Product Management and the Apple Watch

In 2015 smart watches were not a new thing, and some commentators at the time even said that if Apple didn’t release a smart watch within a year that the whole company would go under. Even in April 2015 there were smart watches with always-on displays. Yet, the Apple Watch shipped without it.

Between April 2015 and now, the Apple Watch differentiated itself from other smart watches on the market and has come to truly dominate the space. Not only in unit sales either, but in quality. There is no serious reviewer out there today who is going to tell you that Wear OS from Google is better than watchOS. You might get some Samsung Stans tell you the Galaxy watches are better, but I’ve used those too and oof, it’s not even close.

So in 2019 when Apple released the Apple Watch Series 5 with an always-on display and some reviewers roll their eyes when they say “Apple should have had this from the start, I mean Android watches have had this forever,” because what this shows is not how out of touch Apple is, but how well their product managers prioritized the right things in the right order.

We celebrate designers and developers all the time, and rightfully so, but so much credit for product success should go to the product managers guiding these teams to do the right things.