As we approach AW-Day, the naysayers are coming out to put their hand in front of the bottle of champagne that will be used to christen the S.S. Apple Watch. The most prominent of those naysayers was Mark Wilson, a traditionally even-keeled fellow who, in his own way, is pushing the pro- and anti-Apple Watch argument forward. I won’t even debase his post with the term clickbait: he has a lot of good ideas and he comes from a place of love, not fanboi-ism.
So here I go with my prediction: the Apple Watch won’t be a flop, it will be a success. It will change multiple industries at once and force entrenched players to rethink every one of their strategies. The watch will grow a fascinating ecosystem of accessories and new industries dedicated to shrinking commerce, mapping, interaction, and dating down to a watch’s smaller real estate will be born. Until VR becomes seamless, the watch is the next notification and interaction frontier and if anyone is going to pierce that envelope it’s Apple. And they will sell millions.
Notifications Are Important
One of the most important things you learn when using the Pebble watch is how important notifications are. Because every email and every Facebook interaction and every Tweet requires a mote of attention, the process of pulling your phone out to assess the importance of a beep or a ding is demanding and maddening. I’ve done some of my best work with a Pebble on my wrist (and, to a degree, Android Wear devices) because I could ignore my phone and instead note who or what was happening with a quick glance. This fractionation of attention is not ideal, but it’s better than the alternatives.
But millions of people don’t know this. They own smartphones and they know something is wrong when they whip them out at dinner but they can’t put their fingers on it. In one swoop, a working, highly interactive “second screen” on your wrist can solve many of these nagging feelings of distraction. While many will say that another screen is another distraction, it’s my hope that a smaller screen that is always within visual range will be superior.
Apple is a luxury brand. Its products are considered objects of desire around the world and there will be a massive influx of fakes and look-alike smartwatches that will ape the Apple Watch entirely. Discerning buyers around the world will see the entry level Apple Watch in the same way they see a classy fashion accessory and like it or not Burberry, Prada, and the like aren’t thriving because they sell better-made products. They’re thriving because they touch a special part of the limbic system that gains pleasure and increases reproductive potential by showing off biologically or financially expensive things – nice abs and Chanel purses included. These watches will be worn by people who would never don another wearable device.
The Time Has Come
If you’ll recall, the first Microsoft Tablet PCs came out in 2001 and were, for all intents, acceptable devices. Manufacturers kept trying to build new tablets – I recall convertibles, detachables, super-thin models, etc. – but no one quite got it. Even as rumors of the iPad reached a fever pitch naysayers were still pointing to previous devices and saying the new Apple Pad would never fly. But it did fly. And it flew because Apple makes things people want to buy while most manufacturers make things that they want people to buy.
Usable wearable has to arrive. It’s inevitable. While I did enjoy the Moto 360 and some other devices, none of them fired my imagination quite as much as the Apple Watch. Android Wear devices show the potential for color-screen wearables and devices like the Fitbit and the Pebble show them in a stark, practical light. The Apple Watch, I believe, will connect those two sides – the ideal and the useful – into one product. That’s another thing Apple is good at.
People Already Wear Watches
People like watches. You might not wear a watch because you are a post-human mutant cyborg who can easily check the time on your phone (and that’s fine) but plenty of people still wear them, especially in Europe and Asia. A nice watch is a social signal and that’s the reason Apple is making their pieces in gold. While some caviar-guzzling oligarch isn’t going to swap their Ulysses Nardin yacht-timer out for a Samsung Gear, they will wear a platinum Apple Watch with solid gold bracelet. It sounds ludicrous, I know, but I know enough about watchmaking to say it’s not nearly as ludicrous as it sounds.
As I’ve said before, the watch industry is in trouble. They can pull out of this trouble by doubling down on marketing and gathering the smartwatch users as they learn to love watches but they won’t pull out of it by building smartwatches for volleyball players. Watch wearing is about to come back in a big way and people who currently wear watches will switch. It’s going to be an interesting time, least of all for wrist-specific self-tanning liquid manufacturers.
Maybe I’m Wrong
Maybe the Apple Watch will flop. I’ll admit that these arguments are cogent but are not backed up by much cold hard fact. However, what I do know about technology, Apple, and watches is all coming together right now into a whirlwind, and that whirlwind is saying this will be a hit. Some analysts are expecting over 7 million Apple Watches to be sold in the first few months, a number I’m not sure I can get behind, but I could see two or three million this spring and another few million this summer. The world has been waiting for this product. It just doesn’t know it yet. How successful it will be is a factor of competition, quality, and implementation and all signs point to the fact that Apple is able to reign supreme in each one.