Steve Jobs famously got John Sculley to quit his job at Pepsi and become Apple’s CEO by asking him if he wanted to keep selling sugar water or if he wanted to change the world.
Apple is undoubtedly a company committed to changing the world through its products, and that’s a spirit instilled into Apple’s corporate culture by Jobs himself. But it’s a double-edged sword: sugar water sales are comfortably profitable and not particularly controversial. Changing the world, while potentially quite profitable, can be a lot more complicated.
At least that’s what I thought when I saw the child locked in the hut with the bear.
Apple’s product marketing isn’t always subtle, but the company has been careful when talking about how Apple devices can save your life. Until the Apple Watch came along, all stories of Apple devices involved in dramatic moments were more pedestrian: Does it matter if the phone you called 911 on was an iPhone?
But the Apple Watch, with its array of health sensors, changed the story. There are many stories of Apple Watch alerts warning them early about potentially deadly medical complications. The Dear Apple video in 2017 featured not only heartwarming stories about formerly skinny nerds getting up at 5 a.m. to work out and close their rings, but also about people in car accidents and facing death from multiple injuries. organ failure.
On the one hand, having a product that saves lives is a marketer’s dream. But it’s also a challenge because you don’t want to make claims you can’t substantiate. Just because some people’s lives were affected doesn’t equate to a guarantee. And, of course, bringing up the specter of an early death isn’t the kind of feel-good message Apple is used to.
That 2017 “Dear Apple” video and the “Dear Tim” video Apple showed on Wednesday, in which the child was terrorized by a bear (along with a man trapped in a garbage truck and a girl involved in a plane crash!) , are smart because it’s not Apple making claims. It’s Apple letting people tell their story, which just happens to mean that the Apple Watch saves their lives.
Looks like something bad has happened
A few months ago, I tripped over a curb while running with my Apple Watch and bruised my ribs. I was able to walk home and drive myself to the emergency room, where I was prescribed Advil and Tylenol and ice. But as I sat there on the sidewalk, my Apple Watch vibrated angrily, thanks to Apple’s fall detection feature.
This is not my own personal “Dear Tim” letter. I tapped the button that said “I fell but I’m fine,” then called my wife and told her I was going to the hospital. But I had a moment when I realized that if I had been knocked unconscious, my watch would have called her and emergency services too, and it made me all the more happy wearing it.
I can’t tell you how many of my friends who deal with elderly parents with mobility issues have bought Apple Watches for those parents. After my mom broke her arm tripping over a curb – hey, it runs in the family – we bought her one. If she never uses any other feature of her Apple Watch, it’s worth it for the peace of mind.
Apple’s latest feature (on both Apple Watch and iPhone) is called Crash Detection. It’s clearly intended to take what Apple learned from building Fall Detection and extend it to an even wider audience. Apple has invested in new sensors for both devices that can better detect if you’ve been in a car accident.
Again, I understand how this can make people uncomfortable. After all, it suggests that you have to spend the money on an iPhone or Apple Watch… otherwise you risk tragic consequences. But then again, if Apple is here to change the world, isn’t it one way it can make an impact by turning its popular pocket supercomputers into personal emergency beacons for car accidents?
And of course the people saved by the feature will write letters about it to Tim Cook (in addition to reporting it on their local news), and next year there will be another “Dear Tim” video… the cycle continues .
Lifesaving as a service
Perhaps the most interesting wrinkle is Apple’s introduction of Emergency SOS via satellite. Like crash detection and all Apple Watch alerts, this is a new feature that can really save lives. If something bad happens and you’re not near cellular reception, your iPhone 14 can send a help message via satellite connection.
Again, this is one of those features that will ultimately save lives. Perhaps it will not be an adventurer in the backcountry (because they will probably have a special satellite communication device). Instead, it will be a dad taking his kids to Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving, only to take a wrong turn during a snowstorm and end up stranded on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere.
But Emergency SOS via satellite isn’t just a feature made possible by Apple-built sensors. It is a maintenanceone where Apple has to pay a satellite company called GlobalStar, including paying for some new GlobalStar satellites to meet demand.
On Wednesday, Apple announced that Emergency SOS via Satellite will be available for free for two years with the purchase of an iPhone language that puts the feature firmly in the category of Services. Again, I think Apple made the right marketing decision in rolling this out. (By comparison, Garmin’s plans start at $15 per month for a similar feature with their dedicated satellite communications hardware.)
By including two years of the feature with the purchase of a device, Apple avoided the conversation that would arise if Apple introduced a life-saving feature… and immediately asked for your credit card for a monthly or annual recurring fee. The last thing the company needs is to be accused of buying security from iPhone buyers in order to increase its revenue from services.
What will happen in two years’ time? I’d imagine if you have a two-year-old iPhone 14 that you want to keep, you’ll have to pay (or maybe be part of iCloud+ or Apple One) to use that feature. But it doesn’t seem so scary to ask for payment after two years.
Moreover, two years is long. Who knows how many people will write to Tim Cook about how their Apple devices saved their lives by then? You might even be one of them.