Are you ready to pay $18,000 for the 18k gold Apple Watch?
Maybe not, but you probably watched as Tim Cook -- in his first new product launch as CEO -- unveiled Apple's first major push into the wearables market. With the launch of the Apple Watch, the wearables race begins.
It is yet to be seen if consumers really want these high tech devices as fashion statements. But Business Insider predicts that by 2018, the wearables market will grow to $12.6 billion. And according to The Wearable Future report, adoption rates of wearables parallels that of tablets. After two years, adoption of tablets was 20 percent and today, 21 percent of American adults already own a wearable device.
So it's safe to assume that wearables will begin to take off.
Learning From Others
Apple is certainly not the first to sell a smartwatch. Samsung LG and Sony have released multiple versions, but none have really caught on. The only modest success has come from the Pebble, the Kickstarter backed darling, and even that only sold 1 million watches as of December 2014.
Google also learned an important lesson with Google Glass -- when you launch a wearable product it must a. provide obvious value and b. not be overtly intrusive. And fashion counts!
Apple is no stranger to being late to market. There were already music players, phones and tablets available before it entered those markets.
'Apple Factor' Strikes Again
Apple product launches are very unique. The Apple Watch launch sets an experience bar for what users expect from connected wearable devices. The pattern is very familiar to what we have seen with the iPod, iPhone and iPad: Create a simple, intuitive device, design it to have a "cool" factor, setup a complete ecosystem, have apps that provide utility and value, package it well, price it reasonably and hype the heck out of it!
The bottom line is that Apple delivers a complete platform, rather than discreet devices. Apple launches the Apple Watch into a ready-made thriving environment, unlike for example, Google Glass.
Ready for Quick Looks?
The Apple Watch is specifically designed for quick looks and fast interactions. The usage paradigm for the watch is not apps but actions. In other words, don't expect to abandon your iPhone for full-featured watch apps.
All of the apps you routinely use such as Messages, Mail, Phone, Calendar, Passbook, Maps, Siri, Music, Remote, Camera, Weather, Stocks, Photos, etc. will now have watch extensions for convenience. The Apple Watch ecosystem will have thousands of apps available to customize your watch's capabilities.
Developers are already hard at work trying to condense complicated app usage actions into single taps to be efficient on the watch. The context and ease of use will dictate adoption. The more efficient the interaction is, the more useful the device becomes.
You would certainly expect apps such as Twitter, Instagram, Shazam, etc. to be readily available, but companies like Target, American Airlines, Nike, MLB, Uber, CNN, eBay, Mint, among many others are also aggressively launching watch apps.
Will Wearables Really Take Off?
While it's still early days with smart wearables, clear shifts are occurring that will lead to a rapid mass market adoption of the Apple Watch, and wearables more broadly:
Improvements in the fundamental consumer value proposition
Fitness and Health monitoring devices are clearly leading this value proposition, allowing for a stronger connection to your health. Increasing control and automation in the home, the car and at work will be another big area of adoption. Assisting the mobile worker, not just through smartwatches, but augmented reality apps such as Oculus Rift, will also take shape.
Creativity in the design aesthetics and styles of the devices
The availability of styles and partnerships between technology companies and fashion designers will drive more stylish devices. Apple Watch will appeal to a wider audience because it has chosen to offer different versions like Standard, Sport and Luxury. Recently, Tory Burch and Fitbit teamed up to offer a more stylish, sensible collection of accessories. I predict others will follow suit.
Evolution of the underlying technology
Battery, glass and bi-sensing technology continue to evolve allowing smaller form factors such as the smartwatch to become more practical. The constant tension between battery life and device capability will continue and while the battery technology will improve, the availability of smaller, lower power consumption components will rise.
Bio-sensors will also mature to better measure biological signals such as heart rate, blood oxygen and perspiration levels in a non-invasive manner.
Emergence of third party ecosystems and applications
Device manufacturers are now providing open APIs to encourage integration into other applications and the development of new applications.
The Apple WatchKit allows developers to create three types of apps for the watch: full featured apps, glances of read-only information and actionable notifications. Similar APIs like the HealthKit and ResearchKit are also available, allowing apps to easily share data which have been used by fitness apps such as MyFitnessPal.
Time Will Tell
Only time will tell if the Apple Watch becomes the next killer Apple device. Personally, it would be nice to see better battery life, a built-in GPS capability and the ability to be un-tethered from the iPhone, but as a first generation product, it will certainly evolve aggressively.
No matter what the outcome, the bottom line is that it was exciting to see the Apple Watch in action, sending text messages, talking to Siri and using apps and to finally see Apple in the wearables space.
Apple has earned the respect and trust of consumers. That alone might just drive people to buy an Apple Watch.