Apple Watch sports new design, health features

Glenn Chapman, Agence France-Presse

Posted at Sep 13 2018 08:30 AM | Updated as of Sep 13 2018 05:01 PM

Jeff Williams, Chief Operating Officer of Apple, speaks about the the new Apple Watch Series 4 at an Apple Inc product launch event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, US, September 12, 2018. Stephen Lam, Reuters

CUPERTINO, California -- Apple introduced on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) a fourth generation of the Apple Watch with a major redesign -- and a series of features designed to improve its performance as a medical and health device.

The watch, sold in the United States from $399 and up, will be available in stores on September 21.

"Apple Watch has become an intelligent guardian for your health," chief operating officer Jeff Williams said.

The smartwatches are able to detect hard falls, and an electrical heart rate sensor can take an electrocardiogram.

"This is the first ECG product offered over the counter directly to consumers," Williams said.

"Now you can take an ECG any time, anywhere, right from the wrist."

The fall detection upgrade is expected to appeal to worker safety concerns in factories or other industrial settings, as well as to elderly or disabled users.

"Identifying a fall may sound like a straightforward problem, but it requires a lot of data analysis," Williams said.

If a person falls, and then is motionless, the watch will call emergency services, he added.

Moorhead said the health features for the new devices were notable.

"I can see kids buying one for their parents and grandparents," he said of the smartwatch.

"I believe Series 4 will sell better than all previous models."

The current version of Apple Watch is the most popular watch in the world, according to Cook.

Apple stressed its devotion to data privacy, saying all health information gathered is encrypted on the smartwatch to be shared only as users see fit.

'CROSSROADS'

Research firm CB Insights said Apple was at a "crossroads" a decade after introducing the iPhone.

"Looking for the next wave, Apple is clearly expanding into augmented reality and wearables with the Apple Watch and AirPods wireless headphones," the firm said. 

"But the next 'big one' -- a success and growth driver on the scale of the iPhone -- has not yet been determined. Will it be augmented reality, auto, wearables? Or something else entirely?"

Apple's event comes with the global smartphone market at near-peak saturation, and without a major catalyst for sales ahead of a likely rollout of 5G, or fifth generation, wireless networks, expected in 2019.

Research firm IDC expects worldwide smartphone shipments to decline 0.7 percent in 2018 to 1.455 billion units, with growth likely to resume as 5G devices become available.

Cook said Apple was nearing the two-billion mark for devices with its mobile operating system known as iOS.

"We are about to hit a major milestone. We are about to ship our two billionth iOS device," he said.

"This is astonishing -- iOS has changed the way we live."

© Agence France-Presse