The Apple Watch, which was in the spotlight at Apple’s event Monday, is priced starting at $349 for the “Watch Sport” model, up to (no kidding) $10,000 for the 18-karat gold version aimed at the conspicuous-consumption set. The devices start shipping April 24, with pre-orders starting April 10, promising to let you get alerts on your wrist for various iOS apps, among other features.
Apple, in its announcement Monday, touted the Watch as providing the ability “to send messages, read email and answer calls to your iPhone right from your wrist.” The product line — the company’s first new one since the iPad — is intended to spur top-line growth and plant Apple’s flag in the wearables category.
But wait. Really, why would anyone need this? People already have a device they carry around with them all the time to do these kinds of things — it’s called a “smartphone,” and it does everything the new Apple watches do, and more. Skeptics, myself included, have wondered who in the world would shell out hundreds of bucks for Apple’s latest offerings. As previously noted, the Apple Watch doesn’t have any native video features although it can play songs downloaded from iTunes.
Plus, the Apple Watch has an estimated 18-hour battery life. So you have to plug it in every other night, like a smartphone, unlike those old-fashioned watches that just run for years without your thinking about it.
Yes, Apple Watch may be a gigantic misstep. However, it’s risky to bet against the Cupertino magic factory.
There’s a long history of (seemingly) smart people getting tech predictions entirely wrong. For example: In 2007, Steve Ballmer, then CEO of Microsoft, said: “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.” He was referring to Apple’s subsidy model, but in the end what matters is that Ballmer was phenomenally wrong. And, Bloomberg News columnist Matthew Lynn wrote, “The iPhone is nothing more than a luxury bauble that will appeal to a few gadget freaks.”
And when Apple announced the iPad in January 2010, many so-called experts suggested it was a non-starter. “Neither ‘truly magical’ nor ‘revolutionary,’ the cluelessly named Apple iPad tablet device has dropped like a shiny wedge into the gadget game, dividing tech watchers in to opposing views — the critical and the adoring,” wrote TheStreet’s Scott Moritz, in a piece titled “Behold the Apple iFlop.”
Personally, I thought the iPad was a pointless attempt to thread the needle between a smartphone and PC. Of course, I was was totally incorrect. Since then, Apple has sold more than 200 million iPads and spawned a legion of competitors.
Now comes the Apple Watch: a device that doesn’t appear to serve any valuable function except that you can glance at your wrist for info or to pick up calls instead of fishing around in your pocket for your iPhone. And, maybe, you think it looks kinda cool.
Apple has lined up several partners — including ESPN, CNN, Facebook, Twitter, MLB.com and Fandango — which will provide text-based alerts to wearers of the Apple Watch… you know, in case it catches wildfire. Another supposed attraction of the device is that the Apple Watch will nag you to get off your butt, to move around and get some exercise every day.
Are such features enough drive millions of units sales? I’m not going to call the Apple Watch a useless product out of the gate, since I’ve been wrong before in calling these predictions. But I wonder just who, exactly, is going to fork over the bucks for these premium-priced wristbands that don’t do anything except act as a companion to an iPhone.