Apple Watch: The 97% Factor

July 21st, 2015

The general perception up to now has been that the Apple Watch has had a mixed customer reaction. Some people love them, but others might reconsider their purchase. A few tech pundits I’ve interviewed admitted they would not have purchased one if they didn’t need it to provide coverage of the product.

Reviews have also been decidedly mixed, citing version 1.0 glitches, partly due to the fact that apps were linked from a paired iPhone rather than run native. That situation is changing, so performance slowdowns are apt to be reduced. The question is whether this and other glitches are enough to reduce satisfaction with the product.

The other issue is usability, with some suggesting it’s a little confusing to use.

But if one survey is correct — and surveys all have margins of error — it appears that customer satisfaction for Apple’s new gadget is off the charts. Based on a survey of 800 Apple Watch owners from Wristly, which claims to be “The largest independent Apple Watch research platform,” a grand total of 97% are satisfied to one degree or another.

Of course, there are levels of satisfaction. Some 31% report they are “somewhat satisfied,” which barely rates above neutral. But 66% were in the “very satisfied/delighted” category. Still encouraging.

In contrast, the original iPhone reportedly delivered a 92% total customer satisfaction rate. The first iPad scored 91%. But I fail to see how those surveys resemble the current one, since Wristly clearly didn’t conduct them. I’m not even sure the company existed until this year; it appears to be a startup from what I see from their site, and that’s a reason that I’m not providing a link.

Typical of the media, however, there isn’t a proper degree of skepticism about these numbers. While I would presume there may be some basis for the Apple Watch ratings, which are actually somewhat mixed if you look more closely at the numbers, don’t forget that the other numbers come from ChangeWave Research, and methodologies are likely to have been quite different.

Yes, I realize user satisfaction of the iPhone and the iPad were actually quite high, but you can hardly compare the ChangeWave data with the data from Wristly.

The fact of the matter is that the Apple Watch may be more an acquired taste than the other gadgets. The iPhone could exist by itself from the very first day, even though it lacked lots of features that took years to add. The iPad was more or less fully formed at the beginning because the OS and apps were enhancements for the most part of equivalent iPhone apps.

But the Apple Watch is mostly an accessory for the iPhone. It can tell time and do some other stuff without being tethered to the iPhone. Watch-Specific functions include the time, alarms, the timer, the stopwatch and even the world clock. In that respect it’s equivalent to the best chronographs. It can also track your physical fitness activities, and store up to 250 songs and 500 photos.You can even use Apple Pay. But notifications and other key functions will require an active connection to your iPhone.

In large part, that’s due to the limits of today’s technology. Apple has packed lots of features into the Apple Watch, and yet retained decent, though not exceptional, battery life.

But in the next few years, I fully expect a new Apple Watch will be announced, and Apple will boast that it no longer needs a connection to the iPhone to provide all of its functionality. It will even have a built-in cellular radio and provide equal or better battery life. When that happens, it’s very likely Apple will create an app for Android users, thus exploding the market potential by several times. It would be roughly the equivalent of releasing iTunes for Windows in 2003, and providing access to Apple Music on Android gear, which is expected to happen this fall.

While the critics are focusing on the lack of features in the current Apple Watch, it’s clear Apple didn’t build this product with the expectation that it would be discontinued if sales for a few quarters weren’t satisfactory. It’s not the same as the Power Mac G4 Cube. After all, when that potential museum piece was discontinued, there were still plenty of Macs from which to choose.

Apple doesn’t focus on the short term, and I am quite sure there are versions of the Apple Watch in the test labs that really are standalone in all respects. By a “few years,” I am not guessing when that version will appear. It may also have essentially the same external form factor, but it would offer all the extra capabilities.

Pricing? Well, that mythical 2018 Apple Watch could be offered with and without a cellular radio, somewhat similar to differences between the iPod touch and an iPhone. The price for the Sport version with cellular capability would be in the same range as the latter, but it would be available at a far lower price via a carrier’s subsidized or financing option.

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