The design features and high-end functionality of Apple Watch have come in for praise from most experts on wearable technology. Will the new and long-awaited smartwatch be as big a success as it is expected to be? We do not feel that would be quite possible.
After much ado, Apple has finally entered the smartwatch market – with Apple Watch. The device was officially launched along with the two new iPhone models, at a well-hyped event at Cupertino on September 9. Shipments of Apple Watch would start from February, and Tim Cook is eyeing at around 50 million units to be sold by the end of 2015. Here are a few reasons why such lofty expectations are likely to remain unfulfilled:
- The hefty price tag – Even when you take into account that Apple has always been about ‘premium’ products, the $349 price tag of Apple Watch comes across as more than a little exorbitant. Samsung, with its soon-to-release Gear Live, will cost buyers $200 – which suggests that it would have a much larger market. Even Motorola’s Moto X ships at $249, and let’s face it – Apple Watch does not offer too much extra over that device.
- Will those who can afford it buy it? – Last year, close to 30 million Swiss wristwatches were sold – a clear indication that there was no dearth of high-end customers, who did not mind splurging on a wearable that was worth it. Apple will have to fight it out with the already established luxury watch brands in this end of the spectrum (and apart from the real tech-savvy ones, few would actually go for it). What remains are those who do not (or cannot) wear a wristwatch – and they won’t be able to afford Apple Watch anyway.
- Cannot serve as a substitute of smartphones – Tech gadgets can never be successful with only beautiful appearances (if that was the case, Apple Watch would be a stunning hit). Sadly, the fact is – this smartwatch is not designed to perform any function that a standard smartphone already does not. The fitness functions are nothing to really write home about (more on that later) – and there’s no ‘single core functionality’. The excessive promotions and the gimmicky features would help in initial sales, but the fad might blow over rather soon.
- Nopes, owning the Apple Watch won’t be a status symbol – Back in 2007, when the first-generation iPhone released, it became much more than a phone for buyers. To this day, you will find plenty of people not hesitating twice before spending almost 30% extra, for the new iPhone – because the latter offers a ‘cool way to show-off’. Apple Watch does the same – except for the fact, hardly anyone will be interested to spend all their money on a mighty expensive phone AND a pricier wristwatch. The handset will always be the first preference.
- Useless without iPhone 6 – Software and iPhone app development experts feel that this is the weakest point about Apple Watch. Prior to release, all the buzz was about how Jonathan Ive and his team were making the ‘perfect mobile accessory’ – and this smartwatch has turned out to be nothing of the sort. For it to be of any use, a person would have to purchase iPhone 6 or 6 Plus first. We have already highlighted how slim the chances are of anyone going for both the gadgets. There’s a wide market of Android and Blackberry users who would love to check out a new wearable device – but Apple has chosen to ignore them.
- Health and fitness support – Apple Watch has a built-in heart monitor, and to give where credit’s due, its interface is very well designed. Many had expected the Watch to have GPS functionality too, and they had to be disappointed. Problems crop up from mainly two fronts: Firstly, there are a lot of equally good fitness accessories (for instance, the Flex wristband from Fitbit) that are way cheaper. Also, the fitness support features fall flat whenever the latest iPhone is not in the vicinity. And frankly, how many people do you think will spend so much for health and activity-tracking features that are, at best, half-baked?
- Digital Crown does not really matter – Many general Apple enthusiasts and mobile app developers consider the Digital Crown feature as another key disappointment. Initial rumors had suggested that Apple Watch would have some sort of a breakthrough UI – which totally replaces the need to touch/tap its screen. Once Kevin Lynch, Apple VP, had showcased the device – all such hopes vaporised in thin air. Digital Crown/Crown does away with the need to ‘pinch-for-zoom’ the screen of any smart device, and hence, it makes reading text/figures on the Apple Watch easy. It is only a variant of the general touch feature, nothing more.
- Battery life will be suspect – The charger of Apple Watch looks interesting, but there is every chance that it will be called too frequently into action for anyone’s liking. The battery performance of iPhone 6 (as reported by early buyers) is decent enough, but it would be a minor miracle if Apple Watch delivers on this front as well. Till now, every smartwatch in the market has been (in varying degrees) notorious for their low battery lives. Apple Watch would probably be another addition.
- Durability will be an issue – For a wristwatch that costs a fortune (at least for some people who wish to buy it), Apple Watch is not going to last for long enough. Even if the user-experience is good in the initial phase – a better smartwatch would come along soon, and many people would switch over (after all, creative destruction has always been a hallmark of technology). There is no assurance that an Apple Watch would last for, say, half a decade, (without major repairs) either.
- Non-availability of compatible apps – The app cloud of Apple Watch (which is not a copy-paste job of the iPhone’s app grid) is impressive enough. What is likely to matter is that, more than 50% of all third-party iOS app developers worldwide are yet to come up with new versions of their applications that would be customized for the Watch. Over time, developers will surely shore up their portfolio – but will the hype about Apple Watch live on till then?
- First-generation Apple devices are hardly ever the best – Consider the first iPhone or iPad – and you will get the idea. The former did not even have 3G support (pretty much unthinkable now, right?). Introductory iPads faced a lot of flak due to their slow and cumbersome built-in camera. Apple loyalists (but not hardcore ‘fanboys’) might take a cue from this and stay away from the first-gen Apple Watch. There is every chance that Tim Cook will announce a more advanced Watch version in the foreseeable future.
- Is Apple Watch weather-resistant? – The longer Apple keeps people dangling on this feature, the chances of Watch becoming a hit will diminish further. While the Samsung Gear watches highlight water and dust-resistance as their USPs, there has been no similar announcement from the Cupertino company. No one will spend big bucks on Apple Watch, unless its promises proper performance assurance (and of course, lives up to them).
- Thickness matters – Apple launched two super-slim iPhone models at the event, and it came as somewhat of a surprise that the smartwatch was not a slim device as well. In fact, its width is slightly more than that of Swatch and Rolex – its two principal rivals in the fashion wristwatch category. It remains a mystery how Apple would position its product in an already saturated market – particularly when all the points-of-differences are on the tech front only.
- Track-record of existing smartwatches is not encouraging – Sony Smartwatch 2 received lukewarm response, and the more well-promoted Samsung Gear Fit has been a major disappointment in terms of sales. Wearable technology is definitely in, and smartwatch can turn out to be the flag-bearer in this domain – but the world does not yet seem to be ready for it. If Apple Watch is a hit, it will be venturing into a territory no smartwatch has ever been in. The odds are heavily stacked against it.
- An unrealistic target – In Canada, a survey was recently held to gauge the probable adoption rate of Apple Watch. Only 1 out of every 10 of the respondents (on an average) said they would go for it, while nearly 25% people were uncertain about it. The response has been somewhat similar in most other countries as well. For Apple Watch to reach its sales target of 50 million+ by end-2015, it will have to be one of the best-selling iOS gadgets ever. At the moment, that does not look a very likely scenario.
Since Apple Watch comes with Bluetooth 4.0 and other such sophisticated connectivity features, heavy data usage might also be a cause of concern. Right from its general display features and the Taptic mapping option, to the model colors – there is a lot of things in Apple Watch that deserve kudos. Whether they would be enough to make people rush to buy the product is an entirely different question though.
And yes, if the Apple Watch is a flop, the entire wearable technology sector will suffer a jolt.
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