Apple’s take on the smartwatch: Elegant evolution

38 Comments

Credit: Kevin C. Tofel/Gigaom

After attending the “Spring Forward” event to get all of the remaining Apple Watch details and then getting some hands-on time with the device, I walked away with mixed emotions.

Apple Watch 42mm on wrist

On the one hand, [company]Apple[/company] debuted a polished product that was very responsive in my use. On the other hand, we learned few additional features or details we didn’t already know from the September Apple Watch introduction.

The Apple Watch pricing was perhaps the biggest new piece of information. A 38 millimeter Apple Watch Sport will cost $349 while a 42 millimeter version is priced $50 more.

Apple Watch Sport Edition

The stainless steel Apple Watch starts at $549 for the smaller model and there is the same $50 premium for the larger size. Depending on your choice of band, you can spend up to $1,049. And the Apple Watch Editions made from gold will start at $10,000.

Apple Watch Edition

Aside from that, we learned a few minor details to fill in gaps. We knew, for example, the Watch would support Apple Pay but today we saw how it works. Third-party apps were shown off as extensions to what you could already do on your phone. We learned that the display of Apple Watch is off until you either raise your wrist or tap on the screen. And we saw how you could take a phone call right from the Apple Watch with its microphone and speaker.

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Here’s the thing: There was no surprise or compelling feature that set the Apple Watch apart from other smartwatches, and I didn’t really see any major advancement of the device category. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. If you liked what you saw in the Apple Watch back in September, you got a little more to like today. If you were unconvinced back then, you’re likely still on the fence.

The situation is, to me, vastly different from another first generation product from Apple. The iPad. When the iPad arrived, it truly stood out and put Apple out in front of the tablet market. Yes, there were tablets available in the past, but none compelled the mass market uptake that iPad did.

I’m not so sure the same will hold true for the Apple Watch, at least in its first iteration.

Oh, I still expect Apple to sell millions of watches. Just not tens of millions for some time to come. Those looking for the convenience factor of not having to reach for their iPhone 100 times a day will strongly consider it. How much they will pay for that convenience is another question. I hemmed and hawed over a $249 Android Wear watch in December, for example, even with a $50 holiday discount. Spending hundreds more isn’t something I’d personally consider, but that’s just me.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 10.56.57 AM (2)

As far as early comparisons between the Apple Watch and Android Wear, the functionality is much the same. There are some unique features on both, but at their core, both do similar things — notifications, health tracking and small app functionality — as they extend apps and data from a connected phone. The interfaces are different though, and overall, in my limited hands-on time, the Apple Watch appears more responsive than any Android Wear device I’ve used: fast, slick animations and quick transitions between screens.

Forrester analyst James McQuivey seems to feel the same, backing up my impressions in an email:

“Competitors will also be relieved that Apple didn’t really surprise anyone with its features. Samsung and Motorola don’t have to worry that Apple has leapfrogged them in many functional ways — the Moto 360, for example, already does most of what Apple showed today, though sometimes the user has to go looking for those features.”

Apple’s take on the smartwatch is what you’d expect then: Designed in a way that Apple feels is elegant and intuitive, just like its iPhone and iPad products. Apple Watch isn’t quite a smartwatch revolution but more of Apple’s stamp on the product category.

Apple Watch Tim cook

Perhaps the biggest difference between Apple Watch and competing products is the fashion and luxury tie-in between the different bands — which looked very nice — and gold casings. Turning a phone accessory into a luxury item purchase might be the real advancement here, and that might get people to shell out $549 or far more for a smartwatch.

38 Comments

Jacquie Ashley

This new watch is amazing it has all the function of the cellular phone on your wrist. I think this design is the most popular one yet in today’s day in age. I am sure that after the launch of this product Apple will indeed introduce a more upgraded version.

ohadmanor

Apple stuff is always good, however I doubt the watch will be as affective as the iphones, seems harder to use :).

DP

version 2 should you wait. version 1 defective toy is.

Chris Mackenzy

We still miss you Steve Jobs. The way you use to revel the new product while standing on stage can never be copied.

Jerainy_03

Awesome innovation by Apple with hundreds of apps, and the ability to send and receive calls via an iPhone but It feels like Apple is playing it too safe to protect iPhone market share by just making this an iPhone accessory instead of a true stand alone device. Most people aren’t even sure they need one. it feels more like a fashionable toy than a necessary tool.

Livecoding.tv

However if anyone was looking to develop apps for these watches, Livecoding.tv is the best place to learn to code in Swift. Have a look yourself.

Robin

I can imagine children enjoying wearing that but cannot believe a grown-up man would find its aesthetics appealing or that a grown-up woman would care of such a gimmicky piece of technology.

Jonny Pean

Awesome innovation by Apple as always. in fact, I think they will soon launch more watches than one can expect. I have come by a site which has been working on new gadgets and educational technology.

Michael Schoening

In my point of view Apple will sell this year more watches than expected, it will start big, a bit slowdown then and big again end of the year. We will see people who say right now they are not interested, finally buying one. I bet on this!

Dave

Biggest missed point in this article is that it’s a platform for apps that will work well in mature established ecosystem. These days it’s not really about the hardware, but rather the software that runs on it, and how well it coexists/shares data/sensory etc with other devices.

ewalsh5

I’ll probably wait until the app integration and platform deliverance of multi-edge apps before getting on to the Apple-praising bandwagon. The viewport is already reporting some unique challenges in terms of WYSIWYM canvas options and dynamic displays. Though I can’t fault the overall attention to outward design, the UX might not yet be the best shape. And I don’t think Samsung anyway was worried about Apple leapfrogging them functionally. Not only have Apple been playing catch up off late, Samsung themselves are showing signs of frazzled business strategy by trying to take control out of users hands by watering down end products.

John

I really hoped the Apple watch would be compelling but I’m very sad that it isn’t. It feels like Apple is playing it too safe…to protect iPhone market share…by just making this an iPhone accessory instead of a true stand alone device. And as such the price point is way too high to become mainstream…At this point the HealthKit features seem more of a niche market. Apple should release a non HealthKit version for folks who mainly just want notifications and light app interactions. It seems Apple has compromised this device by striving too hard to make it benefit Apple vs consumers. No doubt Apple watches main feature is profit…for Apple. Not a device that would revolutionize my life….yet, I’m hopeful one day it might. Keep in mind this first gen is just an experiment writ large and if Apple really wants to sell watches they will figure out what people actually want eventually and deliver.

evogic

If you have to ask such a question the $10K smart watch is not aimed at you. I fall into that category as well.

For people with money $10K is nothing, absolutely nothing.

Mike

A this site shut down? No updates since March 9th, seems very strange. Can’t wait to see what Kevin has to say about the new chrome pixel.

sde

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Whmsicle

For us runners who don’t want to carry iPhone , I think only a little music and time?

Samuel Clemens

Or paying $10,000 for a gold case might strike many as an absurd product at any price.

Andrew G.

…and one that will be obsolete in 2 years even more baffling. One for the oligarchs then…

richardmgarrett

To me the Apple watch (and likely its competitors as well) offers a potential breakthrough in convenience and practicality. The notion that I won’t have to be digging into my pocket as many times during the day for my phone implies that the risk of dropping it is greatly reduced. There is the potential benefit too of not having to (rather obsessively) look at my phone all of the time. These are attributes that are already available (albeit to a lesser degree) with my Pebble watch. Similarly if the convenience of making a payment is accompanied by greater security, that is a practical benefit too. I recall that Apple dropped the prices on its 1st generation iPhones and iPads rather quickly — that makes me wonder if a similar price drop may happen with the 1st gen Apple watch. Clearly Apple’s competitors are paying attention and if their response is to drop prices by x% Apple will have to consider its alternatives. Yay for competition!

Will White

The truly compelling piece to the watch is simple apple pay integration … being able to swipe your watch at a terminal with no additional interaction really does make payments seamless and that is pretty slick. The rest of it, I’m not so sure … and the obsolescence question is very legit. On the other hand, if you are a tech geek / millionaire, maybe paying 10k for something that won’t last two years is a status symbol feature. Big risk and it will be very interesting to watch what happens … excuse the pun.

bruicy

This will be the 3rd flop under Tim Cooks reign (5c, Thunderbolt). Now with iPad on the decline the only thing Apple has left to hitch their wagon too is the iPhone (Mac was never relevant). Apple is lucky that the tech press is very Apple-centric & will give them the benefit of the doubt & make endless excuses as to their non-Jobs performance.

Every time I see this this thick ugly square with neon wristband it looks like it belongs on a scubadiver. The only slack I will cut it is that it CLEARY is the product of modern limited technology & I highly doubt that this is what Jony Ive actually wanted to make.

jerzyrhodes

Apple is laughing at you all the way to the bank. Er, they would if they knew you existed.

hundoman

Its a new day for Apple two proprietary Apple only dongles released in the same day.

Apple Watch propriety cable that takes 2.5 hours to charge a watch that doesn’t even hold a charge for 18 hours.

Apple new MacBook that comes with no external ports save for a USB type 3 port so to connect your computer to anything it is time to go and invest a bunch of money in various forms of dongles to get USB, HDMI, VGA, and no Ethernet on a $1400+ laptop computer?

Byron Bennett

Hmmm…I had to check, but your comment just made me realize my 2 year-old MBP doesn’t have Ethernet. Carry it to work every day and haven’t needed it in 2 years. Lucky to have good wifi at work.

Mike R. Manzano

I suppose a major differentiator not mentioned here is that it integrates with iPhone. For those of us with iPhones, there really isn’t another choice that easily “just works”.

Kevin C. Tofel

Agreed, Mike; that’s one of the big selling / marketing points Apple will make and it’s something that’s not easy to replicate on other platforms right now.

mjsottawa

Actually, it will convince people that Apple is taking them for fools. Risky move, Tim Cook, and one that is pretty much guaranteed to FAIL. :(

Jon Garrett

Nothing about this watch is elegant or evolutionary.

Nicholas Paredes

Kickstarter projects have come to market trying to build a business on a hypothesis. Apple is an established business who actually tests products in the market. Glass and other projects fail and various constituents complain at the faux pas. A decade ago we were trapped in the Wintel nightmare of incremental innovation. Try to gets some perspective.

Michael W. Perry

I can only hope that for that $10,000 line, Apple is promising free upgrades for the interior guts for a few years. Otherwise, it’s a lot of money for a device that likely to be soon obsolete.

Kevin C. Tofel

Yup, there was speculation on that, Michael but it wasn’t mentioned at all. I’m with you on the cost and potential obsolesce point.

danamccall

No way they stay with that form factor. Gen 2 will likely be thinner and curved.

Byron Bennett

Completely agree. For $10k, you should be able to trade it in and get the new model for a mere $1k…for life.

Can you imagine have to carry around a $10k iPhone 1 five years later?

But then again, a $10k smartwatch is for people to whom upgrading their $10k smartwatch every year is no bigger a deal than me getting new dress shoes for work every year.

no one

And based on this comment they shut down the whole business

Fennec

You laugh now, but you’ll be right in a little while. Apple products are becoming less compelling to the world as a whole. Their reign is cooling down, slowly, but it will still come to an end.

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