So, it happened. After months of rumors, which Apple did nothing to stifle, the Apple Watch (not the iWatch, it’s the Apple Watch) is here. As with any Apple announcement, reactions range from ecstatic to derisive. Here are my two cents, maybe even three.
The exchange above encapsulates a lot of the commentary happening right now without the vitriol – the Apple naysayers and the sometimes uninformed opinions of Apple fans. The Apple Watch is certainly not a whole new product, at least to people who are familiar with Pebble and Android Wear. There is also nothing revolutionary with how “they string together and combined with your iPhone…, what the Apple Watch and iOS products do together automatically…” Ever heard of Google Now and Google Cards? The differentiations of the Apple Watch are: the variety in watch faces/straps, use of haptic gestures called Digital Touch (which I will expound on below) and the use of the crown to navigate through apps and the home screen.
Like Pebble and Android Wear before it, the Apple Watch gets message/call notifications, music control, navigation, camera control and fitness tracking. Not much information is available yet on the watch’s usability (battery life, responsiveness, Siri integration) since the demo units were on a fixed loop and won’t ship until early 2015.
It has long been argued that current smartwatches in the market are just too clunky and unfashionable for people to buy into the hype. In fact, some point out that the very positive reaction to the Apple Watch sleek design is more a function of how low people’s expectations are when it comes to smartwatches.
Apple knows this and have invited fashion editors to be part of the event. So far, the reviews have either been positive or neutral – certainly not a resounding success but the possibility is there. To give Apple credit, the variety of options – from case sizes to watch faces – is meant to appeal to the individualistic tastes of the fashion set. Furthermore, similar to the market of fashionable iPhone cases, third party suppliers might also offer a selection of watch straps for even more customization (Hello Kitty case for iPhone, check. Rugged looking case for Nexus 5, check). Not that I would ever buy the Hello Kitty case, but you get the point. For now, the band options offered by Apple ranging from sport to stainless steel in “Milanese loop” (gotta love their marketing machine) already look impressive.
But, the genius of Apple is that people will still buy it
Remember the time when people owned standard phones and could not understand the necessity of the smartphone? They eventually got the iPhone (as THE first smartphone) and started using a device more powerful than some PCs merely for phone calls, text messaging, selfies and watching cat videos. The same marketing machine that made people pay a premium for a smartphone in order to use a fraction of its features will most likely succeed in enticing people to buy the Apple Watch, despite the steep price point. This is so well demonstrated in this parody of Apple:
Digital Touch, according to Apple, is a way to “start an entirely new kind of conversation.” You can share your heartbeat with another person, tap the phone to send a silent message (customizable of course to different people), use the walkie-talkie and send an impromptu sketch – features, that are also present in apps such as “Couple.” By the way, all participants in this new kind of conversation will all need the Apple Watch. It’s brilliant. You know how you have nagged your loved ones to get the iPhone already so you can all get into Facetime? Little by little, starting with your significant other, the nagging turns into actual purchases – “Here’s a great Christmas gift, honey.” Even more brilliant is that the Apple Watch will only work with iPhone 5 and up; no matter how high you upgrade the existing iOS on that iPhone 4S. So, if you want to be ahead of the curve and plunk down the $350 for the Apple Watch Sport (no pricing yet on the standard Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition but they’re expected to be much higher), you might as well upgrade now to the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.
I will stick with Android Wear for now
I have mentioned in my post here that I am in the market for a smartwatch, if only to avoid fumbling for my phone when I get a call or need to check notes. The fashion enthusiast in me rejoices in the hardware designs of Apple products. But as I use my Nexus for a myriad of tasks (I once used the phone in the middle of buying a car – look up prices, download/upload/print the necessary papers for the purchase), function has trumped form. With Google Now, the personal assistant function is the most compelling reason for me to stay within Android and purchase an Android Wear smartwatch as my first wearable. I have used Siri on the iPhone 5S and have found it wanting. I can only assume that Siri on the Apple Watch will similarly underperform. While Apple continues to hone its hardware chops and lags on software, contracting out the voice recognition technology that powers Siri, I personally will remain skeptical as a user.
If I were an investor though, I would be completely bullish on Apple for the reasons I stated above.
Conclusion: Apple Watch is good for the wearables market in general
I will refrain from dissing Apple’s marketing that claims “You have never seen anything like this before”. Instead, I will applaud it because I do believe that wearables are the next devices to be had. Certainly, Google has done nothing to dispel the bad image of Google Glass and the geeky factor of Android Wear. But Apple has the power to make these devices cool enough to be worn. In a world of real-time information, our increasing need to stay connected will overcome warnings of Internet addiction. What better way to stay plugged than with wearables?
Updated to remove the Apple symbol after feedback that it does not show on Windows OS, apparently even using standard unicode, there is no guarantee that the Apple logo will show.