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 that was still on display at this year’s event, but there was also a new message. The company positioned many of its products and features as safety nets in a shaky world.
Apple announced new car crash detection technology on both the Apple Watch and iPhone, which can pinpoint the “exact moment of impact” using the device’s barometer, GPS and microphone. “We really hope you never need it, but feel a little bit more confident every time you get in a car,” said Ron Huang, Apple’s vice president of sensing and connectivity, during the announcement.
While this is arguably a continuation of Apple’s focus on health features, particularly in its smartwatches, the emphasis on these scary use cases has nonetheless raised some eyebrows from industry watchers. “It was a little surprising to see Apple taking the alarmist approach and positioning its devices as potential lifesavers,” said Ramon Llamas, research director at market research firm IDC.
“These emergency features are like the security bags in your car: you won’t need them all the time, but you’ll be grateful when you do,” Llamas said.
The change of tone comes as Apple faces a new economic landscape that could make it harder to convince customers to shell out hundreds and hundreds to upgrade their devices — especially if some of those products aren’t significantly different from last year.
“Refining rather than revolution isn’t a bad thing, but when wallets tighten with the economy, these announcements are harder to sell without something groundbreaking,” said Eric Abbruzzese, research director at market firm ABI Research.
The emphasis on health and safety could also help Apple bolster its subscription services business, Abruzzese said, which has been one of its fastest-growing revenue streams in recent years. As he points out, the satellite connection is “free for two years only”. (Apple didn’t specify how much it costs afterward.) Additionally, “advanced health tools appear to be just another way to upsell Fitness+.”