Apple event this year had an unusually dark undertone as it leaned into emergency features for a dangerous world

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  • The key theme of the company’s new product launch this year was how Apple devices can save lives in emergency situations.
  • The most important new iPhone capability this year is called “Emergency SOS via Satellite,” which can send a message for help even when there’s no cell service for miles.
  • We can see Apple outline a new messaging strategy: Its devices are just what you want when things go wrong.

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When Apple held its annual launch event for the iPhone 13 in 2021, it began with a joyous video featuring jazz dancers celebrating the natural beauty of California (which can of course be captured with an iPhone camera). ).

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Apple’s iPhone 14 launch this week was dark in color. After zooming in on Apple’s headquarters from space, it began with a video highlighting users who wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook saying they were nearly dead — but their Apple Watch calls 911. was saved.

“Dear Apple: My dad was flying our little plane to Vermont. I was sleeping in the back seat. I woke up as we hit the top of the trees. The plane broke into six pieces and we were miles from civilization.” It was freezing cold. Then, all of a sudden, my Apple Watch started ringing,” said a character named Hannah.

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Other characters in the short video told stories of falling into a frozen stream, getting trapped inside a garbage compactor, and witnessing a cardiac episode in a restaurant.

Saving lives in emergency situations was a major theme at Apple’s launch this year, and several notable new features announced by the company were oriented toward safety.

The most important new iPhone capability this year is called “Emergency SOS via Satellite,” which can send a message for help even when there’s no cell service for miles. Users can also share their location with family or friends in Find My app.

Apple’s example of how the feature works is calling for a hiker to helicopter with a broken leg to the top of a mountain ridge. Later, Apple cited winding back roads as another place where iPhone users could be out of bounds.

But this feature can be useful in an outdoor wilderness setting. Wildfires, hurricanes and other disasters can cut cell service, and having the ability to contact emergency services or let your family know that you can really be a life saver in those situations.

Another example: Apple’s $799 or more watch, the Ultra, has an 86-decibel siren that can be heard 600 feet away, and compass features that allow the user to retrace their steps without the Internet.

Like the Satellite feature, Apple advertised it as a helpful tool for backcountry adventurers, but it can also be useful in more mundane settings. Imagine sounding an alarm as a deterrent to an attacker, or using the retracing feature to get back to your car after a disaster in your community has disrupted cell service.

Apple also announced this week that iPhones and Apple Watches, using motion sensors, can now call 911 if they learn that a car accident has occurred.

“We really hope you never need it, but you’ll feel a little safer every time you get in the car,” said one Apple presenter, after crashing into a driver’s air bag in slow motion. Moments before showing the images of being hit by .

Apple’s launch events are designed to do one thing: increase demand for new Apple products. The company now wants to make the iPhone even more “essential” for its users through security features, giving users a reason not to switch to competing Android devices.

Will these features meaningfully increase iPhone adoption and sales? It turns out, Apple has considered the possibility, at least in the past.

In a disclosure with the ESG Group CDP published in January 2019Apple representatives wrote about the potential business opportunities posed by climate change, citing a previous version of the “SOS” feature as an example of Apple’s work to build facilities for emergency situations.

Apple representatives wrote, “As severe weather events occur more frequently, consumers may place greater importance on the immediate and ubiquitous availability of reliable mobile computing devices to be used in situations where transportation, electricity and other services are temporarily available. may be interrupted.”

Apple cited the 9/11 disaster and “extreme weather events” such as Hurricanes Katrina, Sandy and Harvey that are occurring more frequently.

“Over time, as people begin to experience severe weather events with greater frequency, we expect an increased need for confidence and preparedness in the areas of personal safety and the well-being of loved ones,” Apple said in the disclosure. wrote.

Apple isn’t the only consumer electronics company developing security features for its devices. But Apple’s devices also have a strong lineup of health features, such as fall detection and heart monitoring for seniors, which underpin its overall safety pitch.

“The iPhone is there when you need it most,” said one presenter at the launch event. “This trust is especially important in those moments when your safety is at risk.”

We may be seeing the start of a new messaging strategy at Apple: Its devices are just what you want when things go wrong.

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