Not Everybody Needs an Apple Watch, but Those Who do Will Love It

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read

I have read and listened to some things over the past couple days of people who are very bearish on the Apple Watch. Most notably, I’m hearing people express the idea that your phone already does everything a watch does, and it does it better. On this week’s episode of Revolve, the venerable Louie Mantia suggested that if the Watch came out first and then we got the iPhone, we’d all be so happy that we could discard these silly, limited watches. I was yelling at my car radio when he said that. I must have seemed nuts if any other drivers looked my way at that moment, but I couldn’t help myself.

This notion that because a product is similar but simpler, then it must be worse is way off base. Frankly, I’m shocked to hear it from people who have lived through the transition from desktop computers to laptops to tablets to phones. The iPhone is more basic than my Mac, but that doesn’t mean it’s a worthless product.

Twitter is a great example of an app/service that actually is better on a phone. Yes, I have Tweetbot on my Mac and it’s great, but I just prefer reading and posting on my phone. It feels like the right device for the experience. Twitter existed on the desktop for a while before smartphones were even really a thing, and I never “got” it. As soon as I started reading my timeline in Tweetie for the iPhone, it clicked for me.

Who knows what watch apps are going to thrive on the Apple Watch. Developers are working hard to try and give us early adopters a spread of options, but we don’t know what ones are going to be hits and which are going to be duds. Personally, I think that companies like RunKepper and Nike have a great future ahead of them on the Watch. Working out with your iPhone is nice, but there are pain points that could definitely be eliminated. Audio players from Spotify to Overcast will surely do well with wrist-based playback controls. I think these will do well, and I bet there a many other categories that will do well in this new medium, we just haven’t seen them yet.

Speaking as an ex-Pebble user, I also shake my head when people downplay how significant is is to get notifications on your wrist. The best analogy I can think of is to compare them to the remote door unlock button you probably have on your car keys. Yes, you could survive if you lost the button, but would you really want to? We’ve all had the experience of using a spare key or maybe having a dead battery in your remote and you have to manually unlock your doors. It’s a pain, and it feels like a lot more hassle than you’re used to. That’s the pain I felt when I went back to a traditional watch after using a Pebble for a few months everyday. Even the Pebble’s remedial notification interface was amazingly helpful. Knowing weather an incoming text message was something urgent or just some fun is very convenient.

I know that some people work at a desk all day, and their phone is sitting next to them at all times. In that case I can see how you might think that a smart watch is redundant. And seeing that a lot of the voices we hear talking about the Apple Watch right now are developers or professional writers who have that setup, I can see their perspective. But most people don’t live like that. Most people have a job that doesn’t allow (or at least encourage) you to have your phone out and at the ready at all times. My iPhone sits in my pocket all day, and often hours will go by between uses. Usually this is fine, but there have been times that I got a time-sensitive notification and completely missed an opportunity to do something about it. By itself, that just about justifies the $350 asking price for me.

I think that the Apple Watch is one of the few major product lines Apple has made that is a niche device. When you think of an Apple user, you imagine that they have a Mac (laptop or desktop), and iPhone, and an iPad[1]. The Apple Watch feels like it is a great fit for some people but not others. I don’t think that people like Louie are wrong, but just like me, they’re speaking for themselves when they talk about the virtues of this product category. What seems like a simple, redundant tech product to you may be just the thing someone else has been waiting for.

Apple has an event this coming Monday where they are expected to show off the Apple Watch in more detail. I can’t wait to see what their final sales pitch, and how many, if any, people it will persuade.

  1. This is the least common, but I think mostly due to price. For the most part, if someone has disposable income left after getting a computer and smartphone, they’ll get the tablet.  ↩