Observations and 5 Predictions for the Apple Watch

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I’ve now owned an Apple Watch for around 4 months. I bought it because a) I wanted to live in the future (and I think we will all be wearing some type of wearable in the future) and b) because I am testing out a few new ideas on it. I read many articles, talked to about a dozen people who own one and heard the full spectrum of opinions.

When asked what I think about the watch, I describe it with one word: potential.  Today’s version 1 of the watch (or v1.5 now that OS2 is out)  is not yet a must-have product:  it can be horribly slow, the battery dies quickly and there is no real killer app, but I get enough small “wow” moments that I think a future version will be amazing.

Here are 5 predictions for how future versions of the watch will realize its potential.

  • The Watch (and smart wearables) will eventually transform payments. I have had Apple Pay on my iPhone for at least a year and never was impressed with it.  Apple Pay on the watch, on the other hand, is a wow experience.  I push a button on my watch and my payment in the store is complete. For the first time we have an experience that is faster and easier than pulling a credit card out of your wallet.  It will take time to build out the network effects but my guess is that using smart wearables like the Watch to pay will start taking off now that credit card payment systems are switching to chip readers which feel even slower than swiping.
  • The watch will be appreciated more by women.  One great feature of the watch is that it stops you from taking out your phone all the time.  If you get a call or text, instead of fumbling for your phone, you can just quickly peek at your watch.  This is a nice to have for men since their phone is in their pocket but is much more useful for women who usually keep their phone tucked away in a purse where the message gets lost.  I expect women will continue to be more excited about the watch as less bulky, more fashionable and smaller versions of it come to market. (You can see this starting to emerge with yesterday’s launch of the Hermes Apple Watch)
  • The watch (and its descendants) will eventually end the popularity of Fitbit and activity tracking devices.  The first version of the Apple Watch already has an activity monitor on par with Fitbit.  But on top of that it also comes with a lot more functionality (you can use it as a phone, send/receive text messages etc…).  Given that people will only want one (if any) device on their wrist, they’ll end up going for the one with the most functionality.  iPod/music device sales plummeted once the iphone came out and without a drastic change the same thing will happen to the activity monitors as smartwatches gain popularity.
  • The Watch (and its descendants) will usher in a number of new and useful apps that were previously not possible.  I have not yet seen a must-have 3rd party app on the watch but that might change now that WatchOS2 allows much more functionality.  Apps I could imagine would include:
    • Haptic feedback apps (or apps based on vibrations ) as their main feature. For example, musicians will soon have a vibrating metronome on their wrist taping them at a regular interval so that they can keep a consistent rhythm.  You could also imagine a “SpeakerTap” watch app where a public speaker (like a Presidential candidate during a debate or a salesperson during a big presentation)  could be discreetly notified if they are going off message.  
    • Gesture-based apps:  You could imagine a minority-report type app where waving your hand will cause changes on your screen or an app that turns a chopstick into a Harry Potter wand if you hold it in your watch hand.  Nintendo Wii and a bunch of other controllers already support this type of functionality but you still have to find and hold a controller. Anyone with a smartwatch now has an accelerometer, computer and gyroscope always on their wrist which makes the functionality much more convenient. 
  • Future versions of the watch will turn into 24/7 health-tracking devices.  Rumor has it that Apple really had to tone down what they put into the first watch to have it launch early 2015.  The next version of the watch will likely have GPS (which is already in other watches), and many more health sensors such as oxygen-reading and blood pressure sensors.  Given Apple’s recent forays into health, my guess is that they want to eventually become a complete 24/7 health-tracking device that will monitor your health (and the health of your loved ones) 24/7 and notify you of any changes before things become critical.

In short, I still think V1 of the Apple Watch is a niche novelty, but from what I have seen and experienced I am bullish on its future potential.

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