For Apple Watch, the Killer App Has Been Health All Along
Apple just wrapped its annual Fall event, which was packed with a number of major (if not already-spoiled) announcements about new products it will launch in the coming weeks. Among them, there’s a trio of new iPhones and a brand new Apple Watch Series 4.
Of course, the iPhone announcements are going to steal the show at this event year after year until Apple decides to focus its efforts around a new flagship device. But, for what it’s worth, this year’s iPhone unveils felt more like the bi-annual semi-upgrades from the S-model days. Apple even returned to that moniker this year, dubbing two of their new devices the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max. The third iPhone, the XR, is a budget friendly model that includes most of the major internal upgrades while taking away the OLED display in favor of an LCD “liquid retina” one, and it drops the telephoto camera sensor, leaving the user with the sole 12MP wide angle sensor.
But it was the day’s first product unveiling, the Apple Watch Series 4, that felt more like the star of this year’s Apple Event.
Apple dedicated a solid hour of the event to talking about the upgrades to the Apple Watch line, which will begin shipping September 21 and starts at $399. Among the top-line takeaways with the Series 4: more than 30 percent larger displays on each model, a thinner case, a revamped user interface to account for the increased screen real estate, a new S4 chip that doubles performance speed, a redesigned speaker and microphone system, and haptic feedback for the Digital Crown.
But that just scratches the surface with Series 4. With this launch, Apple made very clear what its intentions are with the Apple Watch and how it plans to make it the company’s secondary flagship device. It centers entirely on users’ health.
Now, that’s not all that surprising given how much time and effort the company has made in dragging fitness professionals, athletes, and other health nerds out on stage to talk about how they’re using the Apple Watch to stay fit or monitor their health. But the upgrades presented in Apple Watch Series 4 take those efforts a step further. For example, sensors in the new device can detect if and when the wearer has fallen, potentially injuring him or herself. If they have and they aren’t moving, the smartwatch can alert their emergency contacts.
Apple CEO Jeff Williams demos Apple Watch Series 4's ECG feature during the Fall 2018 Apple Event.
Going a step further, Apple has baked new sensors into the Apple Watch Series 4 that track all sorts of new heart-specific vital signs. The wearer can be alerted of low heart rates, the watch can detect irregular heart rhythm, and it can record an electrocardiogram (ECG) making this, according to Apple, the first FDA-approved over-the-counter product available to consumers that can take an ECG. In a few simple taps through the health app, the user can get a real time look at their heart beat, similar to what you’d see if you were strapped to a hospital monitor. Like other health data recorded through the Apple Watch, these data points are stored in the health app and can be easily shared with the user’s primary doctor.
From the dawn of the smartwatch era just a handful of years ago, it feels like we’ve all been waiting for that killer app to appear, something to convince us that this is a product or a category worth diving headfirst into. Now, several years matured, Apple has made it clear that it’s not a singular app that we’ve been in need of. It’s the idea that this product can be there for you as “an intelligent guardian for your health,” as COO Jeff Williams described it. The Apple Watch serves customers well as a fitness tracker, a smartwatch, an extension of the phone, and even as a standalone device. But all of that combined with its ability to record and analyze all of those biometrical data points makes this a much more important product than many will give it credit for.
The Apple Watch has a way of keeping the user self aware, alerting them to troubling health signs or alerting others when you may be in danger. It may not be the sexy, flashy kind of feature that most consumers want and crave in a smartwatch, but it’s clearly the one that we need. And no one has tapped into that reality better than Apple.