Apple iPhones get bigger and pricier, watch turns to health

Apple’s new iPhone XS. Net photo.

Apple Inc introduced its largest-ever iPhone and a watch that detects heart problems on Wednesday in an attempt to get customers to upgrade to more expensive devices in the face of stagnant global demand for smartphones.

The relatively small changes to its lineup, following last year’s overhauled iPhone X, were widely expected by investors and the company’s shares ended down 1.2 percent at $221.07.

The strategy has been successful, helping Apple’s stock to rise more than 30 percent this year and making it the first publicly traded U.S. company to hit a market value of more than $1 trillion.

Apple’s new iPhone XS, pronounced “ten S,” has a 5.8-inch (14.7-cm) screen, and will be sold at a starting price of $999. The XS Max, the largest iPhone to date and one of the biggest on the market, has a 6.5-inch (16.5-cm) screen, and will start selling at $1,099.

“They have finally added a larger-screen phone so that they can directly compete with the Galaxy Note 9 products,” Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann said at the event at Apple’s Silicon Valley headquarters, referring to rival Samsung Electronics which has led the trend toward big-screen phones.

“The larger screen will be very important in China to turn around the trend there, because they have lost some share in the last few years, partly because of screen size,” she added.

In China, the launch was the top trending topic on social media, with one conversation about it being read more than 890 million times on popular microblogging website Sina Weibo.

While online sentiment was mixed, an obvious key focus was the high price tag - also a target of criticism around the launch of the iPhone X last year.

“Before the launch I was thinking which kidney I should sell off, the left or the right. Now the decision is made up. I’ll have to sell off both,” joked one user on the platform.

Apple also introduced a lower-cost 6.1-inch (15.5 cm) iPhone XR made of aluminum, at a starting price at $749.

The iPhone XS Max’s display size is 26 percent larger than the previous largest iPhone display, marking it the largest increase in screen size since 2014, wrote analyst Gene Munster of Loup Ventures in a note.

This year’s three top phones are all more expensive than last year’s models.

With two of them starting at $999 or higher in the United States, Apple appears to be taking advantage of a strong U.S. economy, low unemployment, and rising household wealth.

The median U.S. household income rose for a third straight year in 2017 to the highest on record since 1967 by one measure, government data showed on Wednesday.

Looking for ways to lessen reliance on phones, which represent more than 60 per cent its revenue, Apple opened its event by announcing the new Apple Watch Series 4 with edge-to-edge displays, like its latest phones, and they are more than 30 per cent bigger than displays on current models.

It is positioning the new watch as a more comprehensive health device, able to take an electrocardiogram to detect an irregular heartbeat and start an emergency call automatically if it detects a user falling down, potentially appealing to older customers.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it worked with Apple to develop apps for the Apple Watch and has been taking steps to ease the regulatory pathway for companies seeking to create digital healthcare products.

As many as 6.1 million Americans have atrial fibrillation, a heart disease involving irregular heart rhythm for which the Watch could offer an early warning.

Agencies

 

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