Apple Watch and Dissatisfaction

One of the things that interests me most with regards to the Apple Watch owner research I’m involved with as a part of Wristly is the way we are able to observe, on a monthly basis, the behaviours of consumers in a brand new category. To my knowledge, nothing like this has been done before. When the PC first came out, there was not dedicated study on behaviour. Nor was there with the PDA, the smartphone, or the tablet, all important computing platforms. So to be able to study a user base this early in the lifecycle of a new computing platform is proving quite insightful. Our research is focused as much on understanding the smartwatch category as it is understanding behaviours of a particular product like the Apple Watch. While it is true Apple Watch users will behave somewhat differently than consumers of other smartwatches, there are insights I’m picking up that are generally applicable as well. This is particularly true in one of the latest rounds of research we’ve conducted.

We believe it is important to tell the whole story with regard to the Apple Watch and smartwatches. Which means, we need to research the bad as well as the good. While we did the research to validate amazingly high satisfaction levels with Apple Watch, we also wanted to understand the mindset of the small minority who have a more negative opinion of the Apple Watch. So we decided to seek out and learn from those who had less than positive experiences with the Apple Watch and have stopped using it entirely or significantly less than when they first purchased it. It is important to note, finding a large enough group with negative sentiment toward the watch proved much harder than finding a large group with positive sentiment. This group we researched represent an extremely small group and nowhere near represents the majority of Apple Watch owner sentiment.

The Key Findings

We found and asked 340 people who have tried and seemingly moved on from the Apple Watch, at least for now, to share their thoughts on what turned them off. The research was conducted over the first two weeks of November 2015.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 9.10.12 AM

I could give an entire presentation just unpacking this one chart as it is critical in so many ways. A few quick takeaways.

The first thing we notice is nearly half the respondents gave up on it less than two weeks in. For this group of people, value was not captured immediately. Which is something that came out of my initial analysis of the product. The Apple Watch, in its current manifestation and because the concept is so new, took time to truly understand its value. It certainly takes more than two weeks to realize how it fits into your life. But in the future, this will not be the case. This is simply due to the immaturity of the market and the product. Yet a larger portion, more than half of the respondents, did give it more than two weeks and still didn’t find enough value to keep using their Apple Watch. Why is the most interesting and perhaps the clearest critique of the entire smartwatch category.

Here are the top five reasons this group gave for giving up on the Apple Watch.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 7.36.13 AM

The most insightful part of this particular question was the follow on, fill in the blank area where 300 people who took the survey wrote a comment about the product. I read through them all and a number of things stood out.

The biggest theme in the critiques was about performance. Many thought the Apple Watch was too slow, particularly around data retrieval and third party apps. The other was about battery. Many commented on their desire to have the watch face be visible at all times and not have to charge daily. Another interesting thread in the comments was the high number of people who said they would have liked it more if it was more independent from the iPhone. This is a similar thread to comments from our larger Wristly panel of satisfied owners. Another common thread I saw from this group was the price. Many who commented suggested the price was too high and we know from this panel 65% of those who responded bought a Sport. This indicates that even $349 felt too expensive for the value for this group.

Lastly, following the consistent theme we discover with the Wristly research, there is a heavy negative bias from those who work in the tech industry. In this panel, like many others we have run, the most critical and less satisfied Apple Watch owners are the ones who work in tech, evaluate tech for a living, or are fairly technical. 45% of the respondents of this dissatisfaction panel work in tech and in a tech related function (like a developer).

The critiques we observed in this panel were similar to many concerns about the category as it was first being analyzed. But they are also very indicative of an immature market and a version one product. If we have a few key takeaways on what we may learn from this, it is the following. Smartwatches and the Apple Watch have more potential to go mainstream if they:

– Have better speed and performance in general and with third party applications
– Increase battery life, including an always on display
– Become even more independent from the smartphone
– Lower the price

Given the research and feedback we are getting from the much larger panel of satisfied Apple Watch owners, I remain convinced there is something here with this category. However, we have to remember it is young and the Apple Watch nor the smartwatch category is anywhere near mature. This product also may not be for every adult on the planet like the smartphone is. There is nothing wrong with that. I do feel this is a big market but my conviction is it won’t hit its stride until mid-late 2017.

We plan to share much deeper research, analysis, and vision for the smart watch category at the dedicated conference I am helping put on centered on the Apple Watch called Glance on Dec 10th in San Francisco. You can learn more here and Tech.pinions readers get a discount if they use the promo code CS10 at checkout.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

25 thoughts on “Apple Watch and Dissatisfaction”

  1. Interesting, thank you.
    Any way to correlate iWatch dropping with fashion-awareness the same way you’re correlating it with techiness ?

      1. I don’t actually mean anything. I’m wondering whether iWatch retention is linked to higher brand or design sensitivity, ie if people are wearing them as jewellery too/only.

        1. Things I would deem in the fashion category did not seem to impact abandonment significantly. Nor did it really impact the customer satisfaction much from that research either. It seems for now the audience mostly gravitated toward some utility in their satisfaction or dissatisfaction of it. I do think some fashion element will play a larger role in the future toward desiring it but not sure we are there yet. Hope that helps.

  2. “This product also may not be for every adult on the planet like the smartphone is.”

    Definitely this. Based on what you and others have said about the watch, it’s strongest appeal is to people who a) use their phone for a lot of social media and text communication, and b) allow their phone to buzz them for incoming messages, so that without a watch, they are taking it out and looking to see who said what tens of times an hour.

    For people who don’t allow their phones to interrupt them (they look at texts when they’re ready to do so and not before) or for those who use their phones primarily as cameras/GPS/telephones/game devices, and not so much for text/social communication, I suspect the primary benefit of a smartwatch disappears.

    1. This. Looking around me, people who love their smartwatches are the ultra-social ones. Even sportsmen tend to prefer a real sports bracelet, they complain about the watches design/fragility, features/sensors reliability, battery life… and people who are neither, like me, just don’t have a use for them.

      1. I love my Apple Watch but no one would call me ultra-social, ever.

        I find the ability to filter only important notifications silently to my wrist very valuable. I use a couple of third party apps that I would be unhappy to lose like Dark Sky and Mac ID. The social aspect of the watch is barely a blip on my usage.

      2. I wouldn’t say ultra-social, rather ultra-connected, ultra-plugged in, not sure what word exists to describe it. Ranging from compulsive checkers of facebook updates to professionals whose job requires them to stay on top of dozens of emails and texts every hour of every day.

      3. Bingo on the not ultra-social. But ultra-plugged into my job during off-hours and sometimes responsive to my partner as she iMessages me.

  3. I Have always felt that those who gave up on the AW, especially those from the tech sector, were reading way too much into the Apple Ads and general tech data distributed by Apple. I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from 1st gen Apple Watch, and by and large was not in the least disappointed by the final product. That’s not to say that I disagree with those who lament the performance issues, and lack of 3party watch faces, but, merely that I understood the hurdles and stumbling blocks inherent in a 1st gen product. Anyone in the tech industry should have seen these issues, and expected to have to deal with them, so, taking these disappointed tech reviewers at their word, I am forced to believe that they were in-fact expecting the product that they themselves would have released; they disregarded the data coming out of Apple & inwardly transposed that secret device, the 1 they coveted onto the Apple Watch, which of course could only lead to shattering disappointment. The Apple Watch IMHO meets, and by a large margin exceeds the data points distributed by Apple, and I use it every day since May as it does exactly as advertised, and what I bought it for, while at the same time awaiting the obvious and necessary upgrades which will only make it exceed my wildest dreams.

  4. Are you referring to the 3% that are dissatisfied? If so, are you suggesting that products need to satisfy more than 97%?

    1. Considering I was a part of that initial 97% customer satisfaction rating research I’m sure you would know the answer is no. But any good and productive research needs to understand and analyze those who are happy and those who are not. This is basic research science.

      1. Wouldn’t we all love to be the marketing manager for a product with 97% initial customer satisfaction or that sold 6m units? To be marketing manager for a product that did both must be a particularly good feeling.

  5. What percentage of the 6 million watches sold is 340? It has to be incredibly small. I didn’t see where you explain that this breakdown is based on this tiny group of people who don’t like the watch. When looking at the charts, it tends to settle in your mind that we are talking about the whole 6 million—very misleading.

    1. Regular readers of myself and my column would already know this. Given I’ve shared our own research conclusions on total watch sales as well as participated in the initial apple watch customer satisfaction rating which Apple themselves referenced. This was simply a look at what people didn’t like. Obviously there are significantly more happy customers, hence the original customer satisfaction rating research we did.

      1. I know you are an Apple fan. I am an Apple investor. I think the assumption you are making about your audience is dangerous. The no-nothing, naysayers of negativity (N3’s) that haunt the Blogosphere, will distort this into Apple Watch hate, just for a few clicks. I read you because I believe you are a responsible analyst. I think it is important that this type of analysis be qualified every time so it doesn’t get distorted.

        1. Here we go! Look at the verbiage from Philip Elmer-DeWitt’s article.

          “The fact that so many dissatisfied customers held on to the Watch may be instructive.”

          That “so many” is an infinitely small number, (340/6,000,000=.006%) but suggests a large number.

          There is never an attempt to keep it in perspective. This will echo through the Blogoshpere.

    1. There are a number of things Jobs would have never released. But his decisions and choices are not a factor anymore. Jobs told Cook not to ask what would Jobs do. Why can’t others figure this out, too?


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