4 key highlights from Apple’s latest event

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The new Apple Watch Series 6. Image: Apple

We’ve rounded up the key announcements from this year’s autumn Apple event, including the brand new Apple Watch Series 6 and the more budget-friendly Apple Watch SE.

September is usually the time of year when consumers and industry experts get the first real taste of Apple’s latest offerings ahead of the holiday season. We typically get a look at the newest upcoming iPhone, as well as any other products the company plans to launch before the year is out.

This year, however, Apple excluded the iPhone 12 from its September event due to delays that have arisen as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The iPhone launch is now expected to take place in October instead.

In place of the iPhone, the Apple Watch took centre stage at this year’s event. There were also details about the new iPad Air, along with Apple’s new service bundles. If you missed the event on Wednesday (15 September), we have gathered all of the highlights below.

Apple Watch Series 6

At the event, the company introduced the new Apple Watch Series 6. It is the first Apple Watch to offer blood oxygen monitoring, with the goal of offering users more insights into their overall wellness.

The blood oxygen sensor employs four clusters of green, red and infrared LEDs, along with the four photodiodes on the back crystal of the watch to measure light reflected back from blood. The device uses a new custom algorithm built into a blood oxygen app, which is designed to measure blood oxygen between 70pc and 100pc.

Besides the new blood oxygen monitoring tech, the company also revealed the redesigned hardware for the watch, which uses a new dual-core processor based on the A13 Bionic in iPhone 11. This enables it to run 20pc faster, allowing apps to launch 20pc faster and maintaining the same 18-hour battery life.

The Series 6 also features a U1 chip and ultra-wideband antennas, which will enable short-range wireless location to support features such as digital car keys in future. According to Apple, the device will also charge faster, completing a full charge in 1.5 hours.

Apple also confirmed that it is removing the USB power adapter from the box of its new watches in order to reduce its impact on the environment.

The device is priced at €422 without cellular connectivity and €520 with it. It will go on sale on Friday 18 September.

Apple Watch SE

This year Apple also revealed an entry-level smart watch – the Apple Watch SE. It follows the release of Apple’s budget iPhone SE model earlier this year.

The Apple Watch SE includes all of the essential features found in other watch models, such as fall detection, motion sensors and microphone, with the same accelerometer, gyroscope and always-on altimeter of the Series 6.

The device runs on WatchOS 7, allowing users to take advantage of new features such as Family Setup, which enables users without iPhones to use the watch. It also includes features such as automatic handwashing detection, sleep tracking and new workouts.

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It uses the S5 processor from the Series 5 watch, which will make it slower than the Series 6 but two times faster than the Apple Watch Series 3 – which the company previously offered customers as the more budget-friendly alternative to its Series 5.

Prices for this device start at €294 without cellular connectivity and €343 with it. This is a slight jump in price from the Series 3, which begins at €214.

Apple entered the smartwatch market in 2015, and in the years since the company has managed to beat the traditional Swiss watch industry. According to Apple’s filings, the firm shipped 30.7m watches in 2019, compared to 21.1m Swiss watches shipped over the same period.

The introduction of more entry-level devices could help Apple widen the gap between itself and traditional wristwatch businesses.

The new iPad Air

After the company revealed everything it had to share about its new watches, Apple went on to introduce the new iPad Air. It said that this is the most powerful iPad Air to date, running on an A14 Bionic chip.

The device has a new 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display, camera and audio upgrades, a new integrated Touch ID sensor in the top button and a boost in performance from its new chip. Apple said this chip will enable users to edit 4K videos and play immersive games in a more energy-efficient manner.

A large white tablet with a thin bezel around the sides.

The new iPad Air. Image: Apple

The iPad Air will have a 7-megapixel front-facing camera and a 12-megapixel rear camera for higher resolution photos and 4K video capture. The new design features stereo speakers in landscape mode and the device features a USB-C port for faster data transfer.

The device will go on sale next month, starting at €667. Wi-Fi and cellular models will start at €805, with devices available in 64GB and 256GB configurations and a range of colours. The company also announced that iPadOS 14 will become available today (16 September), with new note-taking capabilities and improved integrations for Apple Pencil.

Leaning into services

With the Apple Watch SE and the iPhone SE both announced this year, it suggests that Apple may be moving away from its old shtick of primarily offering aspirational devices at a higher price point than many of its competitors.

One reason why this might be happening is because the company sees a huge opportunity in subscription services. In its most recent quarterly financial report, Apple boss Tim Cook said revenue increase was driven by double-digit growth in both products and services.

At the company’s latest launch, it revealed its new subscription plan – Apple One. The plan offers customers a single subscription to a variety of its services, including Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, iCloud, Apple News+ and the newly announced Apple Fitness+.

The company is offering Apple One through three new plans. The individual plan includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and 50GB of iCloud storage for €14.95 per month; while the family plan offers all of the above with 200GB of iCloud storage for €19.95 per month. The latter can be shared among up to six family members.

There will also be a premier Apple One package available in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US. This will include Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+, Apple Fitness+  and 2TB of iCloud storage that can be shared among up to six family members.

Kelly Earley is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com