Apple Watch is out (almost) and the professional reviews are rolling in, mostly positive to gushing. Why? Just as Apple’s iPad hit the sweet spot between iPhone and Mac, Watch has a specific target in mind; those of us who can afford convenient baubles, or necessary luxuries.
Wait a minute. Isn’t that kind of the same thing? Yes. And no.
First, think about how Apple approaches a product. The company does not appear to think much about sales as much as the user experience; which results in growing sales, of course. But the focus of each product is how is it used, and how can it be made better.
Watch is no different.
Second, just as the iPhone has become a necessary luxury (most of us need a cellphone more than we need a watch), Watch can be described as luxurious bauble and convenient necessity. Like the iPhone, Watch is affordable, but borders on the premium side of the product segment. Like the iPhone, Watch is convenient– it takes some iPhone functions and makes them more usable, less obtrusive, easier to manage. That’s not at all unlike a TV remote control, or the steering wheel controls that used to be on a car’s dashboard.
Watch is priced, to start, at that sweet spot the begins the high end of the watch industry; around $400. Yes, there are a gazillion watches that are priced far less, and do far less, therefore are worth far less (yet, they still tell time). But the watches that make money for their manufacturers start at around $400. Those same watches cost more, but usually last longer, and the more money you spend on each one, the longer those watches are expected to stay in fashion and perform.
Therein lies the only issue about Apple Watch that I haven’t wrapped my head around. How long will Watch remain useful? For $400 one could expect to get a very good watch that would last easily 10 to 30 years. I have a beautiful bracelet watch that cost a mere $69 20 years ago. It still works, still keeps time, still is a fashion statement (needs a battery every year; a cleaning every five years).
Most modern technology items are not expected to last 20 years. I can keep a Mac notebook five years before handing it off. Most iPhone users upgrade their phones every two to three years, depending on carrier contract. iPad sales have softened the past year, mostly because the device is well made, still gets used, and because Apple hasn’t countered with a must-have reason for many users to upgrade.
What of Watch?
Will the average Watch user upgrade every couple of years? Or, will Watch perform well five years down the road?
For now, the answers to those questions are unknown, and time has a way of answering such considerations. For now, Watch will be a hit. A big hit. Not a hit in the sense of iPad or iPhone, but I predict more sales– far more sales– than Macs each quarter. The early reviews will be positive to gushing, and a growing number of Apple’s loyal customers will make appointments, try on a Watch, check out what it does when paired with their iPhones, and walk away about $400 to $1,000 poorer.