Fast Forward: Apple “Time Flies” Event Recap

Apple enters the age of Super Bundles and hints at its AR ambitions

Richard Yao
Sep 17, 2020 · 8 min read

Editor’s note: This is an abridged edition of our Fast Forward newsletter, a fast read for you and an easy forward to your clients. If you wish to receive the full version a day earlier in your inbox, please contact Josh Mallalieu (josh@ipglab.com) to get on our mailing list.

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As we noted in our last weekly newsletter, Apple held its first fall event this year on Tuesday to introduce new Apple Watch and iPad products, along with some interesting updates on its services. Although new iPhones are supposedly being held until the next event in October, this “Time Flies” event still packed some interesting announcements that marketers should know to better understand where consumer technology is heading. Let’s dive in.

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Apple Watch Matures with Blood Oxygen Monitoring & Family Setup

As Apple Watch enters the fifth year of its existence, it has clearly evolved enough to be considered a maturing product. The new Apple Watch Series 6 doesn’t have significant changes in terms of form factor, save for a new Solo Loop band; instead, the biggest selling point for the Series 6 is a new sensor on the back of the Watch that uses red and infrared light to measure the blood oxygen level in about 15 seconds. The blood oxygen monitoring feature has become a mainstay in wearables from select models of Fitbit and Garmin over the past year, but now it is set to hit the mainstream with Apple’s addition.

Interestingly, this new feature can also do background readings while users sleep, which broadens its scope of passive monitoring of biometric data beyond heart rate. This kind of ambient computing feature, which fades into the background, will be a distinct component in the future of digital health. And with the pandemic and recent wildfires sharpening our public health concerns, ambient computing-driven health features like this will likely prove their worth to many mainstream users.

Positioning Apple Watch as a worthy addition for Apple households, Apple introduced a new Family Setup feature that allows users to manage multiple cellular Apple Watches from a single iPhone, streamlining the setup process and giving the main user extra control over how the devices are used. Family Setup will allow parents to have greater control over their kids’ Apple Watch via restricted contacts and location notifications, and will provide remote oversight of elderly loved ones. Paired with a new, lower-priced Apple Watch SE model, Family Setup is an ambitious push to make Apple Watch a household-wide experience that will expand its use cases and lock in users.

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Another thing worth noting here are the activity-oriented Watch faces. Apple demoed Watch faces designed for surfers, photographers, and medical workers, with each Watch face presenting relevant information provided by third-party apps — surfing conditions, the sun’s position, and upcoming appointments, respectively — in an easily glanceable manner. This is further facilitated by the sharing of watch faces via social and other digital channels, a new addition in watchOS 7, which enables users, developers, and brands to customize faces enhancing discovery.

The emphasis on glanceable information echoes the revamped design of the upcoming iOS 14, with customizable Widgets on the home screen and NFC-triggered App Clips to surface the most relevant information from various apps. Taken together, this shift in UI design hints at Apple’s development of AR headsets, where most interactions won’t be centered around apps but rather with snippets of actionable, contextually relevant information.

For marketers, a broadening user base of Apple Watch, likely propelled by Family Setup and older models being passed off to family members as users upgrade, points to increased opportunities of leveraging wearables as an emerging channel to deliver brand experiences and delight customers. As Apple Watch matures as a standalone product, the emphasis in its UI design can be seen as tests for Apple’s impending leap towards AR headsets and a new paradigm of user experiences it brings. For brands, figuring out how to deliver contextually driven information and services that add value to customers’ daily lives on Apple Watch can be a good training wheel for designing brand experiences on AR headsets, which, If the industry scuttlebutt is to be believed, are only about a year or two away.

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Apple’s Service Ecosystem Grows with Fitness+ and Apple One

As another sign of Apple Watch’s maturity as a product, Apple announced Fitness+, a workout class subscription service designed specifically for the Apple Watch. Although its content is accessible on other Apple devices such as iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV, Apple Fitness+ is specifically designed to be used with an Apple Watch, as it emphasizes biometric data collected by the Watch’s sensors and integrates other Watch-only features.

Priced at $9.99/month, with a three-month free trial that comes with an Apple Watch purchase, Apple’s fitness service is priced quite competitively. For context, Variis from Equinox is $40/month, and my SkyTing monthly unlimited yoga membership is $20/month. And Peloton’s digital-only membership was $30/month, but recently lowered to $13/month.

Furthermore, BestBuy shoppers can get a six-month free trial and CVS Health is also offering access to Fitness+ for Aetna commercial and Caremark members, CVS Pharmacy ExtraCare retail customers, and CVS Health employees. Both initiatives exemplify Apple’s strong marketing push for Fitness+.

Besides adding value to Apple Watch, this new service comes at a time when the fitness industry, like many others, has been forced to pivot to online experiences by the pandemic, and stands a good chance at winning a significant share of this booming “at-home fitness” market as the default option on millions of Apple devices. Branching into the fitness market, this new service puts Apple in direct competition with the likes of Fitbit and Peloton, each with their own subscription services that, in comparison, lack the strong ecosystem tie-in that Apple Fitness+ has.

The Cupertino company clearly realizes this unique advantage as well, as evidenced by the debut of Apple One, a discount bundle of Apple services at three price tiers.

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Across the board, it is clear that Apple Music is the leading service that drives consideration, which makes sense considering other Apple services have been rather lukewarm in terms of market penetration. As mentioned above, Fitness+ has a pretty good shot at growing into another leading Apple service in time, but until then, the pricing of Apple One is not exactly competitive at launch. This has led some to speculate that Apple could offer further discounts on Apple One with the purchase of new iPhones next month, or it could also consider bundling in hardware products via its existing iPhone Upgrade Program or installment payment via Apple Card. Either way, this is only the beginning for Apple One, which will undoubtedly continue to grow each year as Apple bundles in more subscriptions as the company doubles down on its service business as a key growth driver.

We here at the Lab have been banging the drum of super bundles, as well as the implications they bring to new business models and consumer preferences, for quite some time. Amazon Prime has long been a key example of how a service bundle can drive value for the entire ecosystem, for both consumers and for Amazon. Now, with the official debut of Apple One, we’ve officially arrived in the age of super bundles. As Apple One improves its value proposition by offering sharper discounts on more services, it could lift up services such as Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade at no additional cost, further fortifying its walled-garden ecosystem.

For marketers, the takeaway here is twofold. For one, super bundles aggregate attention on first-party services owned by platform owners, which tend to be ad-free subscriptions, as is the case with Apple One and Amazon Prime, given their business models. If super bundles become the norm, reaching audiences that have retreated into those ad-free services will require new strategies around branded content and services. For another, the emergence of super bundles also dovetails with the rise of subscription fatigue as consumers seek to consolidate and streamline their digital services. Platform owners often leverage subscriptions to deepen their moats and build long-term relationships with their customers, which is something that many brands are also taking on to add value to their products. For brands like Peloton and Spotify, fighting off super bundles from the tech giants will likely necessitate a coalition of independent services that increases their collective value and emphasizes their cross-platform accessibility.

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Looking Ahead

Besides the aforementioned announcements, Apple also introduced two new iPad models, which could capitalize on the “stay-at-home” boom of tablet sales in recent months as Apple continues to position iPad as a laptop replacement, especially for remote learning.

Apple also confirmed that the new generation of OS’s, unveiled at its WWDC event in June, will be released on Wednesday, September 16. For brands that have yet to figure out how to handle the new privacy features in iOS 14 that restrict ad tracking and tighten data collection, or whether or not they should leverage App Clips to surface their services contextually, new challenges and opportunities await.

Want to Learn More?

If you are keen to learn more about Apple’s latest announcements and what they mean for your brand, or just want to chat about how to adapt to changing consumer behaviors on mobile and beyond, the Lab is here to help. You can start a conservation by reaching out to our group director, Josh Mallalieu (josh@ipglab.com).

Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Twitter @ipglab to get the latest insights from us.

This has been an edition of our Fast Forward newsletter, a fast read for you and a forward for your clients and team.

IPG Media Lab

The media futures agency of IPG Mediabrands

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