It’s been a long wait since 2012, but Apple finally unveiled its smartwatch at a media event in Cupertino, California. The technology giant has launched its fair share of revolutions, from computers to music and mobile phones, yet for the past few years the firm seems to have been lacking the real innovation for which it is known. Now it is trying to win back its shine with a sleek and sexy, ultra-modern object designed for every wrist. The c/net website publishes a handy summary of what the Apple Watch actually does, i.e. plays music, works as a fitness tracker by measuring calorie consumption and heart rate, sends and receives messages and calls, and is a “handheld portal” to other apps on the iPhone with which it is connected.
An interesting innovation compared with other smartwatches, such as the ones developed by Sony, LG, Samsung or Pebble, is the Apple Pay service that can be used to buy goods in stores (only in the US for the time being). In a word, the Apple Watch is a wristborne computer which, thanks to its technology and customisation options, becomes an extension of its wearer’s personality and needs. Yet despite these claims, the enthusiasm that followed Chief Executive Tim Cook’s presentation didn’t quite live up to expectations, and left some openly sceptical.
Is like saying the market for a fine Bordeaux is affected by the advent of a new flavour of Vitamin Water.
Competition for Swiss watches
Business magazine Bilan asks whether the Swiss watch industry should be concerned to see the Apple Watch edging its way onto its turf, with analysts divided as to the impact it could have. The opening of the new Tissot store on New York’s prestigious Fifth Avenue the same day the Apple Watch was revealed is an unmistakable sign. With the two brands positioned at comparable price points – USD 349 for the Apple Watch and well under USD 1,000 for Tissot’s collections – there is clearly potential for competition. According to certain industry observers, Swatch is another brand that should be looking over its shoulder. Swatch Group shares lost 1.76% the day after the presentation in Cupertino.
Tech Crunch, on the other hand, thinks Swiss watchmakers needn’t give the Apple Watch “a second thought.” The market, says the website, is completely different: “To suggest that the iWatch will influence Swiss watch buyers is like saying the market for a fine Bordeaux is affected by the advent of a new flavour of Vitamin Water.”
A sceptical market
This first look at the Apple Watch had been long-awaited all the same, as Le Monde points out. And for good reason. Despite healthy sales, Apple isn’t growing as fast as it once did. Can the Apple Watch buck the trend? For many, this new product represents a growing need within the brand to show that its innovative spirit is intact, or at least as strong as in Steve Jobs’ day. Despite a dearth of innovation, which has been widely commented on in recent years, the strength of the Apple Watch resides in how it has been put together. As strategy consulting firm Eleven explains, this is a repeat performance of the iPhone: Apple comes along with its version of a product that already exists, to show how it should be done and attract consumers beyond just technophiles. For many, the Apple Watch, with the added extra of Apple Pay, is a particularly desirable wearable.
Not everyone agrees. InformationWeek echoes the already patent disappointment with a watch that fails to deliver any innovative new functions, and is simply a different way to use a smartphone. Despite these misgivings, has Apple struck gold again? When the iPad was launched four years ago, the brand came under fire for the same reasons, yet the now famous tablet has shown that Apple doesn’t necessarily have to innovate, as it did with the iPod, to succeed. Something Tim Cook knows full well: “Our objective has never been to be first. It’s to be the best. We believe this product will redefine what people expect from its category”.