About Stupid Apple Survey Results

May 7th, 2015

If you cook a survey, and select or don’t select the participants in a certain way, you can produce any result you want. Even when the survey is accurate, there is often wiggle room about the conclusions. And that’s before you get to the margin of error.

So a new theory that supposedly “benchmarks” the launch of the Apple Watch, claims to predict how it’ll fare on the long haul. But first, let’s look at the numbers, such as they are, which are quoted from Google Trends. It’s a measure of search, not of plans to buy or actual sales. It can be very much about idle curiosity about something as much as someone who is looking to purchase something.

The survey covers a three-week period that includes the original Apple Watch announcement, the preorder period, and the launch weekend, when some customers actually got one. Compared to the iPhone and the iPad, interest in the Apple Watch was substantially less.

So does that mean people really aren’t quite as interested in the Apple Watch? Remember that the iPad built upon the initial interest in the iPhone, and Apple Watch, while another screen, is very different from its supposed predecessors. The real comparison would also include interest in other wearables, such as Android Wear or a Pebble. But those numbers aren’t included.

But there is something far worse in that article, based on a claim that, “research shows that a third of wearable device owners stop using them within the first six months and half stopped using them in 18 months.”

That would seem significant on its face, except, obviously, the Apple Watch hasn’t been around for 18 months, so how would anyone except a time traveler know how users will ultimately behave? More to the point, the survey, quoted from  Endeavour Partners, was released on July 8, 2014, some two months before the Apple Watch was first demonstrated. To think that such stats can have any value that reflects on an unannounced product, except in a general sense, is downright foolish.

The blogger in question also frets over the alleged “challenges developers are likely to face in building ‘new’ smartwatch apps. Once users ‘forget’ to charge their smartwatch, it’s a slippery slope to abandonment.”

Clearly the writer is living in an alternate reality where some 3,500 Apple Watch apps weren’t available on launch day. It’s not that all those apps are necessarily perfect, and problems with slow performance are well known for many of the first crop. To be fair, it’s also true that most developers produced these apps without actually having an Apple Watch on hand to test, so you can expect glitches. That they work at all is quite possibly a miracle.

Honestly, this doom and gloom approach is not unusual when it comes to Apple. Another article, from America’s largest general interest newspaper, USA Today, suggested the Apple Watch launch was a huge failure, and that conclusion was echoed by other publications. But in the article in question, the writer falsely claims that one reason for this perceived failure is that you have to go into an Apple store for a fitting before you can order one. Most of you know that’s simply untrue, and I wonder why the newspaper’s editors didn’t catch it. You can certainly place your order direct from Apple’s site, as many did, without actually seeing one — ever.

As supplies begin to match demand, you may also be able to pick up your Apple Watch from a local Apple Store, if there is one, after you place your order. You might even, someday soon, be able to buy direct from regular retailers, and not just a handful of upscale fashion boutiques.

It is definitely not at all clear if Apple will use this early ordering scheme for other products in the future. That Apple Watch is back ordered clearly indicates Apple is doing something right. There are independent claims that several million were ordered through the launch weekend. True? I have no idea, and it is troubling that Apple hasn’t said anything about total shipments or orders yet. Counting preorders is problematic, though, since people might cancel rather than wait for several weeks, so the final shipments to paying customers might be less. But I’m only guessing.

At least I’m prepared to agree there are uncertainties about Apple Watch demand and the use case. There are clearly flaws, and it’s not certain how many flaws can be fixed with ongoing software updates, or whether some might require reengineering and won’t appear until Apple Watch 2.0.

I’m also disappointed by the fact that an Apple Watch, in its current incarnation, clearly cannot receive a simple hardware upgrade to a newer configuration; there’s no easy way to swap out these components. It will be as current as software updates will allow, and that might be a problem for a product that can get very expensive if you lust for the Edition.

But I do know that applying stats in a misleading fashion, and just making up stuff, doesn’t move the discussion forward.

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