Apple unveiled updated versions of its popular iPhone, AirPods and watch on Wednesday at a highly anticipated event streamed from its Cupertino, California, headquarters.
The Apple Watch Series 8, which starts at $400 or $500 with cellular service, comes with a larger screen and new health and safety features. Those include a temperature sensor in the watch that allows it to track ovulation and new motion sensors that can detect if the wearer has been in a car accident. In a crash, the watch can also automatically call a person’s emergency contacts, a potentially useful feature in crashes that involve a single vehicle.
Executives emphasized that Apple Watch users’ body-temperature data will be encrypted, so that Apple won’t have access to it.
The company also introduced an update of the cheaper Apple Watch SE, with many of the same features as the Apple Watch minus temperature-tracking, as well as a new watch aimed at serious athletes and outdoor explorers. The Apple Watch Ultra, which starts at $800, has a titanium case, large screen, one outside button, more accurate GPS and a built-in siren. It’s certified to the same depth as scuba-diving gear and has a longer battery life, at a claimed 36 hours according to Apple.
Apple’s presentation made clear the company wants to market its products as essential safety devices. Before CEO Tim Cook introduced the new Apple Watch, actors read out loud from letters users sent to the chief executive crediting the device with saving their lives in a range of harrowing situations.
Apple updated its AirPods Pro and made them recyclable — an answer to critics who complained of the devices’ wastefulness. Apple said the latest model, which starts at about $250, has a longer battery life at up to six hours of play time, along with better noise cancellation, including automatic damping of intense environmental noise, such as construction sites.
The AirPods Pro now also allow users to locate a lost charging case, and have the options of an extra-small ear tip.
Bigger phone screen, better camera
Apple rolled out bigger screens on the new iPhone — the iPhone 14 has a 6.1-inch screen and the iPhone 14 Plus has a 6.7-inch screen. The company said the new phone has improved camera features, including autofocus on the front camera and better low-light performance with a larger aperture.
A new video feature, “Active Mode,” smooths out video shooting, reducing hand-shake during high-intensity events, according to Apple. The phone will also have enhanced image processing for still shots and video.
The newest iPhone has the same crash-detection feature as the Apple Watch and a satellite-based SOS service. The service, which lets users call for help from areas without cell phone reception, will be free for the first two years after the purchase of an iPhone 14.
The phone is the first to lack a physical SIM card, instead using a digital eSIM that the company says will be better for security.
The iPhone starts at $800, same as last year’s model, and will be available beginning September 16. The Plus starts at $900 and will be available October 7, executives said.
Apple also updated the higher-end iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max models, which now sport a 48 megapixel camera and a new version of the A16 Apple chip.
The Pro model starts at about $1,000 while the Pro Max starts at $1,100 — the same price Apple offered last year for its latest model and a sign the tech giant is leery of scaring away customers amid the uncertain economic environment. Inflation is hovering near four-decade highs, and even during the booming pre-pandemic economy, many people balked at the substantial price tags for premium smartphones.
“Apple is focusing on its most popular product categories and expanding the range of models and price points to capture more users,” Gadjo Sevilla, senior analyst at Insider Intelligence, said in a research note.
While products are shipping fairly soon, Sevilla noted that there would likely be delays for the most popular items.
“Expect delivery times to extend well into November, especially for the new iPhone 14 Plus, which will likely be in high demand,” he wrote.