Let me put my cards onto table. Although I have worn wristwatches since I was maybe ten years old, I have not bought anything particularly expensive. Even when I had a decent amount of spare cash to buy something fancy, I’ve opted for the relatively cheap. Maybe it’ll have a few extra geegaws and such, but I’ve never stretched the budget to get one.
Now Apple released the very first Apple Watch in 2015. That year, I bought a stainless steel calendar watch from Walmart for the grand total of $12.88. It doesn’t exactly keep perfect time. But gaining a second or two each month is no big deal. Also, it has a dumb calendar, so it doesn’t consider months with less than 31 days. It requires manual adjustment to fix, but that’s no big deal either, not at that price.
The battery lasts about a year, but Walmart charges less than $6 to replace it. It’s a fraction of what you’d pay at a regular jewelry store, and I can save a couple of dollars with a do-it-yourself kit. But I can sustain the extravagance, and it’s one less device to charge overnight.
I originally thought I’d keep it for a couple of years and maybe choose something different, but I haven’t felt the need. It’s just a watch and it works fairly well. For now, I’m content, though I wouldn’t refuse something better if I received one as, say, birthday present.
But what about the Apple Watch?
Well, Apple has certainly made steady improvements. Apple gave up the $10,000 Edition after the first year, a sort of on-the-job training period in which it essentially transitioned from a piece of electronic jewelry to a health and fitness device. Apple was clearly paying attention to the use patterns. At the same time, the people I talked to about it seemed to like it, but not love it.
Certainly Apple had some work to do, and the critics were eager to label it one big fail. Big time!
Aside from the price, I continued to resist the Apple Watch because it was heavily tethered to recent iPhones. Nothing wrong with that except, if you didn’t have an iPhone nearby, it would do a whole lot less. Also, the interface was highly restricted because Apple had to stuff so much in such a tiny package and sacrifices had to be made.
Then again, even the first iPhone was quite limited. It didn’t even have support for 3G networks, and it was originally limited to AT&T before expanding to other carriers. Apple didn’t support native apps until 2008, the year after the iPhone debuted.
Year after year, Apple continued to expand existing features and add new ones. Today’s iPhone is actually a better performer than many notebook computers. All in that tiny package, and the mobile handset industry has refashioned their products in the iPhone’s image, but no single model outsells an iPhone, not even close.
With the third generation Apple Watch Series 3, huge steps were taken to lessen its reliance on an iPhone. The addition of LTE networking meant it could actually place phone calls and access cellular data all by itself.
Apple chose not to reveal Apple Watch sales; they buried it in the Other Products category along with the AirPod wireless earphones and other gear. At first it was thought that this was done to hide the fact that sales weren’t very good, but that decision was made before the first unit was sold.
That situation hasn’t stopped industry analysts from making educated guesses that may be close to the mark. So, echoing what Apple announced during the conference call with financial analysts for the December 2017 quarter, sales for that year were more than 50% higher than the previous year. According to Canalys, a total of 18 million units were sold. Of that, eight million were bought in the holidays quarter, a record for wearables for any single quarter.
Indeed, you hardly hear about any of the competition, even that latest Android Wear gadget, and whatever happened to Fitbit? Fit who? Yes, Android fans will continue to extol the alleged advantages of the latest and greatest. but according to Jason Low, a Senior Analyst at Canalys, “Apple has won the wearables game,” that, “despite innovative designs, such as the rotating bezels and circular screens employed by other vendors, Apple has pulled far ahead as it continues to focus on its core iPhone user base. Its recent updates to the Series 3, such as GymKit and Apple Heart Study, are proving to offer compelling use cases, encouraging users to spend more on accessories.”
With sales much higher in a holiday quarter for obvious reasons, Apple has grown its annual smartwatch to unit sales close to that of the Macintosh. Apple sold over 20 million iPhones in its third year, so the Apple Watch is surprisingly close for a roughly comparable period. If high double digit growth continues, it may well be that its potential over the years will be far more than anyone expects.
That doesn’t mean I’d buy one anytime soon even if I had the spare cash. But maybe someday.
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