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Pandemic-proof Apple to kick off lineup for critical holiday season

(Reuters) - Apple Inc rolled out a new virtual fitness service and a bundle of all its subscriptions, Apple One, focusing a holiday-season product launch on services that are the backbone of Apple’s growth strategy and cater to customers working at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during a special event at the company's headquarters of Apple Park in a still image from video taken in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 15, 2020. Apple Inc/Handout via REUTERS. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.


Apple also introduced a new Apple Watch Series 6 that monitors blood oxygen and will cost $399, and a lower-cost Apple Watch SE for $279.

The Apple One bundle will cost $15 per month for an individual plan or $20 per month for a family plan and include television, music and games. Apple is also offering a bundle for $30 per month that adds news, the fitness service and more storage.


Apple said both new watches can be pre-ordered starting Tuesday and will be available on Friday. Apple also introduced the Apple Fitness+ service, powered by its watches, that will deliver virtual workouts for $10 per month or $80 per year and be available before the end of the year.


Shares of exercise stationary bike maker Peloton Interactive Inc, which also has a subscription service, were up about 3.6% after Apple’s announcement.


Apple said that most of its workouts were designed to be conducted with either no equipment or minimal gear such as a set of dumbbells, whereas Peloton’s workouts typically require either a bike or a treadmill.


The ability of the Apple Watch to monitor blood oxygen seeks to match a similar feature already available on watches from rival Fitbit Inc, which Alphabet Inc’s Google is buying for $2.1 billion.


Apple added a faster chip to its base model iPad, which it priced at $329 for consumers and $299 for education customers. Apple’s new iPad Air will cost $599 and look more like its iPad Pro models and a new A14 processor chip that Apple says will be the first to use a 5-nanometer chip manufacturing process.

Apple’s biggest seller - the iPhone - is expected to be announced next month after executives have said its launch will be delayed by several weeks because of pandemic-related disruptions.

Apple shares have soared this year even as the virus has crippled economies around the world, thanks in large part to booming sales of work-from-home items.


Apple shares gave up gains to trade flat on Tuesday after climbing more than 50% for the year, well ahead of the 23% gain for the Nasdaq. Even though Apple stock has fallen from a record high earlier this month, it remains near its $2 trillion stock market valuation.


How the new products sell during the holiday shopping season in many markets will largely define how well Apple performs for its entire fiscal year, which started this month.


Apple said the Series 6 watch’s ability to monitor blood oxygen using infrared light should be used for fitness and wellness purposes. Apple said flu investigators in Washington state will study heart rate and blood oxygen data from Apple Watch for potential early signs of respiratory conditions like influenza and COVID-19.

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