This is part 1 of a series of posts on the Apple Watch.
Although it won’t be available for purchase for months, Apple just announced the new standard in smart watches and wearable computers. It’s as far ahead of the status quo as the iPhone was from the “smart” phone pack on its introduction back in 2007. But as it stands, the Apple Watch doesn’t transform the market: Although it will undoubtedly capture most of the smart watch market, this isn’t yet a transformative product for modern society like the iPhone or iPad.
Walk down any street and you’ll see people so absorbed in their smartphones they’re practically tripping over the curb. It’s the same in any school or concert. Board a plane and so many people are staring at a tablet that United recently decided to rip out the in-seat entertainment screens. And seemingly everyone at a coffee shop or business meeting has a tablet in front of them.
This is transformative success: The iPhone and iPad are so compelling they have changed society and human interaction, with sales success that bursts beyond traditional demographic limits. Apple’s devices, and similar ones from Samsung and many others, aren’t toys for the wealthy or the geeky. Smartphones and tablets are an everyday part of life for most people in the developed world.
A product can be a market success without being transformative. Apple’s TV is very successful, as are the Pebble smart watch and Sonos speakers, but none have entered mainstream consciousness. There are enthusiasts, sure, but they could disappear from the market without mainstream notice. TiVo is an interesting counter-example, symbolizing the transformation of TV viewing but never really being much of a mass-market success.
The iPhone changed the definition of “phone” so radically, it’s hard for young to recognize prior devices. It isn’t used the same way, either. Rather than calling and texting, with a bit of email thrown in, the iPhone is the app platform for a new generation. Even Apple didn’t intend for this to happen, resistant as they were to third-party applications. But there it is.
Introducing Apple Watch
Apple’s new Watch is miles ahead of the immediate competition. It’s made of extremely high-quality materials, from the bands and bracelets to the steel or gold case to the sapphire crystal. In fact, it’s hard to imagine such a high-quality physical object selling for so little – compared to $350 watches, the Apple Watch is in another league.
But the Apple Watch isn’t a watch, really. It’s a smart watch, which is something entirely different. Here again, Apple is way ahead. Apple’s software seemingly does everything, from timekeeping (duh!) to communication to health monitoring to mobile payments. In this way, it rips a page from the iPhone’s playbook, replacing a whole Radio Shack of gadgets!
Other smart watches have many functions, too. But none has this many, and none combines that with ridiculously-good materials and the (expected) Apple level of polish. Simply put, Apple’s Watch outclasses every other smart watch ever made.
But who wants a smart watch? Geeks, sure, and Apple loyalists. I’ll likely buy one as a toy. But this won’t do. Apple needs the Watch to be a real success; a transformative success. And I just don’t see it in the product they showed.
Mind you, the current Apple Watch doesn’t necessarily need to be a transformative success immediately. The first iPhone and iPad fell pretty short of the mark, but they had promise. Critically, they sold well enough for Apple to pour resources into evolving and improving them, both in terms of hardware and software. Apple needs some time to do the same for their Watch.
In my next article in this series, I’ll take a critical look at the current Apple Watch.
iPad image credit: Brad Flickinger; TiVo image credit: Jamie McCaffrey
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