After all the fanfare and excitement, Apple Watch is just another smart watch

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At the Apple media event held in San Francisco on Monday, CEO Tim Cook described the new Apple Watch as the company’s most personal product to date and the “most advanced timepiece ever created”.

In case you missed it, the Apple Watch connects to an iPhone and displays or ‘taps’ notifications about all manner of things. It’s a watch first and foremost but is also described as being more of an extension of an iPhone.

As with any new Apple product, the Apple Watch has been the subject of months of media frenzy and anticipation but now that the full details of the device have been officially revealed, I’m struggling to see where the Apple Watch is really all that groundbreaking or advanced.

Other than it being specifically designed for the iPhone, I’m also yet to really see how the Apple Watch offers anything different from the plethora of mediocre smart watches that are available today.

I’ve written before about how I feel the current crop of smart watches offer too little for me to ever consider buying one.

For me, they kind of sit in a grey area which encompasses fitness tracker, regular watch and mobile phone display, failing to excel in any of these functions.

And then there is the issue of battery life, which if you ever needed a reason not to buy a smart watch, the fact that the thing needs charging more frequently than most mobile phones is as good a reason as any. Apple claims the battery life on the Apple Watch lasts ‘all day’ or 18 hours, which is actually better than most other smart watches.

After testing out the Moto 360 late last year, I realised that I just don’t need notifications to be displayed on a device on my wrist, as I’m more than capable to taking my phone out my pocket.

With regards to fitness tracking, it’s a useful but does do smart watches really offer anything better than a dedicated fitness watch? Not really.

Accurate timekeeping? Is that it?

Mickey Mouse face on Apple Watch

Mickey Mouse face on Apple Watch

After watching the keynote speech from Tim Cook, I was surprised that one of the key features he described was the fact that the Apple Watch has the ability to keep incredibly accurate time, within 50 milliseconds, set to the definitive global standard.

Not that this itself is surprising, this is a great feature but it’s one that isn’t all that new, and is already available on other smart watches. Not only that, but similar technology has been produced in the watch industry for the best part of twenty years and I find it strange that a company as innovative as Apple use this as one of the key selling points of its new device.

Citizen, for example offer a range of atomic watches which are capable of just as accurate timekeeping. My 5,000 Baht Casio G Shock is capable of similar automatic timekeeping and is available at a fraction of the price of the Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch also includes a speaker and microphone so you can make and receive calls via the watch, which to me seems a little gimmicky rather than actually being useful. I wonder how effective it will be trying to make a call using an Apple Watch when on public transport or when walking down lower Sukhumvit, for example.

Where the Apple Watch might offer something of genuine interest is with regards to app development.

One of the things highlighted its launch was the fact that the Apple Watch offers easy connectivity to services and apps such as Uber and Shazam and you can expect that app developers are already in overdrive developing apps for Apple’s latest product.

Another potentially useful development is with Apple Pay, although this only has limited availability in the United States at the moment and it’s likely to be a while before it’s introduced fully elsewhere, and even longer before it’s available in Thailand.

The Apple Watch as a ‘luxury’ product?

Apple Watch Edition

Apple Watch Edition is available from $10,000 to $17,000.

Prices for the Apple Watch start at US$349, which makes it one of the cheapest Apple products ever launched, the only exception being Apple TV, which is perhaps the company’s least successful product so far.

There are ‘luxury’ versions which start at US$10,000 ranging all the way up to US$17,000.

In the run up to the launch of the Apple Watch, Apple had been very clearly targeting, shall I say, more exclusive buyers than it would do so ordinarily.

A series of ads in Vogue magazine which is said to have cost in excess of $2 million, meant that it was seen by predominantly female fashionistas. There were also feature length interviews with Jony Ive published in the New Yorker, as well as in the How To Spend It section of the Financial Times, which tells you exactly the type of people the product is aimed at.

However, despite my disappointment of the Apple Watch, I’m actually an Apple fan – it’s hard not to be.

Admittedly, not quite to full fanboi status but I do work on an iMac everyday, which is easily the best and most reliable desktop computer I’ve used and one which I can’t recommend highly enough.

My second generation iPod Classic, which is still going strong is probably the best gadget I’ve ever bought.

It’s just that I was expecting more from Apple Watch.

I was expecting the game changer – the device which was going to leave all the other smart watches behind, but unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve got that, not even close.

From a business viewpoint, the Apple Watch makes sense

I can, however, understand why Apple has released the watch and from a business perspective it makes perfect sense.

A recent article in Fortune estimated that Apple Watch could sell anywhere between 10 million and 37 million units before the end of the year

These estimates don’t seem unreasonable when you consider that in the U.S alone, you could guess that there are maybe 30 million people who will buy a new Apple product just because of the fact it’s a new Apple product, regardless of whether they actually need it or not.

Even if Apple only sold half of even the lowest estimates, that would put sales of the Apple Watch at around 5 million units in the first year, which would absolutely dwarf the current best selling smart watches from Pebble and Samsung, which have sold around 1,000,000 units each.

If Apple sell 10 million units in the first year, then that would be considerably more than the 6.8 million smart watches sold in total in 2014.

Aside from the possibility of becoming the dominant force in the smart watch market, another reason for the launch of the Apple Watch is that despite recently announcing record profits driven by the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, sales of Apple’s other devices, notably the iPod, iPod Touch and iPad are actually on the decline.

Despite some of the criticisms, it is not to say I don’t think the Apple Watch will be a success.

I can remember similar criticisms being made when Apple announced the iPod.

People laughed at how other devices offered more storage but the iPod went onto sell close to half a billion units and pretty much became the only device to buy for anyone who wanted an MP3 player.

Will the Apple Watch dominate the market in the same way the iPod did or will it go onto be as bigger success for Apple as the iPhone?

Only time will tell.

However, in the immediate aftermath of its official launch, it seems the Apple Watch is, unfortunately, just another addition to a fledgling product market, which to date, fails to get this ardent techie even a little excited.

Related: Apple Watch – The Watch Reimagined

Tags: Apple Watch

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7 Comments

  1. Wow, did this guy ever miss the mark. Despite its name, the Apple watch is not “first & foremost” a watch. That’s like saying your smartphone is primarily a clock because it keeps time on the lock screen. The Apple Watch IS — primarily & unashamedly — an extension of your phone. It is primarily a communications & computing device that, oh by the way, has a watch face.

    It is a blank slate. How the slate is filled in depends upon the universe of apps that are developed & that the user chooses to install. Thus, it is infinitely customizable. You cannot say the “killer app” is fitness if a particular user isn’t interested in fitness. It is, fundamentally, whatever each user would like it to be, and that is its ultimate strength.

    Declaring it a flop before even the first consumer has one on their wrist is nothing but a lack of vision by the author. Truly shameful for a technology writer.

  2. ChrisWard99 on

    Interesting article. I have an iPhone 6 but I don’t really see the point of the Apple Watch or any smartwatch. I could care less!

  3. ChrisWard99 on

    errr ok, but the article actually says he thinks the Apple watch will be a success. He doesn’t say it will flop. The writer just doesn’t like smartwatches very much by the sounds of it and I have to say I agree with him! Smartwatches are just a fad, just another gadget that tech companies want you to buy.

  4. Alain Lafond on

    True, as usual Apple is talking to their devotees. They are ready to spend whatever it need to stay on the wannabe wave.
    As usual Apple is showing an outdated technology with a new dress.
    Really, what do more this new addition?
    Look at the next watches from other manufacturers.
    But as long as we don’t have a real improvement in battery technology, we won’t have to ask ourselves “Do I really need a phone extension on my wrist”. Smartches will be for techies and for I-Sheeps.
    But for sure I prefer to spend my 2 cents on a trip to land of smile…

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