September 16, 2017
When I bought the first generation of Apple Watch a couple of years ago, I had trouble convincing my wife that I should spend our hard-earned money on it. I had trouble convincing her probably because I had trouble convincing myself. When she asked what I could do on it that I couldn’t do on my phone, the list was pretty short, and there were so many drawbacks to the form and the capabilities that she just couldn’t understand my interest.
The best explanation that I could muster was that I wanted to be a part of this conversation about the next generation of computing. I wanted to be a participant in the early evaluation of wearables, so that I could understand if it was a fad or the future. I’ve found that I really enjoy my Apple Watch, but not for the reasons that I anticipated, and not for the reasons that Apple guessed when Tim Cook described it in 2014 as:
“A precise timepiece, a new intimate way to communicate from your wrist, and a comprehensive health and fitness device.”
Only the description of the Apple Watch as a “health and fitness device” has proven to be true. Just as the phone app is a pretty insignificant part of the iPhone, the “precise timepiece” description is pretty insignificant when describing the Apple Watch. The second item, “a new intimate way to communicate” has been, up to now, the least accurate proposition about the use of the Apple Watch. Users generally found no utility in the “new intimate” ways to communicate, and they dismissed them.
This past week Apple unveiled the Apple Watch Series 3, which provides a cellular connection to the watch. This allows Apple to take another swing at revolutionizing communication from the wrist, by setting the Apple Watch free from its tether to the iPhone. It seems clear that this is the functionality that Apple wanted to release from the beginning, but that technology needed to catch up before they could make a cellular capable watch for the masses.
I can’t overstate how big this development is for the Watch, and I can’t disagree more with Farhad Manjoo in the New York Times:
The cellular version completes a long-term vision for the Watch — to liberate you, in some small way, from Apple’s best-selling phone. In a demo, an Apple employee made a live call to the keynote address from a paddle board in the middle of a lake.
This is a slightly risky strategy, of course; Apple doesn’t want to kill its golden iPhone goose. But the new cellular watch is unlikely to be a replacement for the phone, just a high-priced complement.
The reason I disagree with Manjoo is because Apple is happy to kill its golden iPhone goose. It happily let the iPhone kill the iPod, is happy for iPads to kill MacBook Pros, is happy for Apple Music to cannibalize song download sales. If the market is going to move on to something new (and it always does, eventually), then Apple will actively hasten the old product’s demise, by investing in the new.
And I can’t overstate how big this development is because it points the direction for the watch to take over from the phone. Not just the Apple Watch taking over from the iPhone, but the connected watch overtaking the phone as the essential connectivity device. Captain Picard didn’t carry around a PADD all the time, but he always had his communicator on his shirt. In this (and in so many things), we can learn a lot from Star Trek.
Editor’s Note: This is a modified version of the original article by Ben Hood.
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