Will the Apple iWatch ignite the Smartwatch market?

 

Apple have finally entered the smart watch market, with much hype, revealing their contribution at a launch in their Cupertino headquarters in September.  As with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus released at the same time, it has immediately (and inevitably) divided opinion among the tech and consumer market.  But, beyond the hype, argument and hyperbole, has Apple done enough to make its offering stand out on the market? And, can it kick-start a nascent smart device category in the way it has done so successfully in the past?

In truth, it was never a question of ‘if’ Apple release a smart watch.  With all of the major tech competitors having already released, or announced their intentions to release a smart watch, it would have been tantamount to throwing in the towel, had Apple not come up with a device of their own. Apple also have plenty of form for coming comparatively late to the party, often choosing to wait until the first flurry of interest around a new product has died down before releasing their own, ‘leading’ model that learns from the mistakes others have already made. This has undeniably yielded results when one considers the Apple Mac, the iPod and the iPad which, while not adding a new product to the market, were designed and conceived in a way that instinctively appealed to the mass market.

The success of Apple’s flagship devices has centred around 2 things: aesthetic appeal, and excellent user experience.  The Apple Watch certainly ticks off the first; it has a sleek, simple design in keeping with other Apple devices, and with a choice of finishes and immense array of interchangeable straps, it has the potential to appeal to a mass market.  Also, it appears to be at least trying to answer one of the main overall criticisms of smart watches, that of bulk, and have 2 size variants (38mm and 42mm).  As our recent research into smartwatches has shown, look and size are key concerns for consumers (52% thought they don’t look as good as normal watches), so Apple’s focus on aesthetics shows a characteristically smart awareness of the mass market.

As for user experience, Apple have innovated, and added a ‘digital crown’ (suspiciously similar to the iPod’s iconic ‘click wheel’) on the side of the watch, for users to easily click through and select apps.  Whether this will also make the device more ‘watch-like’ or ‘Apple-like’ is debatable, but it is a clear indicator that Apple are aiming to disrupt the market and user experience.

The smartwatch market overall has failed to take off in quite the way that was expected; only 1 in 3 consumers we recently interviewed were interested in buying a smartwatch.  With consumers balking at the size and cost of many of the devices on the market, it is unclear to many consumers what ‘new’ advantage a smart watch would bring that isn’t already carried out by one of their existing devices.  The comparatively large size and price tag additionally conspire to turn many consumers away and back to their phones.

37% ARE INTERESTED IN OWNING A SMARTWATCH

48% DON'T UNDERSTAND THE BENEFITS PROVIDED BY SMARTWATCH

This is where Apple could succeed.  By creating a device that is a desirable piece of jewellery in its own right, and has a clear function, of making users’ lives easier (by focusing on simple, commonly used tasks such as receiving messages/emails and calls), it has the potential to cut through the existing confusion and doubt in the general market – but only time will tell if Apple have the ‘magical’ product that they had in 2010.  

52% OF THOSE INTERESTED IN SMARTWATCHES WOULD
CONSIDER APPLE (VS. 76% FOR SAMSUNG)

See the results of our survey exploring attitudes and interest in Smartwatches here