Without a new iPhone taking center stage, Apple’s fall keynote spotlighted the company’s other offerings, including a new version of the Apple Watch, dubbed SE, the next-generation Series 6 of the flagship wearable; updates to the iPad tablet family, and a new service called Apple Fitness+.
Offering virtual workouts, the subscription service corrals classes across 10 category types, including yoga, treadmill, cycling, strength, core and HIIT, and, according to the company, most require either no equipment or just a set of dumbbells.
In addition to a large selection of songs across music genres, which also works with Apple Music, Fitness+ offers modes for beginners or more advanced users in training, and Apple plans to add programming on a weekly basis.
While it plays videos on iPads, iPhones and the Apple TV, Apple created the service with its Watch in mind, with the wearable feeding fitness metrics directly to the Fitness+ screen to keep people motivated. Users will be able to monitor details like heart rate, calories burned, pace and distance in real time on the screen, as they work out.
The fee — at $9.99 monthly or $79.99 annually, with three months free for new Apple Watch customers — looks like a bargain compared to gym memberships. That may spell terrible news for fitness centers struggling to survive the coronavirus pandemic. But for cabin-fevered athletes and fitness fanatics who can’t hit the gym or, as in much of the West Coast, even venture outside for a jog, it may be a godsend.
Naturally, for Apple, it creates another revenue stream. It also happens to provide another compelling reason to pick up an Apple Watch.
The wearable will be available in three variations with different price points — the $399 Apple Watch Series 6, the slightly scaled-down $279 Apple Watch SE and the $199 Apple Watch 3, an older unit that has somehow survived retirement to give consumers a low-cost option.
The marquee feature in the Watch 6 is the ability to read and track blood oxygen levels, offering a reading in about 15 seconds. The company is partnering with health systems to study whether it can be useful in detecting COVID-19 infections.
The latest flagship Watch comes with a new S6 processor, which offers faster performance with no hit to battery life, according to Apple. It also charges faster and offers an always-on altimeter for real-time elevation tracking.
For the first time, a Product(Red) version of the watch will also be available, along with a new blue case option, in addition to gray, silver and gold finishes. New watch faces are on tap, including a design from Nike and new Memoji-forward faces, along with more watchband types. The options cover the “Solo Loop,” a stretchie silicon strap with no buckle, a braided, polyester-silicon version of the Loop and a new leather link strap. Luxury brand and longtime Apple Watch partner Hermès also created its latest design, the “Attelage,” for the Series 6 in single and double tour versions.
The lower-cost SE comes with most of the same features as the Series 6, minus the faster processor chip and blood oxygen sensor. The jury is also out on whether it will be capable of taking ECG readings.
The company also unveiled a new iPad 8th generation, which boasts Apple’s neural engine for the first time and beefier specs capable of machine learning capabilities — think better computer vision, excellent photo and video capture and editing and, the company claims, console-worthy gaming performance and visuals. Apple also showcased its latest iPad Air, with a new squared-off design that’s somewhat reminiscent of the old iPhone 4.
Another notable introduction was Apple One, a bundled approach to services for one monthly fee. The subscription, which varies from $14.95 a month for individuals to $29.95 for the premier plan, includes various levels of iCloud storage, Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+ and, for the premier tier, the new Apple Fitness+.
Apple says consumers can save from $6 to $25 a month, depending on the package level, compared to the full subscription prices of the services separately.
Bundling is not necessarily a new trend, but it’s one that shows no signs of slowing, as companies like Google and Amazon have their own versions of bundled services, as a way to encourage users to stay within their ecosystems.
There was, however, no whiff of iPhone news. And that means the press event will surely be followed up with another focused on the Apple smartphone. Anticipation runs high that a 5G version of the handset is in the works, along with other updates. But even with the delay, the device will still likely make its debut in time for the holiday season.