Apple’s latest products and features target our worst fears

Apple CEO Tim Cook kicked off the annual event Wednesday with a three-minute video showing how the Apple Watch has saved lives by calling for help. One man described skating on a frozen river when the ice broke. Another survived a mid-winter plane crash in a remote area. And a high school student escaped an encounter with a bear.

In another example, a 27-year-old high school teacher went 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 long presented its products as tools for creativity, productivity and a positive albeit ambitious lifestyle full of friends and family, healthy habits and outdoor activities. Some of it was still on display at the event this year, but there was also a new message. The company 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, which can determine the “precise moment of impact” using the device’s barometer, GPS and microphone. “We really hope you never need it, but feel a little safer every time you get in a car,” Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of discovery and connectivity, said during the announcement.

it also unveiled a groundbreaking Emergency SOS tool for iPhones that relies on satellites if, say, you’re lost in the wilderness and cell service isn’t working. And it introduced a new temperature monitoring tool on the Apple Watch that can be used to detect disease, at a time when many are still grappling with pandemic health issues.

While likely a continuation of Apple’s focus on health features, particularly with its smartwatches, the emphasis on these terrifying use cases nonetheless raised some eyebrows among industry viewers. “It was a little surprising to see Apple take the alarmist approach and position their devices as potential lifesavers,” said Ramon Llamas, research director at market research firm IDC.

In recent years, Apple has promised customers that its products can help create a more secure digital environment for them — one with stronger privacy protections and family-friendly content. Now seems to have the pitch expanded to keep people safe in the real world.

“These emergency supplies are like the safety bags in your car: you won’t always need them, but you’ll be grateful if you do,” Llamas said.

The shift in tone comes as Apple faces a new economic landscape that could make it harder to convince customers to pay three- or four-digit fees to upgrade their devices — especially when some of those products aren’t materially different from the previous ones. year.

The company rolled out relatively minor updates to its devices across the board on Wednesday. For example, the iPhone line offered updates to the camera systems, a new interactive lock screen, and much faster performance on the Pro models. Meanwhile, the new high-end Apple Watch Ultra is aimed at extreme sports enthusiasts; While there is a market for rugged watches, not everyone needs tracking for scuba diving or triathlons.

“Refinement over revolution isn’t a bad thing, but when the wallet gets tighter with the economy, these announcements are harder to sell without something groundbreaking,” said Eric Abbruzzese, research director at market firm ABI Research.

An emphasis on health and safety could also help Apple bolster its subscription services, Abbruzzese said, which has been one of its fastest-growing revenue lines in recent years. As he points out, the satellite connection is “free for only two years”. (Apple didn’t specify how much it will cost after that.) Plus, “advanced health tools just seem like another way to sell Fitness+ stronger.”