What Even is the Apple Watch?

Long time readers will be more than a little familiar with my affinity for the Apple Watch. I love my Apple Watch and it’s one of my absolute favorite tech products I own. But even today, almost a full year after buying it, I still get asked “what does it do?” on a semi-regular basis. While I have an answer that has shifted a bit since I got the Watch last spring, so has Apple’s, it seems.

When Tim Cook proudly unveiled the Apple Watch to the world in September 2014, he pitched the product as a world-class timepiece, communication tool, and activity tracker. A few months later the message coming from Apple was more focused on the apps that were being made for the Watch. We saw someone watching a live video of their garage door opening as well as an Instagram feed and ordering an Uber. The focus was all on the apps! Wired ran a huge piece a week before the Apple Watch launched where Apps got thrust into the spotlight again. The piece ends with this line:

A moment later, he stands up. He has to leave; he owes Dye and Ive an update on something important. In all the time we’ve been talking, he’s never once looked at his phone.

The pitch was pretty clear: the Apple Watch is an iPhone companion that will make you use your phone less because of just how much you can do right from your wrist.

But here we are a full 19 months since the Apple Watch unveiling and people aren’t using their Apple Watches like Apple told us we would, and you’re seeing a different marketing push from Apple. If you cruise over to Apple’s official page, you get a different focus. “You. At a glance.” is the lead tagline and I think that’s actually a great way to phrase where the Apple Watch sits in the family of Apple devices. Scrolling down reveals headings:

“Never miss what matters.”

“Stay motivated. Stay healthy.”

“Choose yours. Then make it even more you.”

There are links to watch bands, the Hermés collection, some ads, and a link to accessories, but nowhere on this page is anything about how accurate the time is or how many apps you can download for it. Fitness gets a shout out, but everything else is different. It’s a more restrained pitch, but one that I think rings truer to what the product actually is to most people than what Apple seemed to think it would be when the released it. I mean “An incredibly precise timepiece” and “Entirely new ways to stay in touch” were the primary features listed on the Apple Watch site (web archive) when it launched and both of those features are basically gone at this point.

This change in marketing heartens me into thinking that Apple knows what people are doing with the Apple Watch and are shifting their focus towards those features. I can only hope that this change in marketing also indicates a shift in their internal development of the platform. I believe in the Apple Watch and smart watches in general, but the companies making them need to understand what makes them great in order to move them in the right direction. I think Apple is showing more understanding of that today than 12 months ago and should lead to a pretty big improvement to the overall Apple Watch experience with watchOS 3 later this year.