The Apple Watch has been out in the wild for about two months now and, as with anything, time has seemingly softened the initial run of harsh critiques and over the top glowing reviews that accompanied its release. With the passage of time, we’ve thankfully started to see a greater number of more reasoned takes on Apple’s new wearable.
Suffice it to say, the Apple Watch isn’t as revolutionary as the iPhone, nor is it an utter disappointment a la the Newton. The truth, like most things, lies somewhere in the middle.
That said, one of the more common themes one tends to see in Apple Watch reviews is whether or not one truly “needs” the device. This has always struck me as odd because it seemingly holds the Apple Watch to a higher standard than almost every other luxury item on the planet.
The thing is, luxury items, by definition, aren’t needed at all. They are coveted. They are desired. Their purpose is to entice. Luxury items lure people in and convince them to spend a lot of money even when cheaper alternatives abound. Need isn’t part of the equation.
As Jean-Louis Gasse recently wrote in a well-reasoned and insightful piece for Monday Note, the notion of ‘need’ has curiously seeped its way into Apple Watch reviews. Indeed, many Apple products of yore were quickly underestimated by the tech press because they weren’t something people “needed.”
Because the company constantly defies convention, the “you don’t need it” list includes a number of Apple devices — devices that have, more often than not, succeeded despite the prognostications of the industry’s self-appointed experts. Soothsayers prophesied failure for the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad or, worse, assigned them to walking-dead irrelevance. One didn’t need an iPod because there were plenty of commodity MP3 players already on the market (admittedly and embarrassingly, I touted this party line, as well).
With this track record in mind, why does the kommentariat persist in issuing stentorian You Don’t Need An Apple Watch edicts?
Imagine if this type of review criteria were applied to other products, such as cars, or TVs, or even sneakers.
Do auto buyers truly need a luxury BMW with a base price of $80,000? Do people really need to part with over $2,000 to pick up a Sony LED 4K Ultra HD TV?
Again, need in these scenarios isn’t part of the equation. Rather, it’s about people being willing to fork over their hard-earned money for something that they really want.
The Apple Watch is a luxury item that’s as much about fashion as it is about technology. And with a pricing matrix that ranges all the way up to $17,000, Apple has never positioned or advertised the Apple Watch as something that one truly needs. Yet, for whatever reason, this is the prism through which most reviewers and naysayers tend to judge the device.
Gasse’s piece cleverly concludes with the following:
Apple’s new Watch disconcerts and even upsets some critics because it smuggles in a strong fashion component — and we don’t need fashion. Something arbiters of need might want to consider.
As a final point, it’s important to remember that the Apple Watch is a first-gen device and Apple has an arguably unparalleled, track record at quickly and impressively adding new and compelling features to second and third-gen products. Looking ahead to the Apple Watch 2, there’s a whole lot to get excited about — native apps, a new WatchOS, and perhaps new watch band designs to boot. None of these items will instantly transform the Apple Watch into a device you need, but you can bet good money it’s going to be a device that perhaps millions of people are going to want desperately.