A rose by any other name is still a rose, right?
Although I, and the rest of the technology media, spent the better part of the past 24 months calling Apple's then-upcoming wearable the iWatch, the device we now know as the Apple Watch is officially here. As has been with the case with the Apple iPhone 6, the Apple Watch appears to have largely received positives responses, and I tend to agree to an extent.
However, it also occurs to me that in order to become a truly legendary product, on the scale of the iPhone for instance, the Apple Watch will need to simply garner positive review. It will have to revolutionize yet another product category for Apple. And in that vein, let's look at whether the Apple Watch appears up for the task.
Why the Apple Watch matters
To say the Apple Watch represents a substantial leap forward for the nascent smart-watch industry as a whole is beyond reproach. As should be expected from any Apple endeavor, all aspects of the Apple watch are clearly well thought out. The new software interface appears to be clean and intuitive, a challenge in and of itself given the minute screen size with which Apple had to deal. Integrating a whole host of navigation functionality into the Apple Watch's crown was a highly clever and subtle way to increase the ease of use without having to drastically alter the Apple Watch's form factor. Apple SVY of design Johnny Ive and his team certainly deserve plenty of credit for producing yet another beautiful piece of technology that should appeal to a whole host of personal styles, which is no easy task for such a highly personalized accessory as a watch.
And accordingly, expect these devices to sell like hot cakes once they actually come to market in early 2015. Numerous analysts have already anointed the Apple Watch the leading smart watch for 2015, and I'm inclined to agree with this prognostication. Between the significant hype and generally superior set of features, the Apple Watch will provide Apple another winning product for its famous product portfolio. However, for all the positivity surrounding the Apple Watch, the device isn't without its faults either.
The Apple Watch is no iPhone
Sadly, there's a significant difference between best-in-class and game-changer, and I believe the Apple Watch is more the former than the latter. Long-time Apple followers will recall the impact the original iPhone created upon its introduction in
2007: Smartphones had existed for years before the original iPhone debuted, but few imagined a smartphone could work so perfectly across hardware, software, and integrated services. It took a nascent category and raised the bar so significantly that triggered internal panic among Apple's rivals like BlackBerry (then known as Research In Motion).
And observed with that precedent in mind, it's unlikely the Apple Watch has caused that same degree of disruption within the wearables space.
I've long argued that smart watches in general will need to offer functionality beyond simply repackaging the capabilities of a smartphone onto the users wrist in order to truly spur mass adoption. And in my mind, the single greatest opportunity to achieve this differentiation is still through the use of integrated health sensors throughout the smart watch. Apple including a heart-rate monitor onto the backside of the Apple Watch's face represents a step in the right direction. And while impressive, this falls short of revolutionary.
Apple has spent heavily by its standards on acquiring medical sensor start-ups and talent over the past several year, which led some (myself included) to hope that Apple would be able to fit in more advanced biometric sensors, such as noninvasive blood glucose monitoring, into the Apple Watch. It's also worth noting that Apple will obviously continue to roll out improvements to the Apple Watch in future iterations, and there's still a lot of potential innovation around the corner on the software side of things with developers still working with Apple's HealthKit API. I'll concede that perhaps I was overly optimistic in my belief that Apple could overcome some admittedly massive engineering issues, but overall I had hope for more. I hoped for another iPhone moment, but instead got the Apple Watch. That's fine, but probably not historic in the same way.
A drop in the bucket
At the end of the day, Apple pretty clearly has another winning product on its hands with the Apple Watch. However, the reality of its potential in Apple's broader financial performance is that the Apple Watch is unlikely to materially move the needle for Apple and its shareholders in its current form, aside from making its ecosystem slightly sticker.
No analyst I've seen believes the Apple Watch is capable of producing more than $10 billion in revenue for the world's largest publicly traded company in CY 2015. And while that's certainly nothing to sneeze at in an absolute sense, it's sadly almost irrelevant for a company the size of Apples. So while the Apple Watch will certainly lead its category once it hits the shelves, it's still unlikely to change the game in a more material sense for Apple.
Andrew Tonner owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.