The Apple Watch’s Raison D’être

on April 12, 2015
Reading Time: 4 minutes

After having read a seemingly infinite number of Apple Watch reviews, I believe I may have discovered something that many, if not most, of the reviewers didn’t: The Apple Watch’s Raison D’être ((rai·son d’ê·treˌrāzôn ˈdetrə/noun: the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence.)). And, I discovered it, not in the Apple Watch reviews, but in an article that preceded the reviews by over a week.

Two weeks ago, David Pierce wrote an article entitled: “iPhone Killer: The Secret History Of The Apple Watch” for Wired. ((The author of the article, David Pierce, thought he had discovered the Apple Watch’s Raison D’être too, but he was far off the mark: “(T)he Apple team landed upon the Watch’s raison d’être. It came down to this: Your phone is ruining your life.”)) In the article, Pierce quoted Kevin Lynch, Vice President of technology for Apple as saying:

“We’re so connected, kind of ever-presently, with technology now,” Lynch says. “People are carrying their phones with them and looking at the screen so much.”

“People want that level of engagement,” Lynch says. “But how do we provide it in a way that’s a little more human, a little more in the moment when you’re with somebody?”

In other words:

— The Apple Watch needs to help provide us with the same level of engagement that we already enjoy;

— But do it in a way/manner that is more natural, more intuitive, more human;

— Paying special heed to how we can we remain present with others while still interacting with, and reacting to, our technology.

These three overlapping goals are, in my opinion, the key to understanding the Apple Watch.

FITNESS

You might have noticed that I didn’t mention Fitness when discussing the Apple Watch’s Raison D’être. When it comes to the Fitness aspects of the Apple Watch, I like John Gruber’s analogy ((To me, Apple Watch’s health and fitness tracking features might be like what the iPhone’s camera is to someone with no interest in photography. I’m glad it’s there, and I’ll surely wind up using it in some ways, but it’s not a reason why I would buy it in the first place. ~ John Gruber)). Fitness is to the Watch as the camera is to the phone. It’s there whether you use it or not, so you might as well use it.

[pullquote] Fitness features will not be the key to the Apple Watch’s success, but the Apple Watch’s success will be the key to using the fitness features[/pullquote]

Smartphones have taught us that the best camera is the camera you have with you. Similarly, the best fitness device is the one you wear all the time. Fitness features will not be the key to the Apple Watch’s success, but the Apple Watch’s success will be the key to using the fitness features.

Competitors

Competitive smartwatch products may be useful in their own right, but they are not asking — nor are they answering — the same questions that the creators of the Apple Watch have posed. Accordingly, I don’t think existing smartwatches are competing with the Apple Watch at all. At least not yet.

And if others decide to go head-to-head with the Apple Watch, they’re going to find it difficult to emulate the one-two punch of the Force Touch/Taptic Engine that distinguishes the Apple Watch and makes it so compelling.

Defining Success

13fdc7ef298fc646f30c6216778665cf.0I will deem the Apple Watch a success if it, like the iPhone and iPad before it:

1) Initially outsells all other pre-existing devices in its category;

2) Becomes the de facto premium smartwatch of choice;

3) Creates a firm foundation for growth ((The iPhone was introduced in 2007, and across its first 12 months of availability, Apple sold about 5.3 million iPhones. By the third quarter of 2009, the company sold 5.2 million iPhones in a single quarter. In the first quarter of 2012, it sold 37 million. In the first quarter of 2015, it sold 74.5 million. The original iPhone… was also the best smartphone in the world, and over time the number of people who wanted to buy the best smartphone in the world kept growing as the underlying technology improved. ~ Vox)); and

4) Significantly and meaningfully strengthens the overall Apple Ecosystem.

I think the Apple Watch is already a shoo-in to accomplish all four of those objectives.

Mac installed base ~85m. iPad installed base, ~170m (my estimates). Apple Watch likely to be more iPad than Mac. Maybe larger. ~ Ben Bajarin on Twitter

Critics

If you were predicting Apple would fail for the last decade, it’s worth working out why you were wrong before continuing such predictions. ~ Benedict Evans on Twitter

The Verge’s Nilay Patel says that while the Apple Watch is easily the best smartwatch you can own today, but he remains a skeptic:

(D)o you want another tiny computer in your life that you have to worry about and charge every day? That’s the real question of the Apple Watch. Does it offer so much to you that you’re willing to deal with the hassles and idiosyncrasies of a new platform that is clearly still finding a true purpose?

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I think that’s wrong. ((I’m not debating the issue. I’m just trying to explain why I am right. ~ Elevator Gossip (@GSElevator))) I think the creators of the Apple Watch know its purpose and the Apple Watch is designed to serve that purpose. I think it’s the reviewers, not the Apple Watch, that are struggling to discover its true purpose.

Things don’t have to change the world to be important. ~ Steve Jobs

The question isn’t whether the Apple Watch has a reason for being. It does. ((There’s two kinds of people in this world: those who think their opinion is objective truth, and… there’s one kinds of people in this world. ~ Joss Whedon on Twitter)) The question is whether Apple has executed on that vision and created a wearable computing device that fulfills that vision.

Our DNA is as a consumer company, for that individual customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply. ~ Steve Jobs

Fortunately for Apple, it’s the votes of the customers, not the reviewers, that matters.

Have spent embarrassing amount of last two days reading gadget reviews. Takeaway: “Reviewers do not understand what motivates people to buy.” ~ Dan Frommer on Twitter

The reason I’m bullish (while some critics are calling bull$hit) on the Apple Watch is because Apple is asking all the right questions and they have a proven track record of success. Some will say this makes me an Apple fanboy.

You’re entitled to your opinion, and I’m entitled to know you’re wrong and stupid. ~ God (@TheTweetOfGod)

I say it makes me way more likely to be right. We’ll have to “watch” and see. ((The goodness of the true pun is in the direct ratio of its intolerability. ~ Edgar Allan Poe))