With the Apple Watch set to launch in about a month or so, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s no guarantee Apple’s foray into the wearables market will be a rousing success. Indeed, what makes the release of the Apple Watch so incredibly interesting and exciting is that we truly don’t know how popular the device is going to be.
That said, a recent opinion piece from Mark Wilson over at Fast Company posits that the Apple Watch is going to be a complete flop. Now there’s nothing wrong with having that point of view, but in constructing his piece, Wilson conveniently stretches the truth and in some instances twists and bends his “facts” to fit a preconceived narrative.
If one is going to claim, as Wilson does, that the Apple Watch is poised to be a modern-day Newton, one better bring some cogent arguments to the table. Unfortunately, Wilson, in this regard, fails miserably.
Let’s dive in.
There’s only so much you can do with sapphire glass and power-efficient microprocessors. Current reports say the Apple Watch could burn out in times as short as 2.5 hours before needing a recharge. Best-case scenarios (you know, when you use it a lot less), might stretch its life to 19 hours. But a loyal user of the Apple Watch would be forced to take it off and recharge it four times during a workday. That’s absurd.
Right off the bat, Wilson’s laziness is apparent. Wilson is essentially making up facts here. John Gruber appropriately calls Wilson out on this.
Battery life may well be a serious problem for Apple Watch. It’s no surprise that it was and will remain one of the hardest engineering problems on the project. But no one is saying you’re going to have to recharge it every three hours. That’s so dumb it makes one think Wilson is being willfully obtuse so as to bask in the contrarian limelight for a few days.
Truth is, it’s far too premature to call the Apple Watch a bust based on battery life issues when no one in the public has yet to get their hands on one. What’s more, consumers have decried battery life on the iPhone for years on end, but that hasn’t stopped Apple from selling tens of millions of smartphones every single year.
The thing is, consumers will begrudgingly put up with mediocre battery life when using a product that truly enhances their life. Besides, if the Apple Watch is so compelling that “loyal” users find themselves engaged with it for hours on end every single day, that’s a point in the Apple Watch’s favor, not one against it.
In response, reports suggest that Apple has pulled a lot of the power-draining specialty hardware from the watch—namely sensors to measure “blood pressure, heart activity, and stress levels, among other things.” That’s deep health mining stuff—much deeper than the heart rate and accelerometer-based movements the Apple Watch that ships will offer. In this sense, the Apple Watch will no longer stand out from any other fitness band on the market.
Simply another baseless assertion with no facts to stand on.
Apple didn’t remove advanced sensors from the Apple Watch to up the device’s battery life. The Wall Street Journal report Wilson references to support this claim says the exact opposite. What the Journal actually said is that many of the more advanced sensors Apple initially thought about including in the Apple Watch were scrapped because they proved too difficult to engineer or too unreliable. Remember, mobile sensors capable of measuring metrics like blood pressure and stress levels aren’t trivial engineering pursuits.
Further, let’s not forget that the glaring limitations of the original iPhone (no 3G connectivity, no GPS, no cut and paste) didn’t stop it from selling like hotcakes.
Moving along, Wilson next decides to jump into a confusing and poorly thought out analogy in a futile effort to bolster his prediction that the Apple Watch is going to be a dud.
Battery is just one notch against the Apple Watch’s widespread adoption. The other is the chicken-or-egg problem of infrastructure. Does Apple sell the watches first, or do they create the most optimal watch experience first? Nowhere is this issue more clear than in comparing what Apple is doing to Disney’s smartwatch-enabled fantasyland, Disney World.
There’s actually no chicken-or-egg problem of infrastructure here, and Wilson’s subsequent attempts to explain and delineate this bizarrely faulty analogy falls flat.
There’s no “either/or” problem Apple has to solve here. Quite simply, they’re selling watches precisely because the device promises to deliver an optimal watch experience right out of the box.
Whether it was the original Mac or the iPod, Apple’s best moments haven’t been about building elitist filigree but about democratizing meaningful function, and releasing a technology only when the time was right.
So I ask you, even if the Apple Watch as it’s designed today were to sell 50 or 100 million units, will your lives be any better for it? And if not, what does that say about how Apple is designing our tomorrow?
So basically, Wilson here weakly tries to hedge his bets. First, after predicting a flop, he retreats and argues that even if Apple can sell upwards of 100 million units, the Apple Watch would still be a de-facto flop because it wouldn’t make our lives any better.
On the contrary, if the Apple Watch is a success to the tune of 50-100 million units, it’d be the direct result of users finding that the device does, in fact, make their lives better and more convenient in some way, shape, or form.
Suffice it to say, if the Apple Watch doesn’t sell, it won’t be for any of the reasons listed by Wilson.