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Why I'm Skeptical of a Successful iWatch

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Let's get this out of the way first: I'm a pretty big Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) fan. My articles are written on a Mac, I check email and grab story ideas on my iPhone, I've got several iPods in drawers around the house, and my Wi-Fi signal comes courtesy of an Airport Extreme. But even after years of using Apple products, I can't image strapping an iWatch onto my wrist -- I simply don't see what value it could bring.

In the niche of time
There's no doubt that wearable tech could be one of the next big markets. Some have estimated the market will be worth from $30 billion to $50 billion in the next five years. But wearable technology right now often fills a niche purpose, and it hasn't yet been accepted for everyday use.

Take the Nike Sportwatch, for example. It uses GPS to track how many miles a runner has gone, the number of calories burned, and has a heart rate monitor. Those features are all great for runners -- and maybe really intense walkers -- but it's not going to appeal to the mass market.

So here's where the idea of an Apple iWatch falls apart for me. Apple doesn't like to make products that fill niches. They want products that have mass appeal and will sell millions upon millions of units. The company invests too much time and money into products to not want them to be blockbusters. 

Sure, an iWatch would do much more than track running stats, but the device would have to jump some pretty big hurdles to get the everyday user to want to purchase it.

I'll submit my wife as an example. She spends time on Facebook and Instagram, some of her meal ideas come from Pinterest and a few of our vacations originated on Groupon and Airbnb. She has the latest iPhone, texts like a champ, blogs on WordPress, and likes her content streamed from the Roku. But in today's world she's an average user -- she wouldn't be considered a power user or an early adopter. And there's certainly no way she'd wear an Apple iWatch (yes, I asked her).

Sure, she's only one person -- hardly a representative sample -- but for mass-market adoption, she's exactly the type of consumer Apple would have to convince to purchase an iWatch. This is bad news for the company. Even worse, I can't fathom wearing an Apple watch myself -- and I used to wear a calculator watch.

In order for the iWatch to be a success for Apple, the company would need to convince millions of potential customers that they need this sort of device -- and that's a pretty tall order. Tim Cook even hinted at the difficulty of wearables in May, saying, "You have to convince people it's so incredible you want to wear it."

The CEO of Swatch, Nick Hayek, said this just a few months ago, "Personally, I don't believe it's the next revolution. Replacing an iPhone with an interactive terminal on your wrist is difficult. You can't have an immense display."

Swatch isn't an old dinosaur company trying to hold onto classic timepieces, either. It's worked with Microsoft to bring sports, weather, stock quotes and horoscopes to a line of watches back in 2004, experimented with a phone watch over a decade ago, and sells watches with Bluetooth connectivity.

But Hayek's skepticism isn't keeping companies from trying. Samsung has officially said they're building one, Sony's already released one, and Google is reportedly working on its own smartwatch. This makes me wonder if all of these companies are building smartwatches, or saying they are, so they don't fall behind the competition -- rather than because consumers will actually buy it.

Anyone's guess
I understand the possibilities of wearable computing, but just as Google Glass has shown, there are challenges that the budding industry will have to overcome. Sure, it's possible Apple could come out with a iWatch that changes the game just as much as the iPod or iPhone did, but I don't think that'll happen. New tech devices need to add real value to consumers, and I don't think a smartwatch can do that right now. Between tablets and smartphones there's already plenty of data, notifications, and mapping services for users. A smaller screen isn't going to make any of that better.

Of course, I could be way off and an iWatch could turn wearable computing into the next big thing. But the first step to a successful product launch is recruiting the people who are already loyal to your products and want a new experience -- and I'm just not there yet.

However, Apple has a history of releasing successful products that other companies failed to capitalize on -- and an iWatch could be just that type of product. Apple has no problem destroying its current product lineup in favor of what it believes will be a blockbuster device. To get a glimpse of Apple's future, check out our free report, "Apple Will Destroy Its Greatest Product." Find out if Apple can really disrupt its own iPhones and iPads by clicking here.

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  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 11:40 AM, twolf2919 wrote:

    You are skeptical because you can't think of a use case that would make people want to wear such a device.

    Do you use Siri? I've started using it regularly while driving - e.g. "Message my wife that I am on my way home" or "How is the traffic?" or "How did XXX stock do today?" or "What movies are playing around here?". Right now, to do this, I have to fish my phone out of my pocket and, if I anticipating having lengthy conversations with Siri, I also put on the headphones/mic. So Siri is already pretty useful to me - and it's only going to get better and more helpful over time. An iWatch make the interaction with Siri so much more convenient: instead of fishing the phone out of my pocket, I simply talk into the watch (it would basically act as a bluetooth headset and forward my voice to the phone).

    Similarly, an iWatch could make notifications more convenient: instead of fishing the phone out of my pocket to see what caused its latest vibration, I can see them on my watch. Only if I need to respond to them, do I need to get the phone out (or not, if the response can be handled via Siri).

    Neither of the above two use cases requires much CPU or energy on the part of the watch. Since the primary input mechanism is voice, it won't need a big display and, so, could be made into a stylish/slim accessory that won't make you look like a dork.

    I think folks who see an iWatch as a mini iPhone are mis-judging what Apple has in mind.

  • Report this Comment On July 10, 2013, at 11:48 AM, Chief1719 wrote:

    You are missing the point of an iWatch. Just like everyone missed the point of an iPad when it first came out. People were holding the ipad to their ears and laughing how it was too big to make phone calls. The iWatch will change the way you do things.

    First, it will replace the cellphone. In today's day and age, you have absolutely no need to hold a brick to your ear for communication. A good cellular transmitter and an ear piece is more than enough.

    Second, you will no longer need a wallet. You will simply scan your hand or eventually just walk out of the store.

    Third, you will be able to control devices using gyroscope and gps technology. A flip of the wrist turns on your lights. Flicking up, changes channels on your tv. You will simply walk to your car and the door will be open. You will get in the elevator and it will take you to your floor. These apps will be built.

    The iPad was a "Life Remote Control". The iWatch turns your hand into a "Life Remote Control". It isn't disruptive to your ipad or ipad mini. It is directly disruptive to your smart phone which will be obsolete in the near future. You will have an iWatch and a flexible paper ipad mini. No reason to carry a brick around anymore. That is so 2000's.

  • Report this Comment On July 23, 2013, at 2:33 PM, Gootch2 wrote:

    Where I think wearable tech, like watches, will really shine is for real-time and time-sensitive notifications. True, you get those on your phone right now -- but if you've worn a pebble, you will understand how much more effective those notifications are when they are attache to your wrist. A small silent vibration on my wrist immediately frees my mind of worrying about missing a muted phone in my pocket, or annoying anybody around me if my volume is too loud.

    I won't be using a smart watch as a wrist mounted interactive terminal -- I will be using it as a source of timely read-only information for the most part... I've got my phone for everything else.

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