Colored by the immense success Apple experienced with both the iPhone and the iPad, the Apple Watch launched in April of 2015 with tremendous fanfare and exceedingly high expectations. It would soon become apparent, however, that the first-gen version of the Apple Watch was not destined to become an immediate hit in the same way that the iPad burst onto the scene and broke any number of consumer electronics sales records.
Even though first-year sales of the Apple Watch eclipsed first-year sales of both the iPod and the iPhone, the Apple Watch was released with far greater expectations. Besides, direct comparisons to the iPod and the iPhone aren’t exactly fair: the iPod was released back in 2001 as a Mac-only device while the iPhone was initially only available on AT&T. So even though the Apple Watch still requires an iPhone to work, the pool of potential Apple Watch customers was far greater at launch than what the iPod and the iPhone enjoyed. But perhaps the most telling sign that the Apple Watch hasn’t been a standout hit is that Apple still refuses to release sales figures for the device, a rarity for a company that loves to boast about its impressive sales figures.
So is the Apple Watch toast? Perhaps nothing more than a fad anchored more by hype and wildly optimistic expectations than anything else? Not exactly.
If we look back to the iPod, it took a few years for the device to truly catch on and become the phenomenon that it ultimately became. I believe that the Apple Watch will go through the same trajectory. Looking ahead to the Apple Watch 2, there’s a lot of evidence which suggests that Apple’s next-gen wearable will become the game-changing device that many tech observers assumed the original Apple Watch would be.
For starters, Apple with WatchOS 3 is finally making the software that powers the Apple Watch usable. WatchOS 1 and 2 were serviceable and functional, I suppose, but let’s be honest: performance could sometimes be painfully slow and the UI itself was anything but intuitive. With WatchOS 3, the Apple Watch will finally become the device many thought the original should have been.
Software aside, the Apple Watch 2 will deliver significant advances across the board. Remember, Apple’s next-gen Apple Watch will, at a minimum, launch about 18 months after the original hit store shelves. That window gives Apple a huge opportunity to really take Apple Watch hardware to the next level. As a point of reference, just look at how the hardware progresses on the iPhone every 12-24 months.
Addressing this point, Abdel Ibrahim writes for WatchAware:
By the time Apple unveils the Apple Watch 2, it will probably be nearly 24 months since the original made its debut. Think about that for a second. What can Apple do in 24 months when it controls the whole stack? Answer: A LOT.
Look past how an iPhone looks and think about what happens in 24 months. Virtually everything changes. RAM, processor, screen technology, cameras, sensors, even materials. Compare an iPhone 5s to an iPhone 6s and it’s a night and day difference in terms of performance and technology. This is the type of leap I’m expecting this fall with the Watch.
As for specific hardware enhancements, some of the rumors we’ve seen suggest that the Apple Watch 2 will come with GPS, improved waterproofing, a barometric sensor, faster internals and improved battery life. There have even been rumblings that the Apple Watch 2 will come packed with a FaceTime camera. Coupled with WatchOS 3 and the inevitable rollout of even more watchband designs, the stage is set for the Apple Watch 2 to become less of a niche product and more of a mainstream device. Remember, the iPod went through a similar transformation back in the early 2000s and didn’t truly become a mainstream device until 2-3 years after its initially release.
The inclusion of GPS in particular will be incredibly important as it will finally transform the Apple Watch into legit fitness tracker. While the current Apple Watch does a decent job as a fitness tracking device, its lack of GPS makes it far from an ideal choice for runners and other athletes.
Now as to when we might see the Apple Watch 2 hit store shelves, rumor has it that the device will launch in late 2016. Ideally, Apple would of course like to launch the device in time for the busy holiday shopping season. As for a product unveiling, it remains to be seen if Apple will introduce the device at its upcoming media event in September where the iPhone 7 is set to be unveiled.