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Opinion: Why the Apple iWatch will succeed (Part 1)

updated 07:10 am EDT, Fri August 8, 2014

Only Apple is capable of delivering the first compelling smartwatch

Apple has been long been rumored to be working on a smartwatch widely referred to as the iWatch thanks to some Apple trademark applications surfacing. However, even though the product hasn't yet been revealed some naysayers like the notorious Apple sceptic John C. Dvorak have already started to write off the device before it has even been released. Similar conclusions were also drawn about Apple's iPhone and iPad by Dvorak and others before each was released; but both as we know have been phenomenally successful. While it seems less likely that an iWatch will have the same widespread appeal as either the iPhone or iPad, there are several signs that suggest that Apple will once again succeed in a market where others have thus far failed to inspire.

Wearables is a nascent market ripe for innovation:
Since rumors first surfaced that Apple was working on smartwatch, there has been a rapid rise in the number of smartwatches that have hit the market. This was in full evidence at Computex Taipei 2014. Wearables are generally being tipped as being one of the next big growth areas in consumer technology with estimates placing the value of wearables market at anywhere between $8 - $15 billion. This pales in comparison to the size of Apple's iPhone business which reached a massive $19.75 billion sales in Q2 this year alone. Apple's iPad also raked in close to $6 billion in Q2 alone as well, making any Apple move into the wearables segment a relatively niche business for the tech giant by comparison. However, there are still good reasons for Apple making its presence felt in the wearables market as an iWatch will still add solid revenue growth for the company, while also helping to make the iPhone even more indispensable for many users.


Sony SmartWatch 2 is a solid product, but not compelling



Smartwatches have failed to take off thus far because they have yet to offer compelling innovation. They currently do little more than replicate the features and functions of a smartphone, acting simply as a dumb terminal for remotely receiving notifications and remotely controlling certain smartphone functions. However, unlike what John C. Dvorak proposes in his article dismissing the iWatch, it does not need to become a standalone Dick Tracy-like iPhone on a wrist either. Voice control is one thing, but being able to take and make phone directly calls from one's wrist sans-smartphone is not necessarily what people are looking for from a smartwatch. Even if Apple did add that capability to the iWatch, it seems highly unlikely that it would make that a feature dependent on the device having its own cellular connection.


Timex Ironman GPS+ is one of the new breed of connected smartwatches



In today's smartphones, the phone function on a smartphone is reduced to being just another app among many other apps that are used for communication - making phone calls is only the fifth most used function on smartphones. When you add in all the other apps and functions commonly used on a smartphone for that simply can't be replicated on a tiny smartwatch display and the shocking battery life such a device would have, you realize that trying to make a Dick Tracy-like smartwatch verges on the ridiculous. Even the new connected Ironman GPS+ smartwatch from watchmaking giant Timex doesn't really offer widespread appeal, although its connectivity with the AT&T network many appeal to a niche market of joggers - but then again, who really wants to add an additional ongoing data plan for your smartwatch on top of a smartphone and tablet plan?


Android Wear isn't the solution either (at least, yet):
Google's Android Wear recently hit the market in tow with a couple of lack luster devices. Neither the LG G Watch or the Samsung Gear Live have done much for the smartwatch cause. Compared to established Android-based smartwatches like the Sony SmartWatch 2, there is nothing especially compelling about , Android Wear, even if it brings Google Now and voice control to smart watches for the first time. However, neither Android Wear launch device has particularly good battery life, with both lasting just one day on a charge. This compares with Sony's SmartWatch 2, which lasts up to several days on a charge. If Sony is able to integrate its SmartWatch 2 with its health-oriented SmartBand in a future Smartwatch 3 while maintaining battery life, it will get closer to what Apple seems to have planned.


LG G Watch is one of the first to run Android Wear, but is lackluster



Samsung, which typically has adopted a scattergun approach to any consumer electronics category it enters, has launched multiple smartwatches variously running its own version of Android, its own Linux-based Tizen OS, and most recently Android Wear. Yet, the closest it has come to making an authentically useful device is the Galaxy Gear Fit, athough even it has been met with mixed reviews and limited success. Beta testing hardware and software products through the paying public is not something that Apple would ever inflict on its users, especially just for the sake of being first to market. Still, there will always be early adopters willing to take a gamble and there is always eBay if the gamble doesn't pay dividends.


Samsung Gear Fit is its first wearable with potential




Scope for a truly innovative smartwatch:
As people who wear fitness trackers will attest to, they can be useful, but none really stand out and they often end up discarded in a drawer somewhere after the novelty wears off. As mentioned above, the same can probably be said for users who have experimented with some of the first smartwatches to date (I know I have one or two lying around gathering dust). However, there is certainly room for a wearable device that takes the best of both of these device categories, marries them, while extending the depth and capability of their overall functionality - and importantly - their usability. A more advanced health tracker that also offers other smartwatch-like functions that delivers innovation in spades could take off. If it has an Apple logo on it, the iWatch will come with an implicit promise that it will be fully conceived, beautifully designed, and properly executed. This doesn't mean that it can't and won't be improved in subsequent iterations; of course it will. But you can be assured that version one of the iWatch won't hit the market unless it is a truly great product.


Apple's trademark precision engineering as seen in the making of the new Mac Pro




Only Apple:
As Tim Cook has often said over the past couple of years, 'Only Apple' is capable of delivering consumer integrated electronic products and services in a way that offer users an experience that is second to none. Only Apple was able to deliver the iPod when it did, the iPhone when it did, and the iPad; Apple more than any other company is responsible for sparking the mobile revolution. Unlike companies like Samsung, which are willing to rush heavily flawed products to market like the original Galaxy Gear smartwatch, Apple does a lot of the product evolution behind the scenes before it is prepared to go to market with something. This was conclusively demonstrated during the original Apple versus Samsung lawsuit, which revealed numerous prototype Apple iPhones developed before the iPhone was launched in 2007.


The original iPhone launched in 2007 revolutionized smartphones crushing established handset makers like Nokia and BlackBerry



The original iPhone and iPad were more like second or third-generation products in that they were highly refined and fundamentally well-thought out from the beginning of their respective product lifecycles. In fact, the iPhone was so advanced that companies like BlackBerry and Microsoft were said to be in shock at the fact that Apple was able to release a device like the iPhone at the time. Blackberry (then RIM), thought that a multitouch smartphone with a 3.5-inch display was at least five years away when the iPhone launched in 2007. The company thought a device with such a large display (for the time) with usable battery life was impossible, but were then startled to see just how small the motherboard was and how much of the device was comprised of a battery component when disassembled. Yet all of these components were available to other manufacturers, but it took Apple's vision to see how they could be engineered into such a remarkable, game changing device.


The original iPad launched in 2010 revolutionized tablet design and continues to dominate the market



This is why there is every reason to expect that the Apple iWatch will be similarly advanced for its time compared to the current competition. Apple's products are often ambitious, setting out to deliver a user experience that no other company is geared up to deliver. Couple this ambition with Apple's renowned product execution and seamless integration within Apple's ecosystem and you start to get a sense for why Apple will succeed where others have failed to date. Only Apple will be able to deliver the first truly successful and useful smartwatch because only Apple has the singular vision, ambition and ability to create truly great products. The iWatch will confirm Apple CEO Tim Cook is the real deal, while it will also reinforce Steve Jobs' view that Apple's "brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it."

Part 2 of the story is now live.

By Sanjiv Sathiah

[Top image credit: Gábor Balogh]



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. burger

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 09-13-00

    Nice optimism! In my case, I love being watch free. I don't doubt apple will bring something new to the market if they do in fact introduce a smartwatch, but the whole concept feels a bit gimmicky. I see very few in the wild. Those users do like the ability to quickly look at messages and caller ID, but I have yet to see anyone spending much more time than a quick glance with them. We shall see.

  1. Jeronimo2000

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-20-01

    All valid points. Still, it's foolish and immature to claim at this stage that an unreleased product will succeed, just as it is foolish and immature to claim that it won't (case in point: John Dvorak's usual braindead ramblings, http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2461557,00.asp).

    Nobody can foresee what level of success an iWatch/iTime/iWhatever will have, because none of us has a clue what exactly it will do, what it will look and feel like, etc.

    Sure, we can guess, we can dream, we can use common sense to figure out what that device might be like, but in the end it's all pretty pointless. Then again, I guess somehow those ad impressions must come from somewhere, right? :)

  1. coffeetime

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 11-15-06

    Did someone leave him a prototype iWatch in a bar somewhere?

  1. Mr. Strat

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 01-23-02

    Has Dvorak been right about anything?

  1. James Katt

    Junior Member

    Joined: 03-02-08

    Samsung, Google and others are simply waiting for an Apple product to copy.

  1. iphonerulez

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: 11-28-08

    Wall Street is almost certain that Apple's wearable device will be a huge failure and they're betting against Apple, as usual. I don't recall Wall Street ever thinking that something Apple introduces will be a financial success. Wall Street even believes Apple's iPhone business is basically hanging on for dear life and that it will be ready to collapse at any moment some fancy new Android smartphone hits the streets and a lower price point. Supposedly, Apple's share price numbers are already baked in and there's nothing more to come. It certainly does look that way as Apple's share price has pulled back for at least a full week of trading. That typical Apple weakness is back again in force. Apple is drifting further and further away from $101 when I had thought it would gain a little each week. I was dead wrong.

    I don't have much hope for Apple's wearable device because the critics are going to take great pains to pan the hell out of whatever Apple introduces. They'll find faults with everything about it and tell consumers not to buy the product. I'm already led to believe most consumers have much interest in wearing some watch-like device (if that's what it turns out to be). I always wear a Casio wristwatch and have done so for years but that's just how it is for me. I don't think I'll be in any hurry to buy Apple's device unless it can check every body measurement possible. If it can do that, then I'm ready to buy it right now.

  1. Steve Wilkinson

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-19-01

    OK, here's the thing.... Let's say Apple nails it. They create a watch that looks great (something new), works optimally (something new), with all the dream features the speculative articles have been talking about. I guess, my question is, so what? It still seems like a niche market for people who actually want to wear a watch anymore.

    Would there be a few fitness people who would buy one if it did the sensors well? Sure. All dozens of thousands of them. Would there be Glasshole-like folks who dream of talking to or through their watch? Yea, I'll bet there are at least a few hundred of them. And, who (of a certain age group) didn't have a Casio calculator watch in their teens? Yea, I'm sure there are several thousand gadget-geeks who'll want one. And, then there are the Apple fanboys who will buy it just because. There are several thousand of them too.

    But, the big problem with this is that for the majority of people, I just can't even imagine a compelling reason to want one. Masses DID want a convenient device to carry their music library around. Masses DID want a smartphone that actually worked well... for years and years. Less knowingly wanted a tablet, but it quickly became quite clear the advantages of having one. What's the big thing about the smart-watch? Anyone?

    For the smart-watch to succeed, there needs to be a market for it. No matter how well Apple does on the design and implementation, I just don't see a potential market anywhere near the size of that for the iPhone or iPad. Will it sell some? Sure. Will it be anywhere near on scale with the iPhone or iPad? I don't see how it possibly could be.

  1. Steve Wilkinson

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-19-01

    Or, a super-brief summary.... is 'compelling smart-watch' simply an oxymoron.

  1. jdonahoe

    Junior Member

    Joined: 07-05-06

    The problem with the iWatch right now is that everybody is expecting it. When the iPhone and iPad were introduced, they were surprises, something different, there were no similar (yeah, I know there were some tablets, but they were bulky and limited) products. Ever since the rumor mill started spinning the tales of a possible iwatch, everybody else is popping one out. So Apple is being judged on a product they haven't even made any announcements for.

    So yeah, like others, I'm afraid Apple will be chastised harshly unless the iWatch does everything including holographic projections. I would probably buy it sight unseen, because I'm a tech junkie, but it will have to have a cool/beauty/amazing appearance or it may be toast out of the gate.

  1. ADeweyan

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-17-04

    Apple won't release a smart watch unless is offers a significant benefit to it's users. It's more than being cool, and more than being an add-on to an iPhone. They won't offer one unless it is powerful enough to convince people it's worth wearing on their wrists.

    I'm not saying they've done this or will do this. They may simply decide it's not possible at this point to create a compelling enough product to bother releasing. But if they do release it, it will be a much more useful product than what we've seen before, and will add something that either significantly improves the iPhone/iOS experience, or provides features that can't be easily replicated on a phone. Otherwise, there's just no point.

    Sorry, but I have to laugh at many of these comments. "People don't wear watches anymore" -- because a watch has very limited usefulness and is easily replaced by a device everyone is already carrying around. But give them a watch that adds significant functionality in a slick package, and they'll happily put them on their wrists.

    "People are expecting it, so it can't be successful." The iPad was hugely anticipated. An iPod phone was also anticipated, though the category-defining iPhone far exceeded expectations.

    "The press will jump on it, so it will never gain traction." The press is fickle. The moment a great product comes out, they'll be behind it -- or they'll have their pieces mocked for years to come.

    Apple can certainly misfire and fail -- but it's not because they didn't offer a compelling product, just that the product was too expensive (Cube), or didn't work well enough out of the gate (Newton). You'd have to go back to the pre-Jobs days to find Apple releasing products that failed because they were just flat out disappointing products.

    I'm not an Apple apologist, I just think it's dangerous to bet against them these days. They are incredibly shrewd when it comes to new products. They've shown time and again that they understand a product has to be really special to be worth their while -- because they need to offer high value to justify the high margins they will charge.

  1. coffeetime

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 11-15-06

    Smart phones existed way before iPhone, but iPhone had the mass adapted to it. Tablets existed way before iPad, but iPad had the mass adapted to it. Smart watches existed before iWatch, but will Apple make it a different? I can't wait to find out.

  1. msuper69

    Professional Poster

    Joined: 01-16-00

    I just hope the display is customizable an has an analog option. I detest digital displays when it comes to time figuring out when 45 minutes from now can involve some conversions that are unnecessary with analog.

  1. PJL500

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-18-11

    What can be done on a gadget with such a small battery? A phone has to fit a human palm grip so that conveniently allows the battery to take up most of its innards.
    Ok, the iWatch will not have juicy cellular function to tax its battery. But bluetooth is a bit juicy too.
    It would seem there is a limit to what can be integrated into the watch format while battery tech remains cobbled.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    Originally Posted by Steve WilkinsonView Post

    But, the big problem with this is that for the majority of people, I just can't even imagine a compelling reason to want one.



    This is the crux, and it is what makes all speculation in advance of a release so useless.

    Apple's genius tends to be to work out why we would want something, and build that — usually by building something they themselves would love to have.

  1. Steve Wilkinson

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-19-01

    I suppose they could out-genius all of our imaginations, but while I think they are pretty great, I don't think they are quite THAT good. :)

    None of their previous products outpaced our imaginations, they were just far better than the competition and actually did pretty much what people actually needed them to do (unlike the competition).

    My argument is that EVEN IF the supposed iWatch totally blows the competition away AND does everything we could imagine a smart-watch doing (with the laws of physics and reality), I still don't see a reason for mass-market appeal.

  1. Spheric Harlot

    Clinically Insane

    Joined: 11-07-99

    If you imagined the iPhone as what it actually turned out to be back in January 2007, then you successfully outsmarted the entire cellphone industry, including the entirety of RiM, who didn't believe that what Jobs showed them could be real even AFTER the keynote presentation.

  1. Steve Wilkinson

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-19-01

    Yes, but having OWNED and USED various 'smart-phones' from Palm, etc. I certainly did imagine the demand and wishes for a phone that actually worked a whole heck of a lot better.... EVERY DAY!

    But, I don't need a better watch, nor a smart one. I stopped wearing a watch years ago and have no wish for a new one, no matter what it does. Most people I've talked to, outside tech-nerds who like gadgets for gadgets sake, seem to agree. It would have to do something awfully special to add to their phone (which has a clock), or use in place of their phone.

    Again, I certainly could have imagined a smart-phone with more powerful apps and better integration, and in fact wanted such a thing at the time. I didn't realize quite the leap Apple would make, but it was along the lines of imagination and want.

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