its products, in the three months to the end of June.
In an attempt to put the tech giant squarely at the centre of people’s digital lives, Apple unveiled an all-in-one monthly subscription.
The “Apple One” subscription will charge up to £30 a month for a bundle of services such as Apple Music, iCloud and a newly-announced fitness programme, and is designed to boost revenues from outside its iPhone division.
Apple One is a subscription that bundles multiple services together, similar to Amazon’s Prime offering that includes delivery, video and online storage. It will cost a monthly £15 for a combination of Apple’s music streaming service, internet video, games and iCloud storage, with more expensive versions including its news and magazine subscription, as well as a newly-launched virtual fitness class offering.
Fitness Plus, which will connect to an Apple Watch to monitor heart rate and calories, will show workouts on a screen to let users follow along. It comes as gym closures and social distancing have seen a boom in online exercise classes from home.
The most expensive Apple One bundle, at £30 a month, compares to £52 if the services were all to be bought separately, and will be available in the coming weeks. The company has pushed heavily into digital services under its chief executive Tim Cook, and the division is now Apple’s second biggest after the iPhone.
Where's my bloody iPhone?
The first reviews are in, and iPhone fans on Twitter are not exactly ecstatic.
O f course, Twitter skews towards the young, the techy, the nerdy and the hyperactive. Most of Apple's big reveals this time were pitched more to old people, families, and fans of sitting on the sofa with a tablet and taking things easy.
New iPhone software update on Wednesday
Oh, one more thing (my phrasing, not Apple's): the new iOS 14 operating system will launch tomorrow. Surprise!
The update brings big changes, such as the ability to set your own default apps and have web URLs automatically open in rival browsers. It's an olive branch by Apple to monopoly regulators, who have looked askance at how it pushes people towards Safari.
But the update will lack a planned crackdown on targeted advertising and cookies, which could have plunged the whole app economy into chaos overnight (as well as cutting money from the likes of Facebook).
Other features include custom widgets, new memojis, more picture-in-picture option, cycling directions in Apple Maps (finally!) and the ability for Siri to send audio messages.
That's a wrap
The live stream is over and Apple's focus is clear: health, health, health. The iPhone giant put its plans to help you stay fit and alive centre stage, highlighting the stories of people whose lives were "changed, and in some cases saved" by the Apple Watch after suffering from heart attacks or other problems.
Here's how chief executive Tim Cook put it:
I'm doing my best to stay in shape, so it's great that Apple Watch keeps track of my workouts and motivates me to close my rings. When I get home. I use it to open the garage unlock my door and turn on the lights. And when I'm ready to settle in, I use Apple Watch to train my favorite music.
And it's so reassuring for millions of customers that Apple Watch has introduced great health features like heart monitor cycle tracking and fall detection, and even the ability to take an ECG.
I love reading the many messages I get every day from Apple Watch users telling me how The watch has changed, and in some cases, saved their lives...
Dr Apple will see you now
An Apple a day, apparently, works just as well as a doctor. Or so Tim Cook would have you believe. The company's new Fitness Plus service is another example that Apple believes health to be its future.
It's basically virtual fitness classes, with a catalogue of video workouts that will show you your vital statistics while you exercise. Sounds exhausting.
Will Brits pay extra again?
We now have British prices for the Apple Watch Series 6:
- With GPS – £379
- With GPS and mobile signal – £479
- WatchOS7 –free to install on your old watch
Once again, Apple may be making Brits pay way over the odds. In the US, the basic GPS model Series 6 will cost $399, which is about £309.
But that does not include sales tax, because Americans are weird and don't believe in free markets with price transparency.
Apple One revealed
As expected, Apple will let you bundle all its subscription services together into one big super-subscription.
Apple One will include Apple TV+, iCloud, Apple Music, the subscription gaming service, plus other services, and cost only $14.95 per month (compared to $4.99 each for TV+ and Arcade on their own).
A "family" version for multiple users will cost $19.95, while a full-fat "premium" tier will throw in Apple's new fitness subscription service Fitness Plus and 2 terrabytes of iCloud storage.
No USB charger for you
In a trademark move, Apple will no longer bundle a USB adapter cable with the Apple Watch, but is framing it as an altruistic blow against climate change. First time buyers will just have to get their own, I guess.
As well it might: fewer cables means less energy spent on manufacturing means fewer emissions. But many customers will be annoyed, given Apple's history of removing features from their devices to make them "better".
Plus, Apple Watch chargers are different from Apple's standard Lightning cables – meaning most people won't have many spares lying around.
Budget Apple Watch!
Can't afford an Apple Watch? You might be interested in the Apple Watch SE, a cheaper, more basic version starting at just $279 (sterling cost unknown).
It won't have the new blood oxygen monitor, but it has the same accelerometer, altimeter and motion sensing capacity, so it can tell when you fall over.
Apple Watch 6 confirmed
Apple has unveiled a new model of its Apple Watch, and the focus is squarely on health.
The Series 6 watch has:
- A hand-washing tracker to help you fight Covid-19
- A blood oxygen monitor that notifies you when your levels drop too low
- Sleep tracking via motion sensors
- New colours: blue aluminium, black graphite, and deep red
A 'once in a decade' Christmas for Apple
While all eyes are on Apple's other products, Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, is already looking ahead to the iPhone 12 – and predicting an enormous opportunity for Apple.
In a note on Monday, Ives argued that "pent-up demand" from the coronavirus pandemic will coincide with a large number of previous handsets becoming old enough for an upgrade to create a "once in a decade" iPhone cycle.
Across the board we are seeing an uptick around production and pent-up demand for the slate of iPhone 12 models (expecting four new models) which we view as a 'once in a decade' iPhone cycle.
We continue to believe the line in the sand a few months ago was between 65 million to 70 million 5G iPhone 12 units and now has moved into the 75 million range, with 80 million a stretch goal.
Importantly, with our estimation that 350 million of 950 million iPhones worldwide are currently in the window of an upgrade opportunity, we believe this will translate into an unprecedented upgrade cycle for Cook & Co,
'I'll shave my eyebrows'
Jon Prosser, a YouTube journalist with high-level sources inside Apple, known for his record of accurate predictions, has promised to "shave off his eyebrows" if Apple actually unveils the iPhone 12 today.
Please join me in upholding the integrity of tech journalism by collectively holding him to that.
Analysis: Why the Apple Watch is overdue a starring role
Some Apple fans might be disappointed if there is indeed no new iPhone, as expected. But as our Silicon Valley bureau chief James Titcomb argued on Sunday, there are many reasons to be excited about a starring role for the Apple Watch.
Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has said that in the long term, the company’s biggest contribution to mankind will be about health. That sounds better than selling electronics, so take it with a pinch of salt, but it speaks to the company’s ambition.
If this is the plan, the Apple Watch will be central to it. As a wearable device, it is much more capable of tracking vital signs than the company’s other gadgets. The miniaturisation of sensors and improved detection algorithms mean that the existing capabilities of the watch, such as heart rate monitoring, could be complemented by blood pressure or oxygen monitoring.
Hints at a fitness-related subscription service have also been discovered in the code to Apple’s forthcoming software. The company has been encouraging healthcare providers to make detailed medical records available to download on to an iPhone
Time flies when your phone is late
Welcome to the live blog! As we await Apple's planned 6.00 BST start, let's take a look at what analysts expect from the event.
With the iPhone 12 release date delayed, devices that usually have to settle for supporting characters are expected to take a starring role. Given the name of the event – "Time Flies" – it seem more than likely that one of them will be the Apple Watch.
Analaysts also expect new iPads, new headphones and new offerings for Apple's digital subscription services, such as Apple TV+. Find out everything we know so far in Matthew Field's one-stop rumour shop.