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Revisiting the Apple Watch Use Case

So there’s a published report that pegs Apple Watch sales at seven million for the first six months. The new numbers, from Canalys, are a bit shy of other figures that estimate sales at eight million. They are all looking at the increases in Apple’s “Other” category in its quarterly financials to guess how much Apple Watch sales impacted the totals. Apple isn’t telling us.

Now some might suggest that Apple isn’t spilling the beans because sales haven’t met expectations. But independent estimates demonstrate that Apple is selling more units than all other smartwatch makers combined. So why the secrecy?

Apple has, in the past, indicated that it doesn’t want to give out the information to competitors, but the estimates are out there, and they are considered credible. So why not? I’m not about to suggest that the decision is wrong. But just saying that sales exceeded Apple’s expectations means very little, unless we know just what those expectations are. And we don’t.

Now I suppose Apple Watch sales will soar, more or less, for the holiday season. Certainly a watch, particularly a fancy one, would be an ideal Christmas gift, right? Apple has expanded the dealer network to make it easier to find the model and bands you want are readily available. You can even find them at Target, hardly a chain for expensive stuff. The software has been extensively revised, so the next two months might give us some clues as to its potential.

Or maybe early adopters are still going to be a big portion of the market. That’s not something I’m about to take a guess on.

But I will say this: I have considered whether I’d want to buy an Apple Watch. It’s not a matter of whether the money is available or not but the need. While a lot of people don’t use watches anymore, I’ve had one on my wrist since I was 10 or 12 years of age. I’ve usually focused on fancier watches, say a chronograph (albeit a cheap one), although I rarely use the extra functions. It’s just a fancy gadget to me.

My latest watch was purchased last spring, before the Apple Watch went on sale. I had been using a Guess watch with a few extra complications or gizmos. But after about ten years of steady use, it would only run erratically even after a battery swap. Sometimes it would go for days, and I’d wake up and discover that it stopped. It wasn’t expensive enough to consider sending it in for repair, so I looked for something real cheap on fine Sunday morning at a nearby Walmart Supercenter.

I came across a watch that seemed far better than its $12.88 purchase price. It had an ivory/silver face, and a silver stainless steel case. The matching watchband looked the same, although I can’t see whether it has a stainless steel label. It also had a tiny date display, tiny enough that I had to look closely with reading glasses on to see anything. There was no visible branding.

In any case, after close to nine months of use, it’s running about 15 seconds fast. I suppose I should fix that, but it helps slightly towards being on time for something; Barbara sets her clocks five minutes late. More to the point, I don’t care. That level of accuracy is perfectly satisfactory, so I have little need to worry about it.

It has a multiyear warranty, requiring that I send it back to the manufacturer’s service depot with a shipping fee that’s roughly half the purchase price. By the time I would pack it and pay postage, the price won’t be much less than just buying a new one, and if I can get a couple of years out of it before a battery replacement or repair is required, I’m perfectly happy.

Perhaps I should feel guilty. Walmart is clearly building these watches in an Asian factory with very cheap labor, for how else can they sell what appears to be a watch of reasonable quality so cheaply? Would I pay $25 or $30 to have a genuine U.S.-made watch? Probably, but I’m perfectly happy with the one I have.

Obviously, it’s all about keeping the time. An Apple Watch is more for fitness and notifications. While I do partake of a mixed exercise routine — aerobics and weight-training — I’ve not considered writing anything down, or recording the body measurements on some device or other. My iPhone handles the notifications.

Long and short of it is that, yes, if someone generously bought me an Apple Watch for the holidays, or my birthday, or my wedding anniversary, I wouldn’t refuse it. I wouldn’t take it and offer it on Ebay for as much as I could. I’d happily keep it and proceed to see if it was at all possible for it to become an indispensable part of my life.

So far as I’m concerned, the use case for the Apple Watch is not quite proven. Perhaps it will be as more apps and features are added. But Apple is clearly in this game for the long-haul, not something that will live or die by any individual quarter’s sales.