Apple “Far Out” Event Reinforces Commitment to Health and Wellness

“Today we’re here to talk about three products that have become essential in our lives: iPhone, AirPods and Apple Watch.”

Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
Image Credit: Apple

Apple’s September 2022 “Far Out” event is over, and it was packed full of announcements. The 90-minute show saw updates to a wide range of Apple products, including iPhones and the Apple Watch, and a few software features that could make using Apple products more seamless. What I was interested to hear was whether the company would continue to develop applications across the product line to support health and wellness. And several additions reinforce their focus in that area. But before reviewing the product introductions, Apple showed a video titled “Dear Apple,” which featured users talking about how Apple devices saved their lives.

YouTube video credit: Apple

First up was the Apple Watch Series 8 rollout focused on women’s health, including a body temperature sensor that can help with advanced cycle tracking. The new watch, available to pre-order immediately and shipping on September 16, also features car crash detection, a new low-power mode, international roaming, and new faces and bands.

Image Credit: Apple
YiuTube video credit: Apple

Apple Watch now has an alert for ovulation. The marquee feature of the Series 8 is a new body temperature sensor, which enables retroactive ovulation detection — essential info for family planning. The temperature sensor is powered by two thermometers, one close to the skin on the back of the watch and the other under the screen to measure ambient temperature. The dual-sensor design gives a more accurate reading of body temperature. By tracking temperature changes at night, the watch can detect a biphasic shift, which is an increase in body temperature that occurs in response to changing hormones. In light of the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, all cycle health data is private and encrypted.

“This design improves accuracy by reducing bias from the outside environment.”

Dr. Sumbul Ahmed Desai, Apple VP Health
Image Credit: Apple

Apple Watch Series 8 will detect car crashes. The Apple Watch Series 8 includes new car crash detection functionality. Called “Crash Detection,” it can detect if you are involved in a severe car crash and contact emergency services and emergency contacts. After years of analyzing car crash data, Crash Detection relies on two new motion sensors: an improved three-axis gyroscope and a high-G Force accelerometer. The new accelerometer can measure up to 256 Gs and samples motion more than 3,000 times a second. As well as motion data, Crash Detection uses the barometer, GPS, and the iPhone microphone to detect whether a serious crash has taken place. The barometer, for example, can detect airbags going off. It can detect front impact crashes, side impacts, rear-end collisions, and rollovers.

Image Credit: Apple

Apple fans hoping for an Apple Watch “Pro” were granted their wish in the rugged and feature-packed Apple Watch Ultra. This entry in the lineup offers the largest display (49 mm), longest battery life (36 hours, up to 60 in low power mode), and strongest build of any Apple Watch. There’s added functionality like a diving gauge and a new customizable action button that lets you set a specific task with a single tap. This flagship Apple Watch comes in at $799, which can appear steep alongside the $399 Series 8. So, it won’t be for everyone. It’s also important to consider the repair costs if necessary. According to the support section of Apple’s website (which provides estimates of repair costs), the $799 smartwatch targeted at athletes and adventure-y types will cost $499 to fix, so long as you’re doing anything other than swapping out a dying battery. For comparison, the most affordable version of the new Apple Watch Series 8 costs just $399 to purchase brand new—$100 cheaper than reviving a dead Ultra. If you’ve ever hummed and hawed over shelling out extra for AppleCare service, the $100 extra charge it adds to the Apple Watch Ultra is probably well worth it, as it drops repair fees to just $79. It’s the first Apple device specifically designed for extreme use cases, including diving adventures, which increases the odds of it getting damaged, so why not decrease the risks of sticker shock should the unfortunate happen?

The iPhone 14 lineup continued the themes from the Watch introductions. All of the new iPhone 14 models support Apple’s new Emergency SOS via Satellite feature, which lets you access emergency services in the most remote locations, as well as Crash Detection if you (god forbid) are ever in an accident. There’s broad 5G support across the board, Face ID, ultra-wideband chips to find the precise location of your AirTags, OLED screens, MagSafe connectivity, Apple’s Ceramic Shield glass to protect the screen, and IP68 water resistance. These safety features build on Apple’s established reputation for security and privacy, an investment that should not be underestimated.

YouTube video credit: Apple

The bigger story was around the iPhone 14 Pro models. It’s almost unfair how many more features there are in the 6.1-inch iPhone 14 Pro. For starters, the infamous notch is gone. You still get Face ID, but Apple has slimmed down the selfie camera and sensors into a pill-shaped cutout called the Dynamic Island. Interestingly, the island expands to show passive information, like music that’s playing, a timer that’s running—and you can expand it to see some controls.

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The Max is the same as the iPhone 14 Pro, except it has a bigger 6.7-inch screen. Both the new Pro models have a new 48-MP primary camera, joined by the 12-MP ultrawide and a 12-MP telephoto, giving you more versatility when shooting photos than non-Pro models. If battery life is your biggest concern, then the Max is the way to go, as Apple cites up to 29 hours of video playback, whereas the iPhone 14 Pro sits at 23 hours.

Another health feature to watch for is a new Medications tool in the Health app update that arrives today with iOS 16. The app lets you create a list of your medications and supplements by scanning bottles with your iPhone’s camera or typing the name in a search bar. You can schedule notifications to show up on your iPhone or Apple Watch when it’s time to take them. When the alert pops up on your screen, you can indicate whether you’ve taken or skipped the dose. The tool tracks your medication-taking history. You can also dismiss the notification or be reminded later. You can share your medication log with family members or caregivers, who can help you keep track. And the tool can even tell you if your medications might not work well together.

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The reaction from the trade press was decidedly mixed. One Washington Post Perspective writer’s headline was:

“Apple has invented a new reason to upgrade your iPhone: fear.”

Geoffrey Fowler, Washington Post

Others thought the announcements, while interesting, wasn’t enough to warrant the usual fan-boy cheering that typically accompanies an Apple product event.

My take: I didn’t expect much in the way of game-changing announcements this time. The performance updates in all the technologies featured aren’t orders of magnitude greater than the products they replace. I own one of each of the featured products, and I don’t think I will be rushing out to update any of them this time around. What I appreciated most about the event was the continued development and focus on healthcare across products and how these developments are tightly integrated across devices. It’s what I like most about the Watch, iPhone, iPad, and Mac products I own. Couple that with Apple’s ongoing attention to privacy, and you have a winning formula for continued growth. I really think that the Apple events still live up to Steve Jobs’ lessons on the company core values that he articulated so well in this video he made shortly after returning to Apple in 1997.

YouTube video credit: Rene Brokop

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