Has the Apple Watch been a success?
With a few quarters of sales under its belt, I'll argue that it has - but with some caveats. In my view, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) first attempt to disrupt the technological (but not mechanical) backwater that is the global wristwatch industry by has most accounts been a successful, if not spectacular, one.
At the same time, I believe the Apple Watch's best days lie ahead. The device must improve to match the resounding commercial successes of other modern Apple products. But if one recent rumor holds any water, Apple's second crack at a smartwatch will arrive in early 2016, and there's reason to believe that the second-generation Apple Watch could finally realize the device's massive promise.
Second generation's the charm
According to fan site AppleInsider, Apple plans to launch the next iteration of the Apple Watch at a March product launch event. Although this report cites the always flaky "unnamed sources," plenty of additional evidence also supports this notion, as do last year's introduction of the Apple Watch and Apple's wider product calendar both.
Apple tends to anchor product-line refreshes to roughly the same time of each calendar year. iPhone and iPad refreshes occur in the fall, ahead of the holiday season. Mac reboots have shown a bit more variability but have generally hovered around the spring and summer. And last year, Apple held its Apple Watch unveil event on March 9. So a March refresh seems plausible. But will the next generation of the Apple Watch allow the device to reach its full potential?
Dawn of the smart bands?
There's reason to believe Apple might have something revolutionary up its sleeve for the upcoming version of the Apple Watch.
One of the less discussed features of the first-generation Apple Watch is the hidden diagnostics port that usually sits tucked behind the bottom watch strap. No one knows Apple's ultimate ambition for the six-pinned connector that few ever knew existed. But that hasn't stopped observers from issuing a raft of predictions about the opening's ultimate purpose, which is where things get interesting.
Over the past several months, a number of well-known sites have argued that Apple plans to introduce a series of "smart bands" with the next-gen Apple Watches. According to the report, Apple's new smart bands will include functionality to monitor blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, users' respiratory rates, and body temperature. Again, these claims remain only rumors, but Apple has hired heavily from medical start-ups that specialize in exactly this type of biomedical technology.
The move to smart bands could also be useful in terms of product strategy. Apple appears to grasp that people don't want to buy new smartwatches on regular intervals, so if Apple can drive continued innovation through these smart bands, it could still monetize the Apple Watch franchise as its installed base expands in the years to come.
Again, we can't be sure of these rumors. However, a move of this kind would go a long way toward increasing the Apple Watch's value proposition. I believe the Apple Watch will lack major market appeal until its functionality extends beyond mimicking the iPhone's features, and I'm not alone. In a few months, we'll find out whether Apple's smartwatch ambitions stretch as far as some users' or investors' imaginations. Here's to hoping.