The iWatch - Apple's Next Innovation? Or an Overpriced Also-Ran?O
While Google has been hard at work on its vision of mainstream Geordi La Forge eyewear, Apple is searching for its next disruptive innovation. And while fan boys and investors alike have spent years waiting for Apple to unveil a TV, it appears as though the next Apple product line might come in the form of a watch.
There is some palpable excitement building among members of the tech community. But, is it warranted? Let's give it some thought.
The global watch market is estimated at approximately $60 billion. Analysts atpredict that Apple could end up penetrating 10% of the market. Does this seem realistic?
While details are still somewhat scant, we do know a few things. The iWatch, or whatever it will end up being called, is slated to run a modified version of Apple's iOS, the operating system used on the iPhone. Just how much might such a product cost? Estimates range from $200 - $300. With the potential for a 60% margin, we're looking at a product with monstrous profit potential.
But, will people buy it?
From my point of view, I'm very skeptical. Smart Phones have rendered watches unnecessary from a practical point of view. Sure, it's nice to be able to quickly tell time, but you can do that and a whole lot more by pulling your phone out of your pocket.
Watches are becoming pure fashion items. From a male perspective, watches are essentially the only mainstream accessory that men can wear on a daily basis. Like a nice pair of shoes, a nice watch can help you stand out. Be it an old school Timex, a timeless Omega, or a futuristic Nooka, your watch selection can tell a great deal about your personal style.
So, what benefit would there be to having a Smart Watch in addition to my Smart Phone? Why would I trade in my Timex for an iWatch? What sort of features are rumored that might make the $200+ price tag worthwhile? Per Bloomberg:
Features under consideration include letting users make calls, see the identity of incoming callers and check map coordinates, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t public. It would also house a pedometer for counting steps and sensors for monitoring health-related data, such as heart rates.
Meanwhile, concerns surrounding the product are apparently focused around battery life. Apple is hell-bent on ensuring the device can go for four to five days without needing a fresh charge. One can only hope, seeing as I've got to charge my iPhone 5 daily or it goes dead on me.
Frankly, I'm not sure that this kind of product is necessary. Is it really that important that we be able to read text messages on our wrist without having to reach into our pockets? Have we really become that lazy?
I can't help but remember that I was skeptical about the iPad before it was released. It just looked to me like a giant iPhone. Seeing as it's arguably the most successful consumer electronics device of all time, I think my skepticism was misplaced. No, we don't necessarily need devices like the iPad, but people sure as shit go out and buy them.
Interestingly enough, Apple isn't even the first player to market. Just as the iPod wasn't the first MP3 player, I'm looking at you, Rio Riot, Apple won't be the first to market with a Smart Watch. That honor belongs to the Pebble.
The Pebble is a Kickstarter funded project that costs $150 a pop. To date, 85,000 have been pre-ordered. We're talking a cool $12.5 million in sales. And if we assume a margin of 60%, the Pebble has brought in over $7.5 million to date. Not so bad for a crowdsourced product. Per the company's website:
Pebble connects to iPhone and Android smartphones using Bluetooth, alerting you with a silent vibration to incoming calls, emails and messages. While designing Pebble, we strove to create a minimalist yet fashionable product that seamlessly blends into everyday life.
Sounds like it has much of the same functionality as the alleged iWatch, only it's cheaper and it works with both iOS and Android enabled phones. Meanwhile, Apple allegedly has 100 engineers and design god Jony Ive working on the iWatch. I hope all that brain power can out-innovate a Kickstarter project that's beating them to market. Frankly, given that we're talking about a watch, I'm not sure it can in any meaningful way.