In recent years, Apple presentations have begun to introduce a new type of message: you could be without the Apple Watch crushed by a bear, drown inside a sinking car, getting stuck in a garbage compactor or even succumbing to hypothermia after falling through an icy lake.
These disasters have always been averted by the presence of the Apple Watch. But this year, Apple’s messaging began to change again: it’s not just the Apple Watch that can save you from possible death, but the iPhone as well.
At the Apple iPhone 15 showcase, the company opened by advertising which combined the life-saving potential of both Apple Watches and iPhone. The video showed people celebrating their birthdays with friends and family, blowing out candles and of course getting “happy birthday” wishes on their iPhones.
As the ad introduced its main players, captions disappeared at the bottom of the screen, such as: “Apple Watch alerted her to a low heart rate. I went to the hospital and had surgery for a life-saving pacemaker.” Another described a person who used the iPhone’s emergency SOS feature to be rescued when she was trapped in a blizzard, while another said a pregnant woman was taken to the hospital for an emergency delivery after her Apple Watch detected a high heart rate.
Ads aren’t all bad: they are dozens real life news about people they are saved by their iPhone or watch. After introducing Emergency SOS to its Apple Watch in 2016, the company added fall detection, an electrocardiogram and even a blood oxygen sensor. Last year, Apple introduced a new Crash Detection feature for the Apple Watch and iPhone 14 that will automatically alert emergency services when it detects you’ve been in a car accident (or just been on a wild roller coaster ride). And last year, Apple added a feature to iPhones that allows users to contact emergency services via satellite in the event that a cellular connection is not available.
Fitness tracking and connectivity on your wrist no longer help the Apple Watch stand out from the competition
These are undeniably cool features, but there’s a reason Apple’s approach to their advertising tends to make us uneasy: they’re selling us a product that exploits our own mortality concerns — buy an Apple device or risk your life. These are ads that reflect fear rather than hope, and are in stark contrast to the ads Apple has been putting out for its devices. Watch ad two years ago shows people happily using their Apple Watch to improve their fitness; early viewing advertising shows people using the device connect with loved ones.
There may be a reason for this shift. Features like fitness tracking and connectivity on your wrist no longer help the Apple Watch stand out from the competition.
Competitors like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6 and Google’s Pixel Watch have caught up to the Apple Watch in terms of health-monitoring sensors, but still haven’t added Crash Detection. The same goes for the iPhone. Apple may have just added USB-C and periscope cameras, but Android phones still don’t have satellite connectivity (though it probably will soon). Not only that, but the addition of new safety features, including satellite connectivity, Roadside Assistance and Crash Detection, help differentiate Apple’s newer devices from older ones, giving users a potentially good reason to upgrade.
On Tuesday, Apple revealed another reason why we might want to keep our Apple devices with us: the help desk. The service, which is compatible with iPhone 14 and later, lets you contact AAA via satellite in case your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. While Apple isn’t envisioning any catastrophic scenario in which you might need to use Roadside Assistance, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in an ad sometime soon.
These security features have the potential to make money for Apple as well. Apple’s services sector achieved record revenue last quarter thanks to more than 1 billion paid subscribers to Apple Music, TV Plus, iCloud Plus and its bundled Apple One service. This list of services will soon include Apple’s satellite connectivity and Roadside Assistance features, as the company’s satellite service is only available for free to iPhone 14 users for two years and offers the same promotion for Roadside Assistance on the iPhone 15.
We still don’t know how much Apple will make users pay after the trial period ends next year for iPhone 14 users. However, Apple seems confident that once it has a customer, it won’t put these devices away. “They’re always with us,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said when talking about the watch and the iPhone. “And if you left one at home, I bet you’ll come back and get it. When your life depends on it, who wouldn’t?