It’s almost fall and we have yet to see an iWatch announcement. In an effort to make a last-ditch prediction (with the goal to see if it turned our right), I will lay out a couple of principles that I hope will be proven right over the next several months and years.
1. Watches have almost exclusively become status symbols. This wasn’t always the case – I can remember a time when there was still a need to have a timepiece on your wrist. But that is no longer the case and hasn’t been for almost 20 years since the advent of the mobile phone.
2. Watches do not need to be charged and have enough juice to last for a long time without changing batteries or in the case of purely mechanical watches, by simply using kinetic energy.
Microsoft has tried to enter the smartwatch space with their SPOT watch ten years ago. The watch could receive service information through radio (weather updates, time etc.) but ultimately failed due to cost (yearly subscription), ugliness factor and the need to charge the watch almost daily. Herein lies the problem with the current smartwatch offering: it’s not different to the spot watch. The Peeble today only lasts about 2-4 days and all the offerings from Samsung and Google’s wearable category seem worse (1-2) days.
My expectation is that Apple has realized this is not the way to approach the smartwatch. The recent patent application and hire may have hinted at that. Further, if we looked at a Venn diagram to see where the overlap between today’s smartwatches and the smartphones are, we would see that the smartwatch isn’t really complimentary and more wasteful due to the redundancy of features. In other words, there is no new functionality with today’s smart watches and yet they can’t really function without the smartphone either or let’s say they don’t really add more value than a fitbit.
My prediction is that Apple is addressing this dilemma by not changing the watch principles and instead provide value in the form of sensors to capture relevant health information and possibly provide connectivity mechanisms (NFC, BLE, ANT+ etc.) for communication- and identification. As an example, I would expect that Apple focuses on the luxury watch segment with either a solution that watch manufactures can incorporate in their offerings or an add-on to an existing luxury watch (armband?). Similarly the way that Apple has gone about supporting Nike+.
This would create a win-win situation for everyone (except Samsung and Google): customers would continue to love they’re existing mechanical or battery-powered watches but now with added value. That in turn would make the watchmakers happy because they all-of-sudden have a real response to the Samsung’s on the planet with something that has already stood the test of time and more importantly, they can increase marketshare among smartphone users that have stopped wearing watches (like me).
One question remains in this scenario and that is to address the 2nd principle – what about power? I wonder if a BLE or ANT+ smartband could be powered solely by kinetic energy – or in other words, from walking around and doing stuff. I hope we will find out soon.