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CUPERTINO, California, Sept 15, 2018 (News Wires) - Apple is trying to turn its smartwatch from a niche gadget into a lifeline to better health by slowly evolving it into a medical device.

In its fourth incarnation, called the Series 4 and due out later this month, the Apple Watch will add features that allow it to take high-quality heart readings and detect falls. It’s part of Apple’s long-in-the-making strategy to give people a distinct reason to buy a wrist gadget that largely does things smartphones already do.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has long aimed to emphasize the health- and fitness-tracking abilities of the smartwatch. The original version featured a heart-rate sensor that fed data into fitness and workout apps so they could suggest new goals and offer digital “rewards” for fitness accomplishments.

The latest Apple Watch version unveiled Wednesday is pushing the health envelope even further – in particular by taking electrocardiograms, or EKGs, on the device, a feature given clearance by the US Food and Drug Administration, Apple said. The watch will also watch for irregular heartbeats and can detect when the wearer has fallen, the company said.

EKGs are important tests of heart health that typically require a doctor visit. The feature gained an onstage endorsement from Ivor Benjamin, a cardiologist who heads the American Heart Association, who said such real-time data would change the way doctors work.

“This is enormous,” Gartner analyst Tuong Nguyen said of the Apple Watch’s EKG feature. It could turn smartwatches “from something people buy for prestige into something they buy for more practical reasons,” he said. It could also lead some health insurance plans to subsidize the cost of an Apple Watch, Nguyen said.

That would help defray the $400 starting price for a device that still requires a companion iPhone that can now cost more than $1,000.

The watch will use new sensors on the back and on the watch dial. A new app will say whether each reading is normal or shows signs of atrial fibrillation – an irregular heart rate that increases the risk of heart complications, such as stroke and heart failure. Apple says the heart data can be shared with doctors through a PDF file.

 

CUPERTINO, Sept 14, 2018 (News Wires) - Whenever the new iPhones launch, the inevitable question is: are they worth it? Here’s my quick impressions after a short time with the phones as well as the Apple Watch series 4.

Super-sized iPhone X, anyone?

Apple got into the larger phone craze a little late, but bigger models such as the iPhone Plus models have proven steady sellers, not just for the larger display but the impressive battery life.

Now that the top-of-the-line iPhone X range has a super-sized option, will fans switch over? From enthused Internet reactions, I would say yes.

The previous Plus models have had impressive battery life and the XS Max promises at least one and a half hours more battery life than the standard XS.

The previous gen phones (iPhone 7 and 8) are still available for cheaper but for those who have held off upgrading for years, the iPhone X range might be the better bet.

Why? These phones are the direction Apple is heading. Touch gestures, no more home button and of course, Face ID.

To be truthful, I can’t really tell at first glance how much better the updated display is on the iPhone XS and XS Max — but let’s just say they remain as impressive as the iPhone X.

Build-wise, the phones still have that solid heft that comes from metal and glass while not being too bulky. Apple has also upped the sturdiness — these phones are less easy to damage but glass being glass, get a phone case and screen protector. Please.

The sound has improved a lot in iPhones over the last few generations, from the 7 models upwards. But Apple has made further improvements with stereo wide sound to the point you will likely never need one of those tiny Bluetooth speakers to amplify sound.

What will really sell the phone for many people is the camera. With a 12MP telephoto as well as 12MP wide-angle lens combo, Apple promises even better photos as well as the ability to adjust depth-of-field for that pleasing blurred background Instagrammers love so much.

If you want the best iPhones money can buy, these are of course the ones to get. But are they worth the hefty price tag? It depends on how you look at it.

Apple iPhones have a far longer software support cycle — you could, at the very least, keep your phone around for three years. Five-year-old iPhones aren’t unheard of either.

Android support cycles tend not to go beyond two years — paying more for an iPhone is really not just paying for premium materials and 5-year-long software support. It also means being able to buy accessories and get it repaired almost anywhere in the world.

Already on an iPhone X? You can hold onto your device as the improvements are still more incremental than that big a leap, unless you really want a bigger iPhone X.

The iPhone XR is the cheaper, but not cheap alternative to the iPhone XS. Camera-wise it has the same 12MP wide-angle sensor, minus the second 12MP telephoto lens on the XS models.

What the iPhone XS also has is more choices colour-wise. Why on the iPhone XR and not the iPhone XS? The simpler reason is that the space-grade aluminium on the iPhone XR is cheaper to mass produce in different colours than the iPhone XS expensive metal and glass chassis.

The phone has a slightly thicker bezel than the sleek one you get on the XS pair but the Liquid Retina display is still very impressive. You get the Touch ID features, speedy new processor, a very good camera — all without paying the extra US$200 (RM827) for the iPhone XS.

And like its pricier siblings, the XR will have the same software support and access to Apple’s huge ecosystem.

Apple Watch gets a redesign

While some clamour for a more traditional, circular watch design for the Apple Watch, I think the square design makes sense. It’s easier to display text, for one and I find it a pleasant display for photos.

The new watches get a new larger display and putting the old and new watches side by side, you can see that the new watches aren’t at all bulky despite the bigger displays.

You get more screen size as well as zippier performance — I found that scrolling through apps was discernibly smoother than the previous gen.

Despite the more powerful processor, Apple promises that battery life for the new watch will not be compromised. Faster, yes, but less battery life? No.

For previous Apple Watch users, you can still use your older bands though some of the newer ones are worth looking at if you think your band selection needs a refresh.

Only sad thing is that the cellular watch is taking its time coming to Malaysian shores thanks to Malaysia’s telcos being slow to offer eSIMs, unlike neighbouring Singapore’s Singtel.

I’d say it’s worth the upgrade to get the new watch if you’re still on the original or second series. Series 3, however, is still very good value, with the only thing you need to live without being the new heart sensors as well as the fall detection feature. The fall detection might make an Apple Watch series 4 a great gift for your gran and other elderly relatives.

To buy or not to buy?

The good (or bad, depending on how you see it) news is the devices will probably take at least a month to arrive on Malaysian shores so you can have a good mull over whether they’re worth it.

iPhone X users can skip the upgrade but if you’re on a 6 or older, it might be time to look at the cheaper 8 models or maybe the iPhone XR.