POV: Apple’s Spring Forward special event

Mindshare Point of View

Apple held a special media event in San Francisco in which they announced their thinnest, lightest Macbook yet, a new set of medical research apps under the umbrella of ResearchKit that turns iPhones into crowd-sourced diagnostic tools and the long awaited demo, pricing and launch date of Apple Watch.

Spring Forward was a mix of things that were expected and some that we weren’t.  Apple CEO Tim Cook opened with Apple TV and an exclusive launch tie up with HBO’s new streaming service HBO Now.  The audience were treated to a preview of the critically acclaimed Game of Thrones, before Cook announced an Apple TV price drop from $99 to $69 and promised to ‘reinvent the way you watch television’.

After some impressive iPhone scene setting (700m+ devices sold last quarter, #1 selling smartphone in the world and growth that doubles what the rest of the industry is doing) medical research followed – with Tim Cook stating that it is in health that Apple sees iPhone making the most profound impact.  ResearchKit, an open source toolkit for developers was announced along with 5 apps made in conjunction with medical institutions which included health monitoring for Parkinson’s, asthma and diabetes.  Apple finished by stating clearly it is the user who is in complete control of what is tracked and shared and that Apple does not see any of their data.

Apple Pay followed, with news that over 2,500 banks now support Apple’s Touch ID enabled payment method as well as the platform being accepted at point of sale in over 700,000 US retailers.  Coca Cola were also called out for the 40,000 vending machines they have enabled with Apple Pay.

Then to MacBook – and the announcement of a brand new 12 inch notebook, the thinnest and lightest Apple have ever made.  The now all too familiar video featuring Jonny Ive’s voiceover took the audience through how in its design, the new MacBook had been built with ‘extreme portability’ in mind.  A pressure sensitive Force Pad trackpad with haptic technology built in and a single port for video output, power and USB were also revealed in what Apple also dubbed as the world’s most energy efficient notebook.

And finally, Apple Watch.  Tim Cook took time to land the point that Watch was the most personal device Apple had ever created and that unlike iPhone, it wasn’t just with you – it was on you.

He introduced Glances, where a user can swipe up on the watch face to check weather, calendars or even their heart rate and then went on to show a number of demos from partners Apple has been working with.  These included being able to bypass the front desk in a W Hotel and unlock your room in a single tap of the watch and paying for groceries in Whole Foods simply by opening Apple Pay and waving your watch next to the contactless payment terminal. 

Apple’s CEO also clearly defined the three use cases for Watch: as a timepiece, a communicator and as a ‘coach on your arm’ in reference to its health and fitness capabilities. 

Apple used model Christy Turlington Burns to demonstrate the dual use of Apple Watch, both as an interchangeable fitness tracker and fashion accessory.  After a video showing Christy using Apple Watch as part of a half marathon race, she appeared on-stage with Tim Cook sporting the same watch but with a blue modern buckle strap introducing it as her ‘chic one’.

Cook finished on pricing, with the entry-level Sport model starting at $349 to the exclusive high-end Edition range available from selected retailers for a jaw-dropping $10,000.  Apple Watch is available for pre-order and in-store preview from 10 April ahead of a 24 April launch.

There were two key themes that ran throughout the event.  The first being the multiple nods to China – from the opening video of the incredible new store opening in West Lake, Hangzhou to the inclusion of Chinese social messaging phenomenon WeChat in the Apple Watch partner demos.  China is clearly a strategic part of Apple’s growth.

The second theme was focused around Apple ‘doing good’.  At a time when scrutiny is centered on other tech giants looking at the amount of tax they pay to an increasing focus on privacy and the use of customer data, Apple used today’s event to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack.  The roll out of medical research functionality in iPhone, their clear statement on not using their users’ private data and even the promotion of Christy Turlington Burns’ Every Mother Counts initiative all added up to a sense that whilst Apple are the most valued company in history and continue to generate unprecedented profits from global iPhone sales, they are keen to demonstrate their ‘good’ credentials.

Lastly, the Apple Watch demos clearly showed that content has to be reimagined for the device – repurposed experiences from desktop and iPhone simply won’t work.  Not only is the visual real estate smaller but the unique features of the Watch are a treasure trove for developers to explore and make more meaningful, personal connections with Apple Watch users.