An "Off-base" Perspective on the Apple Watch

September 17th, 2014

This week I talked about the Apple Watch on This One Podcast (For what it’s worth This One Podcast isn’t a new show and I’m comfortable making inaccurate or outrageous claims in that setting just to see if I can get a reaction from some of the few people I know who occasionally listen to the show.) and shortly afterwards was contacted on twitter and told,

You guys are so off-base with the watch, especially on price… – @mknepprath

He provided a link to Gruber’s Apple Watch: Initial Thoughts and Observations blog post, as if this would refute everything we said on the show or at least set us straight. (It didn’t as far as I’m concerned and I’m not entirely sure how we were “off-base” in our discussion, but I thought I would use this opportunity to clarify my position.)

As usual Gruber makes a good and well reasoned argument for his case, something he’s known for in the blogging world. I agree with most of his predictions, but there’s something he doesn’t directly address in his article.


Yes, Gruber mentions several times how the tech industry is going to flip-out when they find out the real watch prices or see the higher than expected sales numbers. I’ve had the same thoughts, but the amount of negative or dismissive talk on the subject is certainly telling.

The Apple Watch announcement was very different than the Apple announcements of late, because it completely defied expectations. “Everyone” expected Apple to take on the smart watch market, go head-to-head with the fitbit, the Moto, Google Glass, all these other wearables, at least I did. Instead, Apple has taken on the entire watch industry. As Gruber said, Apple doesn’t go into a market unless they think they can own it.

This is a complete departure from how most people are viewing Apple these days. Apple is the company that makes really good phones, the company that makes really thin laptops, the company that makes easy to use tablets. Apple is known for making technology accessible, but never at the cost of sacrificing quality. Rumors of the Apple Watch undoubtedly conjured images of a future where wearable tech was affordable for everyone.

For $349 the Apple Watch is an amazing piece of technology. The more time I have to think about it, the more it sounds like the $400 mark is probably the sweat spot for a device like this. Honestly, how can they afford to put that much stuff into something so small and charge so little? The amount of tech Apple is able to cram into this little thing is astounding and really makes me wonder what iPhone 7 is going to look like, now that the engineers at Apple have a chance to play with all this cool new tech and forced to work on an even smaller scale.

Personally, I think the Apple Watch is going to do amazing, but I’m also a little sad because I don’t think it’s for me. I don’t know that I have many friends who will be getting one of these, at least not to begin with.

When going into a big Apple announcement, I’m hoping for Apple to have created something that solves a problem for me. Sometimes I’m even hoping that they have fixed a problem I didn’t even know about yet. The Apple Watch, at least right now, is just really cool tech. There are people who will undoubtedly never know how they lived without one, but at this initial stage it’s a luxury item.

I am very interested to see what approach Apple takes with the watch over the next few years. One of the more interesting points Gruber talks about is the longevity of the Apple Watch. Mobile technology is advancing at an extremely rapid pace right now but watch technology has been pretty well explored over the last few centuries. Watches are not meant to be replaced once a year, top of the line watches are meant to last for years if not forever. The tech industry expects Apple to start coming out with a new Watch every year. Already journalists and bloggers are saying “wait for version 2.0!” Computer circuitry and rechargeable batteries have a life span of three to five years. Knowing Apple’s affinity for non-replaceable batteries, I’m curious to know what their plan is for high end watches.

Why I’m Not Off Base

There’s a tendency, especially with Apple technology, to see people write “this product doesn’t do what I want it to do and so it is doomed to fail and no one should buy it” pieces. This is patently ridiculous because it ignores the fact that everyone has different needs, wants, and desires. My view on the Apple Watch has been consistent from day one, you can even ask Bob Martens about my reaction as we watched the keynote together.

The Apple Watch is an amazing piece of technology, but from the limited stuff we know about it right now, it’s not for me. At least not yet. I’ve said several times that I really wish it was something I could use, I really wish it was something I think I could afford, but it’s not. Not yet. This isn’t a problem with the watch. I can go to any department store and find a hundred different toys, pieces of clothing, or prepackaged food that aren’t for me. I could talk for hours about why a Ralph Lauren sofa isn’t a good fit for my living room, but that doesn’t mean I think they make crappy furniture or that they should be priced like Ikea.

All of my conversations about the Apple Watch have been personally oriented. I also think there is a fair amount of humor in the fact that Apple released the Apple Watch right alongside new phones with larger screens. As Jonas joked during the podcast:

There’s no middle ground anymore. This is basically Apple admitting to being the Sith. They only deal in extremes.

Just because I don’t think the ROI on an Apple Watch is quite there for me, doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind in the future. Part of the issue right now is that details about functionality and features are rather scarce. I would be surprised if future features or updates don’t pique my interest, maybe even before the thing hits store shelves.

A Note On Timing

I don’t think Apple should have announced the Apple Watch right now but I think that they had to. I would have probably waited until the watch was nearly ready to ship and a lot of other stuff was nailed down, the demos in the keynote focused on a lot of eye candy rather than useful features.

Yet there are a number of good reasons to announce the watch now.

It’s pretty obvious that Apple wanted (needed?) to beat the rumors on this one. They had to announce now or something would have leaked. I think they also needed to give people time to digest the information. As a consumer I have half a year to think about this product before it hits the shelves. That gives me plenty of time to trudge through the seven stages of grief and start saving up for one.

Alright. Your turn. Tell me why I’m wrong.