It’s hard to believe it’s been six months since the introduction of the Apple watch, and tomorrow at Apple’s “Spring Forward” event many questions will be answered. While we wait, I figured I’d throw out a few thoughts and wild speculation in anticipation.
Even after the announcement of the Apple Watch in September, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic. Of course, I was excited about the idea of an Apple Watch, a new product category and what it meant for the future of Apple. But until recently, I wasn’t personally excited about the product. I knew I would buy one, I’ll be expected to provide analysis about it on Mac Power Users. But I wasn’t sold on the idea of a wearable. Did I really want to be that connected to my technology?
I was also concerned that the Apple Watch was still a little clunky and, especially for a professional woman, may not be socially acceptable to wear everyday. It is going to be too “geeky” or too “flashy” to wear to court, to more formal events, or in front of clients? I am also a little sentimental about giving up my current watch. It’s nothing extravagant, but was my first “nice” watch, a Seiko that was a college graduation gift from my mother and is now almost 15 years old. I’ve lived a lot of life with this watch on my wrist, and I certainly won’t be wearing my original Apple Watch in 15 years.
Maybe it’s the reality distortion field, maybe it’s all the hype as we approach launch, maybe it’s because I’ve adjusted my expectations, but I’m starting to get excited about the Apple Watch. But I’m not so sure the Apple Watch will be the immediate success many in the tech community are expecting. I suspect many are going to have to be sold on the idea of why they need a smart watch. I see the Apple Watch as a much tougher sell than the iPhone or even the iPad. Today, every member of my immediate family, including grandma, owns an iPhone and an iPad. I don’t think the same will be true in a few years of the Apple Watch. Everyone (almost) has or needs a cell phone, and the case for a tablet is fairly clear. The same cannot be said for a smart watch. I would argue that the Apple Watch is an entirely new category of device and as such needs to be judged as one, very different from the launch of the iPhone or iPad.
Perhaps we need to look at the Apple Watch more like the launch of the iPod. As revolutionary device as it was, it really didn’t gain wide acceptance until it was in its third generation or later. I see the Apple Watch much the same way. The first generation Apple Watch, though remarkable, is fairly feature limited. Just as the original iPod required a Mac, an Apple Watch without an iPhone will be little more than a chunky piece of jewelry.
Even at the $349 introductory price, with most models costing significantly more, the Apple Watch is prohibitively expensive for most. How many people even wear a watch today, much less spend $350 or more for one? I never have. When the original iPod was introduced at $400 ($500 for 10GB) I couldn’t afford one. It was only after a price drop and when the third generation iPod was introduced that I could justify the purchase of a discounted second generation iPod off the Apple Refurbished store. (I never cared for the style of the third generation iPod anyway.)
The third generation Apple Watch will be very different from the Apple Watch that is unveiled on Monday just as the third generation iPod was very different from the original iPod. A third generation Apple watch will be thinner, lighter, have better battery life, larger storage capacity, more features and will likely it will be a much more independent device and It will likely also be less expensive. So while I’m excited about the Apple Watch today, having the benefit of living through the iPod revolution, I’m more excited about what the Apple Watch will be.
So, what am I buying? For the reasons outlined above, I will probably stick with the base model Apple Watch, with the expectation that I will want to upgrade in a year or two. By all accounts that means I’ll be buying a “Sport” model with the accompanying sport band. I’ve agonized over the style, but think I’ve settled on the smaller 38" size, aluminum with a white band. I think in this combination is simple, classy, and will offer the most flexibility. I believe Apple will sell the bands separately (depending on price I may or may not buy one - the Milanese Loop looks gorgeous). Even if they don’t, you can bet there will be third party bands available and I think the aluminum watch face will offer the most flexibility in terms of future band choice. From a practical standpoint, I’m not sure I can justify spending more than $50–100 extra on a band for a $350 watch.
I personally don’t believe that Apple will offer any type of “upgrade” program for the Apple watch, and certainly not for the lower end models. However, Apple has offered trade in programs for iOS devices and I suspect Apple, as well as many third parties, will do the same for the Apple Watch. As far as speculation for the Edition models, I’m not even going to harbor a guess. As I said, I’ve never worn a watch that’s cost $350 nor do I understand the high-end watch market so not only do I not have any basis to speculate about such things, I really don’t care.
However, I am curious about how Apple is going to handle the logistics of the Apple Watch rollout. Even if only certain straps are available on certain models, you’re still dealing with an extraordinary complicated lineup and a large number of SKUs from a retail standpoint. When Steve came back to Apple he famously simplified their product line down to a four quadrant grid: desktop/laptop, pro/consumer. Things have gotten a lot more complicated since then, I would say too complicated in some respects. (Just how many model iPads do we need?) I’m interested to see how they handle it all. Online sales are one thing, but retail is another. In all the years I’ve been following Apple, I’ve never heard publicly form a female voice in the company. Perhaps this is where Angela Ahrendts makes her debut, and her mark on the company.
I can’t wait to see what happens next..