Apple Inc unveiled a new watch, two larger iPhones and a mobile payments service on Tuesday as Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook seeks to revive the company’s reputation as a wellspring of innovation.
The first new product to be developed and introduced under Cook’s reign is a wearable device tethered to the iPhone that will combine health and fitness tracking with communications.
Rival watch and wearable device makers are keeping a wary eye on Apple, which up-ended the music industry and drove once-dominant phone makers like Blackberry to the brink of extinction, and whose iPad helped shrink personal computer sales for a time before they recently recovered.
It has an enviable track record when it comes to mobile hardware, though it tends not to be the first to introduce a new-fangled product category. Rival electronics giants such as Sony Corp, Samsung, LG Electronics Inc and Qualcomm Inc have already launched smartwatches, albeit without much success.
The “Apple Watch” will come in three distinct collections, including a sport edition and an upscale line coated in 18-karat gold.
“Compared to what’s out there, it feels like it’s very slender. I like the level of elegance and the three different lines, which include sport and luxury,” said Angela Tafoya, at fashion blog Refinery29.
Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi estimated on Tuesday that if Apple were to sell 30 million watches at $250 each, it would add about $7.5 billion to its revenue.
The pressure was on for the world’s largest tech company to wow at its “special event” in Cupertino. The prospect of the new watch attracted a broader swathe of attendees than usual, with celebrities, fashion industry editors and even healthcare executives rounding out the mostly tech-industry crowd.
On Tuesday, the company also took the wraps off a larger, 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. They will support more than 200 telecoms carriers worldwide, including all three in China – a key growth market for the company.
It also introduced a new mobile payments service dubbed “Apple Pay.” Each phone will come equipped with its new payments service, which launches in the United States next month and allows users to pay for items in stores with their phones instead of physically presenting their credit or debit cards.
The move gives Apple access to a trove of data on how consumers shop in brick and mortar stores, where more than 90 percent of U.S. retail sales are still conducted.
Barclays Capital said in a Sept. 5 note that the mobile payments feature would give Apple “one of the largest sets of consumer transaction data in the U.S.”
Each new iPhone will come with a “secure element” chip and a near-field communications, or NFC, antenna.
In a rare move for the company, Apple had planned on livecasting its event online, with a simultaneous translation in Chinese. But the livestream went down for many users about a half-hour in, prompting many to take to Twitter to express their frustrations.