The Apple Watch: Dressing the Naked Wrist

on March 9, 2015
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last July, I wrote this post called “The Naked Wrist”. What we have been thinking through for some time related to smartwatches is whether there is a category at all? Do they solve an unmet need for consumers? I framed this with the observation that most consumers today do not wear a watch regularly. Even though research shows that, depending on the country, watch ownership can be as much as 70%, most don’t wear them all the time and more often than not, wrists are naked rather than elegantly dressed. Apple is hoping to change that.

When I wrote my smartwatch report (free report), my goal was to lay a foundation I could build upon. After seeing the full Apple Watch reveal, I think there are a few take-aways.

Productivity

I understand productivity is not a very attractive term. However, I’d like to frame a part of what intrigues me about the Apple Watch in this way. I’ve always believed whether at work, play, learning, or something else, technology, at its best, is an enabler. Going even further, technology really shines when it enables something new.

Now we, the mass market consumer, may not look at things like getting healthy as productive, but it is. The health elements of the Apple Watch and many other wearables is a productive promise at its core. The ability to streamline communications in the form of notifications, or even text messages or email, is a productivity story. Matt Panzarino picked up on this narrative in an article where he discussed how the Apple Watch will help us save time. I’m intrigued by this idea that the Apple Watch could essentially challenge the idea of when we need to take our iPhone out of our pocket, purse, or bag. This is why I have added to the phrase “the best screen is the one you have with you” to “the best screen may be the one you can see at all times”.

The Apple Watch, from what we have seen, adds functionality to the iPhone which did not exist before. It does this by way of health, communication, media, even something as simple as using the Apple Watch as a remote viewer for the iPhone camera, all an extension of the iPhone’s functionality. As developers figure this out, things are going to start to get very interesting relating to the Apple Watch.

Too many people are writing off the Apple Watch on the premise they don’t see a need. We must recognize not everyone may see a need, but also that many people will. Especially as consumers grasp the idea the Apple Watch, together with the iPhone, opens up doors to new experiences not possible before. This includes communication.

The Love Tap

When it comes to new experiences, the Apple Watch opens up new interaction models to communication. Many write off some of these features as a gimmick, but I’m keeping an open mind. Many here in the US use to think adding a camera to your phone was a gimmick. However, visual communication is an essential part of our digital lives today. In the same way I am optimistic that communicating via small messages drawings, or even having a “love tap” with a loved one, has the potential to add an entirely new interaction model.

At the core of most computers (desk, lap, tablet, smartphone) is communication. It is a fundamental driver of technology and often the network effects behind technology adoption. This is why I believe the communication elements of the Apple Watch could be a primary driver of the product into Apple’s ecosystem in a large way.

Success for Apple

While I do believe sales of the Apple Watch will be healthy, I maintain the Apple Watch will be a slow adoption cycle for consumers. Meaning, I think it will take a few years for it to truly go mainstream. Keep in mind, the iPhone didn’t truly go mainstream until the iPhone 4. However, thinking broadly about the smartwatch as a category, I’m beginning to formulate the view that success for Apple is not relative to the success for the category. Success for Apple is relative only from the viewpoint of their ecosystem. Think about this. If, over the arc of time, we find the Apple Watch sells 5-6 million units each quarter, many may say it was a failure. Yet this number is exactly what Apple sells in Macs each quarter and no one considers the Mac a failure. Success is relative to Apple and every product is an endpoint in their ecosystem. Some are huge in volume, like iPhone, and others are not. Success for Apple is defined by their ecosystem and those endpoints which drive the ecosystem now come in many shapes and sizes.