The Product We Didn’t See at the 2021 September Apple Keynote
Before we get into it, I think it’s worth going over what was released at the September event for Apple because if you didn’t hear, we got new iPhones.
Here is what we did get: a new lineup of iPhones (shown in all its glory above), Apple Watch Series 7, a completely revamped iPad Mini and very affordable entry level iPad. While the iPhones admittedly did not have any momentous changes, they are still terrific and a worthwhile purchase for anyone with an older model. Both iPads get my stamp of approval as the Mini enjoys numerous upgrades to its hardware and software and the entry level iPad just cannot be beat for the money. Lastly, the new Apple Watch was the big miss of the day as there were no added health benefits and only received a few cosmetic changes to its screen.
The Apple Watch Series 7 was indeed the product we did not see, or at least what all the rumors were indicating which was a more aesthetic and health-tech packed device that could actually make it worth upgrading from the Series 6. This item missed what everyone was expecting by so much that I figured I’d say we almost did not even get a new Apple Watch from this year’s event.
The rumors themselves described a device that would have certainly made it worth an upgrade from the Series 6 and would have included a hardware refresh as well as more health monitoring technology. Aesthetically, the new watch was rumored to ditch its rounded edges and bubble looking watch face for a more square, flat edge device. From a health perspective, there were a lot more, less credible, leaks that surfaced about its medical capabilities. These included a blood pressure sensor, a thermometer for fertility and sleep tracking, sleep apnea detection, and diabetes detection.
Although we did not realistically expect to receive all these functions in one generation leap from the Series 6 to the Series 7, some of them (at least sleep tracking) would have made this a very compelling wearable. This loaded product would have undoubtedly been cool, but I am predicting we receive little to none of these health features, or at least them in any medically useful capacity, in future Apple Watches. If you’re into fitness or a general fan of wearables this is probably disappointing but let me explain.
For Apple to provide any actionable health data via its watch for users or especially physicians, their product would then cross lines into medical device territory. This would be a big problem for Apple. If this were to occur then the Apple Watch would be treated like any other pharmaceutical and would need to go through clinical trials, get FDA approval, etc. For obvious reasons Apple does not want this, and they are certainly aware of this distinction between a consumer product and medical device.
This then results in a device that walks the line between giving you work out data, maybe some health information such as pulse oximeter, and eventually sleep tracking if they can solve the battery problem. All of these metrics will exclusively be considered “nice to have” and certainly not “need to have” since Apple does not have any interest in producing medical devices.
Now I could be totally wrong, for what it’s worth Tim Cook did claim that Apple’s biggest contribution to mankind would be healthcare. This is a serious statement considering Apple’s dominance in smartphones, earbuds, computers, and its App Store, but I think it is unlikely they’ll go to the extent of releasing an approved medical device.
Overall, you should not expect much in terms of explicit health benefits coming from future Apple Watches, but given the feedback from the Series 7 release I think a flat edge design could be coming next year. This aesthetic update alone might warrant an upgrade recommendation from me, but until then stick with what you have since older watches are still benefitting from software updates and Apple Fitness Plus additions.