Apple debuted two new smartwatches on Tuesday, one with added features at a premium price and the other designed to battle lower-priced rivals like Fitbit.
Apple’s annual September event is usually dominated by the introduction of new iPhones. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple’s regular iPhone updates are not ready yet. So CEO Tim Cook and his team leaned hard on the company’s smartwatch to build excitement.
As rumored before the announcement, the new Apple Watch Series 6, starting at $400, seeks to extend Apple’s lead in the health and wellness sector by adding blood oxygen level sensing capability, also known as an SpO2 measurement. Apple was the first to introduce heart-rhythm tracking, a feature since added by Fitbit and Samsung. The blood oxygen-level sensor could be particularly timely, as it could help provide an early warning for COVID-19 infections.
The new Apple Watch Series 6 has a new, faster processor designed by Apple called the S6, and a new altimeter sensor to measure altitude. It will come in several new case colors including a metallic red and blue. It is available for pre-order on Tuesday, with sales starting on Friday.
Apple also released a second, cheaper version of the watch, called Apple Watch SE starting at $279. That’s just like its iPhone SE strategy to offer a new device with fewer features in addition to keeping an older model for sale. Apple said it would still sell the three-year-old Series 3 watch for $200.
To drive more sales of watches within a single household, Apple also introduced a feature called “family setup” to let customers setup and link multiple watches from one iPhone. That means a family could link watches for a child or older adult to a parent’s iPhone. Previously, an iPhone could only be linked to one active watch at a time.
The Apple Watch, introduced in 2015, was the first standalone hardware product to debut after Cook took over the company from the late Steve Jobs. Although Apple Watch is not, perhaps, a smash hit on the scale of the iPhone or the iPod, it’s by far the best-selling smartwatch in the world. And revenue at Apple’s wearables unit, that also includes the popular AirPods line of earbuds, has grown 27% over the past three quarters from the same period a year earlier to almost $23 billion.
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