I was at Mobile World Congress last week in Barcelona. This week, Apple finally announced details on their much anticipated first-generation smartwatch.
Wearables, but why?
The Apple Watch faces the same critical challenge that all smartwatches already struggle with today: a strong use case. In other words, is it really better to do this on my watch than on my phone?
- The trend is towards big, not small. Today, most watches do not have independent internet connectivity so you’ll always have your phone nearby when using your watch. If anything, the boost in iPhone sales after the launch of the larger 6 and 6 plus should be a hint that the world wants *larger* screens, not smaller ones.
- The ecosystem for connecting software and hardware is still immature. Lots of interesting solutions are emerging, e.g. payments, notifications, and access, but mobility is still firmly in the early adoption phase.
- People stopped wearing watches a while ago. Check out this article from 2007. Generally speaking, a lot of people stopped wearing watches because their phones provide the time and serve dozens of other functions. Everyone finds phones to be useful for multiple purposes. The same can’t be said for smartwatches or smart glasses.
But there’s just one thing.
At MWC, every manufacturer seemed to have a smartwatch offering. They came in a variety of designs, with high- and low-end finishes, targeting different consumer segments.
Regardless of brand, there’s one thing all of these watches have in common: they run Android. They may look different on the outside, but when you get into the user experience, they’re all essentially the same.
And Apple is the only manufacturer with its own operating system.
So despite similar challenges of use case, battery life, phone tethering, et al., Apple has something unique. It’s not about the $17,000 version, the initial set of brand apps, or the celebrity endorsements. The key is the ecosystem. And while the Apple Watch won’t be an instant hit like the iPad (again, big screen size!), it will be a solid first-generation product entry, just like the first iPod. What will be interesting to watch is how other manufacturers create a meaningful difference in a sea of Android sameness.