As you probably know, Apple is planning to unveil its Apple Watch to the world this coming Monday, March 9. This will be the final version that will ship in April. Via the Wall Street Journal, at an event earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “… one of the biggest surprises people are going to have when they start using it is the breadth of what it will do.”
The Breadth of What The Apple Watch Can Do? Or What It Can’t Do?
However, there have been several developments since that statement that seem to indicate that the Apple Watch is underwhelming tech experts and the public at large, thus hinting that the public may not be so amazed at what it can do, but MORE AMAZED at what it CAN’T do.
1. Apple Watch will not have advanced tracking of health signs (via PCMag article), including ability to measure blood pressure, heart activity, or stress levels.
2. Apple Watch apps will be extremely limited, especially in the early going, because Apple wants a successful launch and wants to preserve battery life of the device (via Business Insider article).
3. Speaking of battery life, even with the limited apps and their capabilities, the battery life of the Apple Watch may only provide up to 3.5 hours of app usage between charges, and just 2.5 hours if you are constantly checking sports scores, stock quotes, or social media accounts (via PCMag article).
All of those limitations, and the starting price for the Apple Watch will reportedly be $349?! Why am I not surprised that most are less than impressed or are concerned about the longevity of the Apple Watch?
Here’s what the Apple Watch will reportedly be able to do when it’s released in April:
1. Provides quick, easy-to-read notifications from your iPhone.
2. Enables you to make mcommerce purchases right from your Apple Watch.
3. Tracks your daily activity (such as how many steps you take, but as mentioned, no advanced health metrics, including blood pressure).
Who Is The Apple Watch For?
Most Apple experts and tech insiders are even confused over what market Apple is going after and what problem it will solve with the Apple Watch (via this Business Insider article).
This is probably why there was great debate within Apple itself to even create and release a smartwatch, as it does not seem everyone is in agreement with CEO Tim Cook, Head of Design Jony Ive, and Apple executive Bob Mansfield on the success and longevity of the Apple Watch.
As that last Business Insider article mentioned, this is an important product launch for Apple due to the fact that it’s the first new product line for Apple since the iPad five years ago, as well as the first new product line since the death of co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs.
Thus, it makes sense for Apple to proceed cautiously in terms of what the Apple Watch can do right off the bat. However, the fact that Cook mentioned that “people will be amazed by the breadth of what it can do” seems to be at odds with that cautious approach, being that it implies that the Apple Watch will impress in terms of its features. That is especially true when you consider that other smartwatches have those advanced health tracking capabilities the Apple Watch will lack at a much smaller price point.
This is all the more reason why I really think Apple should have held back the launch of the Apple Watch. Of course, that’s likely not going to happen, being that the event is just four days away, but it will be amazing if the Apple Watch can really be the hit it is expected to be at this stage.
Let’s look at why the Apple Watch COULD be a hit at this point:
1. Apple made what I consider a smart marketing move (but with a caveat I mention below) to have it appear in Vogue in an effort to have it appeal to affluents (via this Recode article). This was after it appeared on two notable models, Liu Wen and Candace Swanepoel, in both Vogue China and Self Magazine, respectively.
2. It is the first wearable product created and marketed by Apple, which is synonymous with tech.
3. It is an Apple product.
While the third reason is a cited reason by many Apple Watch supporters who think it will be a hit, it may take more than Apple’s noted reputation to ensure its smartwatch will be an actual hit and stand out from the increasingly crowded smartwatch market.
Let’s look at the many concerns of why the Apple Watch may not be a hit in the smartwatch industry, and why it might not even have that long of a life:
1. I mentioned that it was a smart move by Apple to have its watch appear in Vogue in an effort to get affluents interested in it and see it as a “must-have” item. However, this also shows what might be Apple Watch’s greatest weakness: What is Apple Watch’s target market?
Personally, it seems to me that Apple is trying to target everyone who is the owner of an iPhone and get him/her to buy the Apple Watch. This approach, what seems to be the “let’s throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” marketing approach, rarely ever works to great success. Even a company like Apple has to have a solid marketing approach in order for its products to be successful, and, truthfully, the marketing for this product seems haphazard and all-over-the-place.
What was originally being marketed as a “product that will amaze people on the breadth of what it can do” (i.e. the mainstream crowd) and that will have great health tracking abilities (i.e. the millennial crowd, especially), now is being marketed in a very prestigious magazine in two different countries to appeal to the affluents.
Granted, there are three different versions of this watch: Classic, Sport, and Luxury, but I have serious questions on the “need” for this product. As I mentioned in my post, “The Lack Of Perceived Value: The Missing Link in Smartwatches” what will a smartwatch do that a smartphone can’t do? Why would the mainstream public want this item when the smartwatch does nothing more (and far less, actually) than a smartphone can do?
This is the major reason why the smartwatch industry hasn’t taken off as many experts thought it would, and based on the lack of features and the higher cost of the Apple Watch, I can’t see where Apple’s entry is going to have more success either.
Yes, some of the diehard Apple fans will probably buy it because it’s Apple. Yes, some affluents may have to get the Luxury version to show that they have the “latest and greatest device” from Apple.
But, it’s not likely that the Apple Watch will be deemed a “success” or a “mover” in the smartwatch industry if it’s just some members of those two groups, as it doesn’t seem there are a great majority in either category that are convinced they must have that Apple Watch.
2. Most of the mainstream public is not fond of the price point (especially when an iPhone is anything but inexpensive, costing $300+ to $400+ to start), nor are convinced they need it (especially without the advanced tracking features, a key importance to millennials in particular).
3. As for the affluents, I think many are not convinced that Apple is elite or chic enough when it comes to the watch industry for them to just buy the Apple Watch immediately when it is up for purchase. This is why, though, Apple was smart to introduce the Watch to the affluent group by advertising in Vogue in both the United States and China, to at least give themselves the chance to gain more of this market.
Still, the lack of groundbreaking features, the high price point, and the uncertainty of how affluents will perceive the Apple Watch all indicate that the Watch will likely fall below expectations rather than meet or exceed them.
Apple’s History Suggests You May Be Better Off Waiting To Buy The Apple Watch
Plus, a few things about Apple’s history that indicate why waiting may be a good idea if you are considering purchasing the Apple Watch:
1. The Apple Watch will likely never be able to handle phone calls on its own (something I mentioned in my “Missing Link in Smartwatches” post); to do so would take away from iPhone sales, something Apple can’t afford, as it’s the one product line that is really doing well for them. The iPad line has fallen for four consecutive quarters now, and while Macs are holding their own and even growing slightly of late, it’s not expected that that trend will continue, especially since Macs can’t double as tablets due to the lack of touchscreens.
2. Speaking of lack of touchscreens, Apple has a tendency to never have its products multi-task. In other words, Apple will not (or rarely) add another feature to a product that will hurt another product line. This is a major reason why Apple was against increasing the size of the iPhone for so long; to do so would hurt the iPad line, and trends suggest that part of the reason why large tablet sales are falling off is because of the presence of phablets, something Apple only got into with its recent iPhone 6 Plus model, a few years after other smartphone manufacturers (including Samsung, HTC, Google, and others) had released phablets. Having their Mac laptops have touchscreens and become hybrids like Windows’ PCs would have also hurt iPad sales, a major reason (in my opinion) that they were (and are still against) having their Mac laptops become hybrids.
(And, Windows hybrids are becoming more plentiful on the market because there IS a demand for them- this again shows that Apple has a tendency to keep their product lines separate from each other when it comes to features so they don’t eat into the respective revenue lines from each product line, even when there is a demand for such a “hybrid” product).
3. Based on #2, if the Apple Watch stays around long enough, chances are strong that the Apple Watch will only be able to do the advanced health tracking features in a future Apple Watch model. It seems unlikely that they would add the necessary software and apps for it to be able to track those features on this specific model, as the hardware doesn’t seem able to withstand many apps running at the same time. Thus, it would seem likely that Apple would create a newer, more robust Apple Watch within the next six to twelve months (just as they do with their iPhones and iPads) that is more energy-efficient and more capable of tracking advanced health statistics. Thus, that means the consumer would need to shell out ANOTHER $350+ to get the Apple Watch he/she thought he/she would be getting with THIS Apple Watch version.
It remains to be seen if I’m right on #3, but the history of Apple product launches, releases, and cycles would suggest that that is the path Apple is going to take with the Apple Watch. Thus, getting the Apple Watch now when it is largely devoid of the main selling points the public was waiting for would only be for those who want to say, “I was one of the first few to own the very first Apple Watch.” In other words, it would be a status symbol, which would be fine and enough for some affluents to purchase, but probably not enough for other affluents. The same would hold true for the mainstream population: The most diehard Apple fans that camp out for hours and days at a time might be willing to go for it (though, as I’ve said before, the Apple Watch would not do what the iPhone does, so maybe they won’t even be willing to camp out for the Apple Watch), but the vast majority would probably not be convinced to shell out enough money that would purchase the next iPhone model with a 2-year agreement on a smartwatch that really can’t match other smartwatches in the industry when it comes to advanced health tracking features or even apps.
Why I Would Have Waited To Release The Apple Watch And Why I Think This Model Will Underwhelm And Even Disappoint Analysts And The Public
Thus, if I were Apple, I would have delayed this product launch until later this year or even early 2016 to ensure that the watch had long battery life, had the ability to measure and track advanced health metrics (one of the main selling features that was either mentioned or strongly rumored to have), and had a more defined target market in terms of what problems or issues it would solve.
Yes, it’s a common practice to deliver a product that is short on features in order to gain traction in a marketplace and to get feedback to make improvements for future releases (this happens often in the digital software industry), but those added features are usually offered for free or at reduced cost to customers who help to iron out those “bugs” and provide that feedback for added features that are missing. As mentioned above, based on Apple’s history, it’s more likely Apple will present an upgraded Apple Watch within six to twelve months from now with those features (provided the Apple Watch gains enough traction in the marketplace to achieve longevity to necessitate a more advanced version in the first place), features that were either mentioned or strongly hinted at when the Apple Watch was first presented and promoted. In essence, a person would have to purchase the Apple Watch twice if he/she purchases the Watch now in order to get the Watch he/she thought he/she would be getting based on the publicity surrounding the product when it was first announced.
In addition, I am not convinced about the clarity of Apple Watch’s target market. While the Apple brand name carries a lot of weight and has a lot of fanfare and publicity behind it, when the product itself is relatively expensive to much of the population and doesn’t provide a defined solution or benefit to most of the population, the odds are against it that it will be considered a “hit” or a “mover” in the smartwatch industry.
It’s possible Apple could create a smartwatch that could do that, but from what I have heard, read, and seen, this Apple Watch is likely NOT that revolutionary smartwatch experts and the public expect to see from a noted tech company like Apple. That is why I think this Apple Watch will likely underwhelm and “surprise” us by the breadth of what it CANNOT do rather than by what it can do- thus, I think it may “surprise” some on how much it underachieves compared to Apple’s previous product launches, including the iPhone and the iPad.
Feel free to leave your thoughts on Apple, its upcoming Apple Watch, and if you’re eagerly anticipating it or not below.