Apple watch will take some time to catch on
UNTIL around 1900, wristwatches were most popular among women. Men preferred pocket watches. That changed when time-keeping technology improved. Male consumers gradually saw how much quicker it was to glance at their wrists, rather than reach into their pockets, to check the time.
Apple made a similar pitch on Monday at an event in San Francisco heralding the launch of its newest product, the Apple Watch.
Executives at the giant tech firm said that wearing one will let people look speedily at their wrists to get information and complete tasks that they used to have to grab their phones to do.
According to Tim Cook, the boss of Apple, who in 2011 replaced the firm’s late founder, Steve Jobs, the new watch “is the most advanced timepiece ever created”. In addition to keeping track of time, the watch can process voice commands, measure its wearer’s heart rate, act like a credit card at payment kiosks and provide alerts for incoming phone calls and e-mails.
It can support many of the “apps” that are popular on smartphones, such as social networks and those that facilitate taxi hailing.
The watch’s battery lasts for just 18 hours before it needs more juice via a magnetic charger. On its timesave mode, its only function is to tell the time.
Yet in spite of Mr Cook’s bouncing optimism, Apple seems unlikely to turn its watch into the next big must-have gadget. Certainly, the watch will not match the success of previous products, such as the ipod or iphone.
This is true for two main reasons. First, Apple’s newest creation replicates many of the functions that the smartphone already makes so seamless, such as checking e-mail, receiving calendar alerts and communicating with friends. People are unlikely to want to shell out a sum between $350 (M3 800) (for the most basic model) and $17 000 (for the fanciest version) for something with so few extra functions.
Second, the Apple Watch is de- pendent on a nearby smartphone, which means that users will just be adding another device to their growing menageries instead of replacing one.
This is not unlike selling someone a wristwatch that requires a pocket watch to work.“wearable computing”, a category of technology that includes small watches, fit- ness trackers, glasses, jewellery and clothing with sensors, is an area of great promise, but has so far been limited to communities of geeks and fitness buffs.
Fewer than seven million smartwatches were sold last year. Earlier this year Google reportedly withdrew its smart-glasses from the consumer market.many analysts and fans had hoped that the Apple Watch would finally ignite the wearables market’s sluggish growth, but Apple seems to have reined in its ambitions.
At Monday’s event there was a strong focus on Apple Watch’s potential in health monitoring: it allows wearers to measure their heart rates and workouts more effectively than they can using their phones. But many fitness trackers and smartwatches already do such things — at a much lower cost.
Apple has enough fervent fans of its brand to shift a few million watches a year. For most companies that would represent a triumph.
But Apple is like Tiger Woods, a famous golfer: both have seen such tremendous success that anything less than spectacular tends to look like failure by comparison.
It will be difficult for the Apple Watch to bring in anywhere near as much revenue as the firm’s other products have, notably the iphone
Apple has made a name for itself selling technology with good lines — not fashion items.
The “upgrade” cycle for analogue watches is several years, with many people buying watches they want to keep for ever; this runs counter to Apple’s usual approach of getting people to ditch their devices regularly in favour of the latest model.
Apple will also have to reorganise its stores so that customers can come in and try watches on. Its salespeople, typically offbeat technology enthusiasts, might be good at selling people computers, but will they be equally adept at convincing customers that a certain watch looks good on?
Over the next few years, as battery technology improves, new features are added and prices decline, more people will buy “wearables”. In the meantime such devices still need to prove their usefulness and demonstrate that they can do things that smartphones cannot.
By next year, Mr Cook’s first major product launch since Mr Jobs’s death is unlikely to be remembered as a stellar success. In the long run, however, the category will thrive.
As the world’s largest technology company, with some $200 billion in revenues over the last four quarters, Apple has time on its side.
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the new Apple Watch on Monday.