So Apple finally unveiled their watch, officially making it the worst-kept secret in tech journalism. Gut reaction: This feels like a device that will serve a niche quite well but won’t be an explosive hit like the previous iDevices before it. This is based on a mix of unanswered questions and snap impressions.

  • We know nothing about battery life. Apple reps went out of their way to dodge the question. Being able to hold a charge for a full day is a bare minimum requirement.
  • The price point (starting at $350) feels way off. I felt, as a non-watch wearer, I’d look at it if it was around $200. I felt like $250 was pushing it. But the cheapest model at $350? That’s a lot to ask for a product category I’ve been out of since I was in high school.
  • iPods remade a really terrible digital music player sector. iPhone revolutionized mobile devices. iPads basically replaced a whole product category (netbooks and low-end laptops). I don’t see how AW does any of that for current watch wearers. It has a lot of things fitness bands have now. How did it overwhelmingly improve the product category?
  • The phone integration is my biggest issue. I expected it to have to connect to a smartphone, but it seems like a terrible idea to not only limit it to iPhones but also iPhones released in the past year. From a lock-in standpoint, sure this makes sense. But iPhone adoption is in the 40% range, which means you’ve already cut your potential buying public by more than half.

Take those four factors together, and you’ve got a niche device. The way I see it, the watch market has three constituencies:

  1. Watch wearers on the upper end (or perhaps a combo of people who wear a cheap watch and a fitness gadget such as a Fitbit)
  2. People who wear cheap watches because they want to quickly be able to tell the time
  3. Non-watch wearers

I didn’t see anything that makes Group 3 want to go all in from $0 to $350 in no time flat. Persuading them to shell out $350 for a product they’ve never seen a need for is a hard sell. Group 2, they’ll have to be persuaded to go from smaller use to bigger use. Were the features there? Group 1 feels like the natural audience for this device, and that is a small niche. Throw in that it doesn’t work to the fullest for people in this group who have an Android phone, and that’s a problem.

Perhaps Apple will revolutionize wearables but not in the way it intended. It’ll show that doing things quality might be overrated compared to doing a bunch of little gadgets that are cheaper and do less. Fashion can be an incredibly niched area anyhow; perhaps our tech versions aren’t going to be much different.

Like I said, time will tell (*rimshot*). The watch is beautiful. I’d love to have one on my wrist. But not at that price, not even close.

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Flash reaction to the Apple Watch

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