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  • Dumb and Dumber Surveys

    October 9th, 2014

    So there a big story this week about a certain survey that appears, on the surface, to indicate that teens aren’t especially interested in buying an Apple Watch. The results are based on a twice-yearly survey conducted by Piper Jaffray, a respected industry analyst company. The report comes from Gene Munster, known to like his Macs, so it has to be taken seriously, I suppose.

    But there are problems in this survey of 7,200 teens. Yes, it shows that younger people favor iPhones and iPads, which is certainly nothing new, although some have claimed Apple is losing its touch with our youth as the company’s executives get older.

    But what about the iWatch?

    Yes, I said the iWatch. This widely-quoted survey was conducted before Apple took the wraps off the Apple Watch, when the media continued to refer to it by the original expected name. Until Apple Watch was introduced, the rumor sites didn’t have a whole lot of information about the configuration or the features, beyond what they assumed from other smartphones. They certainly didn’t know the price.

    So when asked whether they’d buy an iWatch, only 16% of the teens questioned said yes. This is a number that Apple’s critics have pounced on when suggesting the chances for success for the Apple Watch are suddenly diminished. Again, this survey came before the Apple Watch was actually revealed, so you can hardly accept the outcome as an accurate reflection of potential demand.

    Since Apple Watch starts at $349, it’s also not a product most younger people would even be able to afford, assuming they wanted one. But I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to how the survey would fare if it was done a little later, to incorporate accurate information about Apple’s forthcoming smartwatch.

    Just as important, I wonder if those teens even fit into Apple’s target audience for an Apple Watch, which is a being presented, in part, as a fashion accessory. Indeed, how many young people these days even use watches anymore? Perhaps as they get older, enter the working world, they might want to consider such a gadget. But not now.

    As someone who has had a watch of one sort or another for decades, I think back to when I was a teen. Buying a watch that cost more than $100, which in my day would be a higher equivalent price to what Apple is charging for the Apple Watch, wouldn’t be on my radar. In those days, any watch I had would cost less than $25.

    Regardless of how the Apple Watch fared, Apple does have a low to crow about from this survey. Some 73% indicated they’d be purchasing an iPhone, an increase of five points over the previous survey. Despite the apparent flagging sales of iPad, 60% of those who planned to buy a tablet would choose an iPad. Some 19% selected a Microsoft Surface, which is certainly good news for that company. But that means that only 21% are left for Android tablets.

    Obviously adult preferences are going to be quite different, although it’s hard to find actual evidence that the iPad has slumped to a minority status in the worldwide tablet market. The ongoing surveys have their own problems, such as giving too much emphasis to so-called “white box” tablets where actual sales figures are almost impossible to come by.

    I will be perfectly honest about it. Assuming I have a spare $349 when the Apple Watch arrives, I am not all certain that I’d want one, even knowing I could return it if it didn’t suit my needs. Bear in mind that price is for the entry-level model. As soon as you get to the anodized aluminum and 18 karat gold editions, the price will go up substantially. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some Apple Watch configurations going for more than $1,500, but as a fashion accessory that would be real cheap for anyone who might otherwise consider a Rolex. And I’m not even considering the extra watch bands.

    Understand I am not assuming any deception on the part of Munster or the company that writes his paychecks. The survey was probably sincere, and carefully crafted. I am more concerned about alleged tech journalists who are making assumptions without paying much attention to the limitations of the survey, the biggest being, of course, that nobody knew anything about the product when the questions were first asked.

    So it may be another few months before a more accurate read on teen interest in an Apple Watch is available, most likely after they actually go on sale. But maybe Piper Jaffray should consider contacting the survey participants to see if they want to revise their opinions about Apple Watch now that we know a real product is in the offing, and it’s not just idle speculation.

    Otherwise, we’ll have to wait till the Apple Watch actually goes on sale. It’s too early to make assumptions right now, survey or not.

    Meantime, both IDC and Gartner have released surveys of PC sales indicating that Mac sales continued to grow in the last quarter, finally gaining a spot among the top five worldwide. Since both companies have seriously undercounted Mac sales in the past with no apologies, however, I’ll be curious to see the real figures when Apple releases its quarterly financials on October 20.



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