Apple Inc on Wednesday showed a trio of new Apple Watches, including a new Watch Ultra model aimed at extreme sports, testing its user base’s willingness to keep snapping up new products amid a weakening global economy.
The Watches made their debut at an event called “Far Out” at Apple’s Cupertino, California, headquarters that has analysts expecting that it will add the ability to send emergency messages from iPhones using satellite connectivity.
Apple said the Ultra Watch model will have its largest battery yet and a more rugged case and controls designed to be operated while wearing gloves. The new Watches include an upgraded budget model called the SE and a Series 8 Watch with crash detection and low-power mode for 36 hours of battery life.
Apple said the new Series 8 watch has a temperature sensor that will work in conjunction with its previously released cycle tracking app to retroactively detect when a person has begun ovulating. The company emphasized the privacy approach of its cycle tracking.
Privacy and reproductive health data has become a focus for tech companies in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended a constitutional right to abortion in the United States. Apple said it does not have the key to decrypt health data such as cycle tracking.
But while accessories like the Apple Watch have driven incremental sales from Apple’s existing user base, the iPhone remains the bedrock of its business with 52.4% of sales in its most recent fiscal year.
Analysts expect a family of iPhone 14 models with incremental upgrades – slightly better cameras, processor chips and, critically for Apple’s bottom line, prices $100 or more higher than last year’s models.
To be sure, the world’s most valuable listed company will also likely keep some older or less advanced models at lower prices, and to date Apple’s relatively affluent fan base has shown more willingness to keep spending despite high inflation. But the new models will be Apple’s sales anchor during holiday shopping seasons in Western markets during a turbulent period.”Apple is not immune to economic weakness,” Bernstein analyst Toni Sacconaghi wrote in note to clients.
This year’s iPhones may have the ability to send emergency messages through a satellite internet connection when WiFi and mobile networks are not available. The messaging functions would likely be rudimentary, and other companies are working on similar functions.
Space X founder Elon Musk said last month T-Mobile will use its satellites to connect phones directly to the internet. Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research said that the peace of mind from being able to send emergency messages could spur Apple users to upgrade their phones for the satellite feature.
“Even though it’s not something you do every day, it’ll change your perspective on what you do with your phone,” he said.
Some analysts believe Apple might give a preview of that future by showing a mixed-reality headset on Wednesday. The device is expected to have cameras that pass-through view of the outside world to the wearer while overlaying digital objects on the physical world.
Analysts do not expect the device to go on sale until next year at the earliest. An early preview would be rare for Apple, which keeps its product plans secret until just before devices hit the market. A rival headset called Project Cambria is in the works from Meta Platforms Inc, which is spending billions of dollars on the project.
But in order to have compelling apps for a new headset, Apple might need to give developers time to become familiar with it.
“Developing for a new and radically different type of platform is going to take people a lot longer,” O’Donnell said.