As regular readers know, Barbara and I are busy looking for a new home. With a very tight budget, we’ve been traveling across the Phoenix area in search of something affordable. Well, one of the leasing agents we visited the other day greeted us wearing an Apple Watch, and I casually asked her which model it was. “I got it in December,” she told me, answering in the affirmative when I asked if it had the cellular option.
She said she used it to count steps, and receive phone calls, and she was only one of a number of people I’ve encountered of late sporting Apple’s smartwatch. At the same time, I have never seen anyone wearing any other device that appeared to be a smartwatch of some sort, but I don’t pretend to recognize all of the available models. The Apple Watch is unique.
I thought that people who’d buy one would tend to have somewhat higher incomes. I do not know the pay scale of a leasing agent at a low-end apartment complex, but I’ve seen cashiers at convenience stores, earning hardly more than minimum wage, wearing Apple Watches too.
Clearly something is going on.
The competition gives clear signs of running scared. Bill Zerella, CFO for Fitbit, has taken notice. He’s quoted as saying, “I have yet to meet anyone who owns an Apple Watch who’s passionate about the product. If you don’t have an Apple phone, you’re not buying an Apple Watch… 80% of the world is Android, not Apple.”
Despite that, the Apple Watch is the best selling wearable on the planet, while Fitbit sales are down. In 2017, Apple Watch sales were estimated at over 50% higher than in 2016. For a product people don’t much seem “passionate” about, they’re stilling buying them in numbers not much lower than the iPhone in its third year.
Just wondering: How many people are passionate about their Fitbit? And if they love them so much, why are they spending more money to buy what is, admittedly, an iPhone accessory? What about Android users? What are they buying? How many bought a Fitbit? What about the tiny market share of Android Wear gear? Remember, the Android platform is far larger than iOS, so way are so few of them buying wearables running Android Wear? Why did Samsung switch from Android to its own Tizen OS on Galaxy Gear wearables in 2014?
Is the relatively rapid growth of the Apple Watch a flash in the pan? How many users will buy new ones, or will they return to Fitbit? What about a $12.88 Walmart stainless steel watch, similar to the one I’ve owned — since the Apple Watch came out?
No, I didn’t buy that watch as an act of protest. It was a practical decision. A GUESS watch that I wore for a couple of decades saw its last and I wanted something cheap that didn’t look cheap. Well, the watch is on its third battery, and it still works well enough. It only gains a few seconds a month, and Walmart can do the annual battery replacement for less than $6.00.
But maybe I’m on the wrong track. If fellow low-income Americans have found a way to afford an Apple Watch — or maybe they have wealthier friends or significant others — maybe I should look for a well-heeled cohort or relative to get me one for my birthday (September 9th if you must know).
I’m not serious!
The real reason I don’t have an Apple Watch is because its special features do not really appeal to me. I am into fitness, but I’ve never considered using a special appliance to keep tabs on the number of steps I take. Measuring heartbeats may be useful, since they’ve been irregular on occasion, and I’m not getting any younger.
I don’t know of those millions of Apple Watch users are passionate about their gear or not. The ones I’ve talked to appear to like them, though I haven’t spent a lot of time assessing how much, or whether they actually love them. Perhaps Fitbit’s CFO has actually done owner surveys, or perhaps it’s all sour grapes.
Remember when Steve Ballmer, when he was Microsoft’s CEO, said there was absolutely no chance that the iPhone would be anything but a failure. That ill-timed statement came in 2007. In 2018, Microsoft’s smartphone platform barely exists, as the iPhone continues to succeed better than most expect. Of course, there are still financial and tech pundits who claim the iPhone X sales collapsed shortly after it went on sale. That happened at the same time that it became Apple’s best-selling smartphone, and was thus the best selling smartphone on planet Earth.
Now just because he’s afraid of the success of the Apple Watch doesn’t mean that Fitbit’s CFO will be out of a job in a few years, or that the company is destined to fold. It’s possible, I suppose, that its new products will catch a wave, or that Fitbit’s armbands will continue to find loyal customers.
Speaking as someone who doesn’t own one, I think the Apple Watch is here to stay.