Apple Unveils Smartwatch With a Focus on Fitness

Over the past decade, September has been the month when Apple revealed its latest iPhone. The company served up swaggering advances in technology, year after year, that propelled its business as Apple became the world’s most valuable company.

But as the marquee device has grown older and its improvements have gotten more incremental, the tech giant has shifted its focus to younger products with more runway for innovation: the Apple Watch and AirPods.

Apple on Wednesday unveiled a fitness-focused version of its wearable computer, the Apple Watch Ultra. Aimed at triathletes, distance runners, scuba divers and backcountry enthusiasts, the rugged $800 model features a larger screen and improved durability. It also has an “action” button to make it easier to use while wearing gloves, bigger speakers for calls in windy conditions and a larger battery with a 36-hour life span on a charge.

New features for Apple’s wireless earbuds, the AirPods Pro, include the ability to change the volume with the swipe of a finger.

While the iPhone still accounts for more than half of Apple’s sales, the smartwatches and AirPods, which require an iPhone to work optimally, have helped the company build a fortress around its most important device, deepening customer loyalty.

“The more products you have from Apple, the more impossible it becomes to leave Apple for another player,” said Francisco Jeronimo, vice president of device research at IDC, a market research firm. “Your entire life becomes part of a single ecosystem.”

Apple has used the iPhone, which has more than 1 billion users, to enter new markets and conquer unrelated businesses. It has helped Apple disrupt the finance industry with its own credit card, the watchmaking profession with its own timepiece and the audio industry with its wireless headphones.

The Apple Watch Ultra is the latest example of how the company can extend its tentacles. It thrusts Apple into a corner of the smartwatch market dominated by Garmin, which does about $2.6 billion in sales to endurance-sports competitors, according to IDC. With Apple’s brand recognition and the iPhone’s popularity, it should be able to cut into that share, Jeronimo said. It already claims nearly 51% of the smartwatch market, more than double its closest competitor, Samsung.

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