Apple’s latest Watch update promises to make this version even more of a must have for health.

Apple provided a look at the updates for the Watch and iPad during an event earlier this month. Of course the normally packed Steve Jobs Theater was a memory as the event was virtual — something we may appreciate for the inclusivity and one of the things that should be considered long term to connect people and events — because of the coronavirus pandemic. Not hearing the audible gasps, audience applause and other crowd reactions during a typical Apple event is a reminder, if we ever need one these days, that we are living through strange times.

Tim Cook, Apple CEO, noted these difficult times with a reminder it won’t always be this way and we are looking forward to that future. In the present, technology has been key in keeping people connected through the pandemic.

“Here at Apple we feel a deep responsibility to keep innovating to continue to keep making products that enrich people’s lives in meaningful ways,” Cook said.

And those times are not lost on this latest Apple update. The iOS7 update adds health features including a sleep app and automatic handwashing detection to encourage people to wash their hands for the recommended 20 seconds (no more counting or singing needed to keep track). The number countdown proceeds with soapy bubbles all around. In addition, Watch iOS7 can do an even better job on heart health.

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Apple Watch Series 6 has the ability to monitor blood oxygen from your wrist. The health sensor against the skin uses red and infrared light on the wrist and measures the light reflected back and uses advanced algorithms to calculate the color of blood and thus the amount of oxygen.

The watch can also record background measures while you sleep. The Apple Watch already can measure heart rate and heart rhythm.

Series 6 is described as 20% faster and brighter to allow for better reading outside in bright sun. It will also track elevation changes in real time for hikers and measure their blood oxygen level as they go.

The watch comes in more colors as well, including a blue and red, with additional bands.

My brother convinced me not to get the first Apple Watch and wait for the second version, taking the stance of letting them work out any kinks before buying. It worked out. But after having the first one, it is really hard to imagine a more useful and used tool that has become so much a part of my connected day from keeping up on messages, tracking standing and movement throughout the day, tracking and encouraging exercise, providing updates on weather, news, even making or receiving phone calls.

Apple Watch can send users an alert when the noise is loud enough to be harmful to hearing. It sends alerts if your heart rate is too low or too high. It can automatically call 911 if you’ve taken a hard fall.

All from a tiny device on the wrist with watch faces that can be changed by the mood or desired information.

The watch face may not seem to be a major point, but the ability to change, animate, and determine just what the watch face shows creates the ability to basically wear countless options in one watch. Whether that’s Mickey Mouse, a face that follows the sun across the sky, one that displays time zones across the country, or tracks exercise rings to encourage activity, the faces can change to match mood or event. There are watch faces for photographers or surfers.

This year, the watch band also has a new offering in a single silicone loop, or as Apple calls it a solo loop, that a user can slip on and off and a braided solo loop made from recycled yarn.

The new watches are now available.

Fitness service

Apple is also challenging other fitness providers like Peloton and others with a fitness service tied to the watch.

In Apple’s rollout, it says Apple Fitness+ powered by Apple Watch is as easy as four words — “Workout, trainer, time, music.” When a workout video is started on the screen, be that via Apple TV or an iPad, the fitness information from the watch on your wrist is displayed on the screen. Metrics on distance, pace, heart rate are all captured among other measurements. Those purchasing a new watch will get Fitness+ free for three months.

Workouts can be done with any brand of equipment and in any location. Trainers from the Fitness+ studio will provide fresh workouts each week. Apple Music subscribers can save the workout playlists. There are programs to get people who haven’t been active started and those designed to help those on a fitness quest stay motivated. There are 10 different workout types.

Family setup frees Apple Watch

One of the more exciting options allows the watch to be a useful tool without the wearer needing an iPhone for pairing. The new family setup provides safety and communication options through Apple Watch for a family member — child or older adult. So an iPhone user can use this as an option for their children. They can set up who the child can communicate with and a location notification. Wondering if your child made it to the practice field, a location notification will provide that info. For kids, the school time mode has a “do not disturb” time and restricts interaction. But it also allows them to create their own memoji or animated face. Apple reports this family setup, which needs an Apple Watch with a cellular option — which means the watch will do messages and phone calls independently of an iPhone — in Series 4 or later, is a way for family users who don’t have an iPhone to get the benefits of the Apple Watch.

For iPhone users, the Apple Watch with its fall detection and an ability for users to reach out to emergency services if needed right on their wrist, the family setup may be attractive for multiple ends of the age spectrum from aging parents to family members who want to track fitness but don’t want a smartphone.

Pricing

Apple Watch SE is designed by Apple to make the watch more affordable to more people. It starts at $279 and can be financed at $12 per month. Apple Watch Series 6 is $399 and Series 3 is $199.

One plan

Apple is also bundling services in a single plan. For an individual, 50 GB of iCloud storage, AppleTV+ streaming contents and Apple Music and Apple Arcade games can be bundled for $14.95 per month, for a family of five that’s $19.95 with 200 GB of iCloud, and for a premier account, including the new Fitness+ and Apple News+ and 2 terabytes of iCloud storage its $29.95. Apple One is available this fall with 30 days free and the ability for people to try any services they don’t have.

Environment

In other announcements at the event, Apple reported a commitment to be 100% carbon neutral by 2030. So this year, the USB power adapter will be removed from Apple Watch packages. Apple stated households often already have many of the adapters. Removing additional unneeded ones, along with helping business partners transition to renewable energy, will be the equivalent of removing 50,000 cars from roads per year, Apple reported.

iPad

Cook said the company has sold more than 500 million iPads across the globe. More than half, at 53%, of customers are buying their first iPad, Cook reported. There are more than a million iPad apps. Apple shipped its first iPad 10 years ago.

“In that time, it has become one of the most successful consumer electronics products ever,” Cook said during the event. “Users love their iPads. … This is a big year for iPad.”

In iPad 8, Apple reports a 40% faster computer processing unit and faster graphics for content and gaming. The new iPad also works with Apple Pencil for everyone from professional artists to hobbyists or people who enjoy journaling. Handwritten text can be turned into typed text, shape recognition turns hand-drawn graphics into precise lines when desired. Cost starts at $329 and $299 for education. The company is also redesigning iPad Air with an improved display and in new colors. Of note for iPad users, and something previously announced, is the iPad stand with keyboard and trackpad.

Apple continues to deliver products that are easy to use, useful and fun. For those who have considered an Apple Watch as option to both stay connected and work on their health goals, now is a time to take another look.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.