This week Apple introduced the Apple Watch, and as could be anticipated, it is a beautiful device. Packed with technology innovations, it is bound to be a best seller when it is available for purchase from Q1 2015.
What is to be expected from a smartwatch? Apple´s chief designer Jonathan Ive is reputed to have said that this new category of devices will kill the Swiss watchmaking industry.
I don´t believe so. I think that like many other innovations it caters to different needs and a different target group than the traditional quality time pieces fashion conscious people and collectors purchase from the classic Swiss manufacturers. It will be lower end international brands like Fossil and Movado who will be threatened by the new digital watches.
Digital watches are not something new. I remember I had a Seiko monochrome digital watch in the 1980s. A modern smartwatch, by contrast, is a computerized wristwatch with functionality that is enhanced beyond timekeeping. The processing power, memory and storage specifications are in par with high end computers just a few years ago, again proving Moore´s law that the power of computer hardware doubles every two years.
The smart watch concept is often compared to personal digital assistant (PDA) devices. Most of them also include health tracking functionality. For the Apple Watch it seems to integrate seamlessly with the iPhone through the Bluetooth 4 Low Energy band originally introduced in IOS 5, utilizing the iPhones processing power and instruments like the GPS, to limit the power consumption of the watch itself. The technology for the connection is the same as Knock use between the iPhone and MacBook computers.
Looking at the introduction video, narrated by Jonathan Ive in his well-measured voice, I think we can expect the Apple Watch to be a disruptive innovation as substitute for dedicated PDA´s and for digital watches in the same price range (USD 350), where the Apple brand, the iPhone integration and the design will be the main sales point factors. The wearable fitness market is in strong growth and far from saturated, so it will not hurt the Jawbone UP-band, Fitbit or other dedicated health trackers. At least not until it packs more technology and can track also other health measurement’s such as blood pressure.
I stopped wearing a watch about two years ago, as I instead opted to use the Jawbone UP-band. Having this device to track my movements and sleep pattern on my iPhone has for me led to a healthier lifestyle and I am quite certain that it will take something like the Apple Watch which, includes health tracking functionality, to bring me back to wearing a timepiece on my wrist.
As the number of smartwatches on the market continues to grow, a few things are becoming clear. With many reviews focusing on how long models last between charges, manufacturers are trying to pack in more powerful batteries or find other ways to extend their life. What remains to be seen is how the manufacturers will position their offerings toward market segments and target groups. Like for any new market, that will take some serious market tests of consumer adoption to understand.
Below is a table with data and brief reviews of the most well known brands, courtesy from BBC.