The iWatch’s ‘killer app’ might surprise us all

iWatch NewsImage Source: Martin Hajek

As speculation surrounding what Apple is going to do in wearable technology with its so-called iWatch grows, excitement is building. However, with watches from companies like Samsung, Motorola and others having seen mix results so far, investors, the media and consumers are wondering: what’s the best use case for it?

Voice messaging.

In a recent research note, UBS analyst Steve Milunovich believes that voice messaging could be a “killer app” for the iWatch, something that would set this apart from other smartwatches out on the market.

At WWDC, Apple added voice messaging capability to Messages as part of iOS 8. Milunovich noted that he met with Tim Cook and the discussion turned to people speaking into their phones, sending voice, rather than texts. “Porting this capability to the watch makes sense as it is easier to send a voice message from a device already on the wrist than pulling out a phone,” Milunovich wrote in the note. “It also could aid penetration of China, which Cook said has a ways to go.”

Milunovich noted that since Apple’s product lineup is narrow (unlike Samsung, which seemingly announces a new tablet or phone every other day), it has to get the product right the first time, and voice messaging could help that, along with apps that focus on key areas like health and fitness. “Moreover, Apple tends to take a “job to be done” approach to products in identifying the job for which consumers “hire” a product and solving it in an elegant way,” Milunovich noted.

Even with the hype surrounding smartwatches coming from the companies and some media pundits, the products themselves are not selling as well as the companies might like, which is why differentiation is a necessity. Milunovich is not expecting much in the way of sales in fiscal 2014. However, he is expecting 21 million units sold in fiscal 2015 and 36 million units in fiscal 2016, assuming a $300 average selling price.

That’s a lot lower than some analysts on Wall Street, who are assuming that about 10% to 15% of iPhone buyers will buy the watch. If Apple gets the product right, perhaps Milunovich’s estimates are conservative and Apple has another mega-hit product on its hands. Only time (and product) will tell, though.

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