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The Apple Watch can tell time and nobody cares

February 4th, 2016 at 5:15 PM
Apple Watch Killer App

Another Apple earnings report is in the books and we still have no clue as to how well the Apple Watch is selling, a notable curiosity given Apple’s affinity for sales figures. In typical fashion, Tim Cook last week described the Apple Watch in broad strokes, simply stating that sales during the company’s 2015 holiday quarter set an all-time sales record. Encouraging? Sure, but without any additional information about previous sales figures, a record-breaking quarter doesn’t really tell us a whole lot about its overall popularity.

The takeaway here, I think, is that the Apple Watch is doing well, but not so well as to warrant the release of specific sales figures. Admittedly, this is hardly a controversial or original sentiment. Nonetheless, a looming question remains – will the Apple Watch forever be marked with the ‘accessory’ label, or might it someday become a sweeping global phenomenon and impressive money maker a’la the iPod?

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Truthfully, it’s probably too early in the game to call it in either direction, but there is one thing I think can be said with certainty: if the Apple Watch ever wants to break through the murky shackles of Apple’s “other products” category, someone, somewhere, will have to develop a killer app for it. As it stands today, the Apple Watch is convenient and helpful. It does a lot of things well, of course, but it still lacks a compelling must-have feature capable of catapulting it into  the “you have to get one” territory the iPod once resided in many years back..

Apple appears to recognize this because whenever the Apple Watch is discussed in an official capacity, Apple Watch executives talk endlessly about features and design details that, let’s be honest, absolutely no one cares about.

A prime example can be found in a recent Mashable interview with Apple’s Kevin Lynch. The entire crux of the interview/article? How well the Apple Watch can tell time.

Lord have mercy!

Apple executives and senior engineers don’t often sit down for in-depth interviews, so when they do, it’s always worth paying close attention to what they discuss. And yet, with Lynch able to talk about anything he wants, the focus centers on the accuracy of the Apple Watch as a timepiece, a feature which might be appealing to about .0001% of the populace (with a .0001% margin of error).

The fact that Apple needs to even mention the Apple Watch’s precise time keeping months after its release is arguably concerning.

This is how Lynch kicked off the interview:

With New Year’s coming, those who have the Apple Watch will be the most accurate watch in the room… There will be no question about when New Year’s Eve actually is now.

Was this ever a question? For anyone? Anywhere? At any point in history over the last few decades?

Another excerpt reads:

“First of all, we’ve curated our own network time servers around the world,” said Lynch. There are, by his count, 15 such “Stratum One”-level Network Time Servers (NTP) (one level down from an atomic clock), scattered around the world.”

Apple also designed the Apple Watch to be an exquisitely accurate timepiece, building in what’s known as a crystal temperature-control oscillator. Its job is to manage the vagaries of extreme temperatures, to compensate for drift and keep the Apple Watch time-accurate. Lynch actually told us that “as a piece of hardware, [Apple Watch is] far more accurate as a timekeeping device than the iPhone,” said Lynch. It’s actually four times better, he noted.

Through the whole stack, we’ve really paid attention to the accuracy,” Lynch said, adding that Apple actually tests that accuracy with high-speed  cameras that watch, frame-by-frame, as the Apple Watch second hand moves around, watching closely for even a hint of latency.

One has to wonder if Apple truly believes this to be a selling point or if they’re just treading water for a while until the Apple Watch 2 comes out.

I don’t mean to rag on Lynch (who is reportedly as smart of an engineer as they come), but it just seems odd that given an opportunity to really sell the value proposition of the Apple Watch in a widely read online interview, the talking point centered exclusively on a feature that will likely sell precisely zero Apple Watches. No one on the fence about purchasing an Apple Watch would be persuaded to make the leap on account of the device’s timekeeping accuracy.

Looking ahead, it’ll be extremely interesting to see what Apple rolls out when it unveils the Apple Watch 2, likely at a special media event sometime next September. Some of the rumors we’ve seen sprout up include a thinner casing, snappier performance, a built-in video camera.

Some features that we haven’t seen, but would make great additions to a next-gen Apple Watch, include improved battery life and GPS functionality.

A life long Mac user and Apple enthusiast, Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 6 years. His writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and most recently, TUAW. When not writing about and analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions, the most recent examples being The Walking Dead and Broad City.

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