Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) recently announced that it will host a dedicated event about Apple Watch on March 9. The smart watch, which will launch in April, could help Apple diversify its top line beyond iPhones and iPads. It will also be Apple's first new product line under CEO Tim Cook, and a test to see whether the company can still innovate without the late Steve Jobs.
Ever since Apple Watch was officially announced last September, the device has been the subject of endless rumors and speculation. Let's look at three key questions Apple should address in March.
1. How many health-tracking features will there be?
Apple Watch is expected to monitor your heart rate, synchronize it to the HealthKit platform, and then deliver the data to your healthcare provider's electronic health record.
However, The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Apple's original plans to make the smart watch a full-featured heart health monitor on par with an electrocardiogram -- which could have measured blood pressure, stress levels, and a detailed heart rate -- were scrapped in favor of simple pulse rate monitoring. Apple was reportedly concerned that the collection of such detailed health data could have run into various regulatory issues.
Yet shedding those features makes Apple Watch much less revolutionary. Plenty of smart watch and fitness bands already monitor a user's pulse for much less than the Watch's base price of $349. Therefore, Apple investors should see what health-tracking features, if any, can set Apple Watch apart from the competition.
2. How long will the battery last?
There's been plenty of confusion regarding Apple Watch's battery life. In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Cook claimed that the battery would last a full day, yet he didn't specify whether it could last that long with heavy use. However, an earlier report from 9to5Mac claimed sources were saying that the watch could only last 2.5 hours during heavy app use. Cook also claimed that Apple Watch could be fully charged faster than the iPhone 6, which requires two hours to charge.
Single-day battery life is a top complaint about Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Android Wear devices, which sold only 720,000 units last year, according to research firm Canalys. Samsung (NASDAQOTH:SSNLF), which installs its homegrown Tizen OS across most of its smart watches, has a few Gear devices which can last two to three days on regular use. Pebble also recently unveiled Time, a color e-paper smart watch that will last a full week on a single charge.
Even if Apple Watch's battery doesn't live up to expectations, consumers tend to be more forgiving of shorter battery life on devices with beefier specs. Last May, a survey from Fixya found that just 10% of Gear and Pebble owners were dissatisfied with their devices' batteries. Although battery life expectations vary between devices, investors should keep an eye out for clearer details regarding Apple Watch's battery life.
3. Could Apple eventually launch a standalone Apple Watch?
Apple is initially launching Apple Watch exclusively for iPhones because it might convert some non-iPhone users. It also adds a layer of exclusivity to Apple Watch which could boost its status symbol appeal. However, it makes sense to eventually launch a standalone Apple Watch that doesn't need to be paired to an iPhone.
After all, the first-generation iPod only worked with Mac OS, but it was made compatible with Windows PCs from the second generation onward. If Apple had required consumers to own Macs before they could buy iPhones, global sales would definitely have been much lower. Therefore, if the first-gen Apple Watch gains enough traction, there could be a huge market for a stand-alone version similar to Samsung's Gear S.
I'm certainly not expecting Apple to announce that it will launch a stand-alone Apple Watch anytime soon, but investors should see which features require and don't require an iPhone to be nearby. This would let investors know how feasible a standalone Apple Watch could be.
The road ahead
It's hard to tell how much revenue Apple Watch will eventually generate, since sales projections range from 10 million to 60 million units. Meanwhile, premium models and high-priced wristbands could make individual watches much pricier than expected. For now, let's hope that Apple answers at least these three questions to give investors a clearer view of Apple Watch's future.