Apple Watch, Thoughts Part 2

Apple Watches

So I’ve had some more time to reflect on the Apple Watch, and it still fascinates me. It’s an exciting new product, much like the iPad in 2010, but in also completely different. In the iPad event Steve Jobs gave us many examples of where the iPad was better than a laptop, or an iPhone. Web browsing, portability, interaction were all things that made the iPad better.

During the Watch reveal at the keynote (about 57 minutes in), there’s not so much about what it’s better at, but more about what it’s capable of. Often the video references the challenge of navigating a small display, and the emphasis on not blocking the display with your fingers. (Of course, the first thing Kevin Lynch does in the live demo is swipe around the app screen.)

The video never really emphasizes actions that are easier to do on your wrist versus doing them with your iPhone. I think this is because Apple isn’t even sure what kind of workflows we are going to come up with. Developers working with iOS do amazing things every year, and this should be just as exciting as they start playing with watch kit. Year one will see development and ideas trickle out, but year two is probably going to be huge, from fitness to glanceable information and everything in-between.

There is at least one obvious area where this could be better than using your iPhone, the convenience of quick replies. This should appeal directly to people that carry their phones in bags or purses, and the size of the 6+ magnifies this even more. Involving these quick replies will be finding a notification balance that each user will have to figure out on their own. Most likely you won’t want every notification to show up on your wrist, but if it doesn’t show up you can’t reply to it. Some people will probably like twitter replies on their wrists, others who get hundreds of mentions will definitely not.

Another immediate function of the Watch is the heath and fitness tracking. There’s a little debate on whether or not the heart rate capture can be 1) truly accurate, and 2) contain useful information. Either way it should provide some feedback that could help you hit fitness targets. Apple also showed off the ability to share ones heartbeat, which with a loved one seems romantic. At the same time having a stranger share theirs with you sounds outright creepy. Hopefully that has been considered.

I was trying to see if anything can be revealed with the product naming…

  • Apple Watch Sport
  • Apple Watch
  • Apple Watch Edition

From that it might be surmised the Apple Watch is their intended “standard” version, or in other words where they want to sell the most. To support that theory, in the Apple Watch introduction video they say that it has a sapphire screen. Only towards the end of the video when they detail the Sport Edition do they say it has an Ion-X screen that’s lighter, and presumably less durable than the sapphire version. I’m not sure if Apple thinks they will sell more Sport or “standard” editions, I guess that will depend a lot on the final price.

So speaking of pricing, this is a hot topic, and got even hotter when Gruber recently posted his thoughts on price.

Apple Watch Sport (aluminum/glass): $349 (not a guess)
Apple Watch (stainless steel/sapphire): $999
Apple Watch Edition (18-karat gold/sapphire): $4,999

Most everyone agrees that the $349 starting price is for the aluminum version with the sport band. In the “standard” version the stainless steel Apple used is 316L, which is commonly used throughout the jewelry industry. It’s not particularly expensive, but does take effort to machine. The 18K gold Edition is a little bit more of an unknown. Apple said it’s an alloy that doubles the hardness of regular 18k gold, but we don’t know the exact percentage contents. If Gruber is right about the “standard” Watch being $999, that would make it $50 more than the most expensive iPhone offered this year. I don’t think it will will come with the matching stainless steel bracelet. I’m under the impression the customer will purchase the base watch with a sport band, and bracelets are extra. For just the Watch alone, a thousand dollars seems high, I’m going to go in at $749. When you start to purchase something in the 4 digit range it starts being less of an impulse purchase, and more of a thoughtful decision. When talking about the Edition, this is where the price starts to not matter. It could be $5k or $10k and I don’t think it would really make a difference. The people that are going to spend $5k on a gold watch with depreciating software don’t care what it costs. Jason Snell at his new Six Colors site got to look at the box the Edition comes in… 

Yes, there’s a special box. It’s covered in leather. Inside is a magnetic charging cradle, and on the back of the box base is a slot into which you plug a Lightning connector. That’s right: The Apple Watch Edition is so fancy that the box is its own accessory.

Sounds nice, and Apple appears to be aiming this squarely at the celebrity fashion market. That’s how you build interest, seeing these on the wrists of people who are considered stylish. It’s all trickle down from there.

So lets talk about us normal folks that care about price. Do you really want to spend close to 4 digits on a watch that could be obsolete in 3 years? That’s a tough sell, it might even be a tough sell at $349. Apple is calling the encapsulated S1 a “miniaturized computer system on a chip”. If this is upgradeable in the future, this would help ease the purchasing pain. But will they? I think it’s very unlikely. There’s no such upgrade plan when it comes to iPhones, iPads, or iPods. New models come in every year, and old ones die off. It would add complexity to the system.

Small note about the bands, they look beautiful with excellent craftsmanship. It also appears with the band swapping mechanics Apple has locked themselves into that particular shape in case design for the foreseeable future. Probably the first 2 years at least. I think the case could get thinner of course, but the rectangular shape is probably going to be here for a while. Which will be a disappointment to those that wanted a more standard circular form factor.

Having a wrist mounted computer could possibly be the first step in changing your “information hub” from the phone, to your watch. Often you lay your phone down somewhere, and wander somewhere else to do a task. The watch, however, is connected to your body, and you have both hands ready at all times. Obviously we’re not anywhere close to leaving our iPhones at home. There are many things to work out, namely battery life, component size, and limited device input. Technology is already racing to solve the first two of those problems, the third is something that will have to be worked on in time. Apple said the Watch was made for lightweight interaction with apps, but I expect we are going to push that boundary as fast as they let us.

I view this as the first step to something truly exciting and completely fascinating.

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