At its annual marketing event on Wednesday, Apple unveiled its iPhone 14 with satellite phone capabilities that can be used in emergency situations. But sharing the spotlight is a product that has slowly developed a strong following: the Apple Watch.
The wearable computer, originally released in 2015, still accounts for a tiny sliver of the company’s revenue. But it has helped Apple build a fortress around the iPhone, deepening customer loyalty to the company’s most important device.
On Wednesday, Apple expanded on this strategy with an array of new watches. It unveiled a new fitness-focused smartwatch aimed at triathletes, distance runners and backcountry enthusiasts.
The Apple Watch Ultra, a rugged $800 model with a larger screen and improved durability, thrusts the company into a corner of the smartwatch market dominated by Garmin, which does about $2.6 billion in sales to endurance sports competitors.
The new watch features an “action” button to make it easier to use while wearing gloves, bigger speakers for calls in windy conditions and a bigger battery that offers 36 hours on a single charge. Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operations officer, said the watch was “designed to push boundaries.”
In addition, Apple released an update for its traditional watch, the Series 8,which costs $400. It includes a sensor to track body temperature changes, which can help predict menstruation cycles and ovulation for women trying to get pregnant. It also has a feature called “crash detection,” which can identify when an Apple Watch wearer is in car accidents and notify family and emergency services.
Apple also lowered the price of its entry-level watch, the Apple Watch SE, which debuted in 2020 for $280. The new version, priced at $250 and lacking some features found on the more expensive models, was designed to make the device more accessible, especially to families. A growing number of parents are buying the Apple Watch for their children as a precursor to a smartphone to stay in touch and track their locations, according to research data from the investment group Piper Sandler.
Apple has a strong lead in smart watch sales, with nearly 51 percent of the market, ahead of Samsung and Huawei, which account for 19 percent and 5 percent. The Apple Watch Ultra and the lower-priced Apple Watch SE should help Apple increase sales of a business that generated an estimated $17 billion in revenue last year, said Francisco Jeronimo, vice president of device research at IDC, a market research firm.
The company coupled its smartwatch release with an update to its line of wireless earbuds, known as AirPods. It introduced a new generation of its AirPods Pro line, priced at $250, with new features, including the ability to turn the volume up and down with the swipe of a finger. It also offers improved noise cancellation to better reduce high-decibel noises like construction, the company said.
The company also introduced the iPhone 14, an introductory-priced phone that costs $799. The phone features last year’s processor, which reduces the costs of components for Apple. It also has improved front and rear cameras with larger sensors to capture clearer photos in low light.
It adds the capabilities of a satellite phone, giving people the ability to connect with emergency services in rural and remote environments so that they can get help if they are lost while hiking or find themselves in some other dire situation.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.