Hello Mr. Engst:
Very well written and to the point. The watch was probably a must project for Apple, but $17000 for a watch?? After using Mac's since 1986 I am in on hurry to buy their watch. Perhaps apple will focus on a much needed cleanup for Yosemite. Thanks for your coverage of all things Apple.
Great article — the most down to earth and rational summary I've read. I'm a bit disheartened by Apple's foray into this luxury market, and I didn't know why until you articulated it. I think it would almost be okay with me if the $17k version of the watch offered *something* other than paying for prestige to distinguish it (add some sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads or something). I mean, given that the only difference between $10k and $17k is a leather band instead of a plastic one, they're asking you to pay $7k for a watch band — !!
I fully admit I'm a bit irritated with Apple over this, and it may color my view, but I'm kind of expecting the watch to be way more iPad than iPhone. Sure, it will sell at least decently. But I think Apple is in for a harsh awakening on the numbers. People buy phones regularly because of the subsidy. The watch won't have that support. It's purely unnecessary.
Some historical context regarding the pricing of digital watches, from Wikipedia:
The first Pulsar was a brand of The Hamilton Watch Company which announced that it was making the watch in early 1970. It was developed jointly by Hamilton and Electro/Data, Inc. In the spring of 1972, the first Pulsar watch was marketed by The Hamilton Watch Co. (the parent company, not the Hamilton Watch Division). With an 18-carat gold case, the world's first all-electronic digital watch was also the first to use a digital display — created with light-emitting diodes (LEDs). A button was pressed to display the time. The first Pulsar initially sold for $2100 ($12,200 in 2015 dollars).
Michael, I think that is excellent context. When the iPhone first came out, it was $599 and everyone was complaining about how high the price was. The price came down quickly. I'll bet we'll see a $199 Apple Watch by Christmas 2016, maybe $99 by 2017 or 2018. They probably won't sell many Edition watches, but it sure has been a PR coup. Have you seen any Android or Pebble watches on the cover of various fashion magazines? Not that I know of (disclaimer, I don't read fashion magazines so I could be wrong about that). Of course the watch is never going to come close to the iPhone in terms of sales, but I think it has a good chance to be more than a "hobby".
I've seen mention several times of a major spread in a fashion magazine a year or two ago for Google Glass. So it's not as though this will be the first time fashion and high technology will have mixed. And it won't be the last.
the difference is the google placement was probably paid for, and google glasses are generally met with derision, however the apple watch was undoubtedly not paid placement, and is met with adoration.
I believe that Apple is already developing a 2.0 watch, and I'm sure that newer hardware will have better battery life. The problem is that the lifespan of a watch is proportional to its price tag. You may wear a $100 watch for a few years, a $300 watch for a decade. And a $5000 Swiss watch is something you inherited from your grandfather and you will give to your grandchild. But a $10000+ Apple Watch Edition will be obsolete in 18 months. Even Rolex hasn't found that many suckers, er -- buyers.
The target audience for things like the Edition watches is people who have LOTS of money, the same people who pay thousands for a suit or a dress that may only be in fashion for a year or so. In the high-end luxury market, a watch need not be a long-term durable good in order to command a high price.
I actually agree with both of you. Gregory's point is spot on - there's one watch manufacturer (haven't the foggiest idea which, since I don't really pay attention to the ads) that makes the point that you don't own a (insert watch name here), you merely take care of it for future generations. My impression is that that's how the watch world has worked thus far.
However, Michael is also absolutely right that there are people who are so rich that they don't even blink at the idea of a $17,000 watch that might be fashionable only for a year. In particular, I think Apple is targeting the Chinese market, which has begun buying a lot of high-end watches.
Yes, that is the Patek Phillepe - the king of luxury watches. I'm on a purse forum for VERY expensive luxury handbags, and if a woman thinks nothing of dropping $15,000 on a plain leather bag, and $65,000 if it's crocodile, I don't think there will be too much price resistance for a $10,000 watch. I think most will be purchased in Asia.
Just curious if you see your iPhone as a "$600-$800 biennial tax and trail of obsolete hardware" too?
To an extent, yes, but I'm in a special situation because of needing to write about the latest and greatest. I have a stack of old iPhones, and that's after they've been handed down for at least a year. I still use them occasionally to test something in an old version of iOS. But overall, I'm not too upset by the iPhone "tax," as it were, because I rely heavily on my iPhone a great deal every day for a wide variety of uses. If I didn't do this for a living, I'd go many more years between upgrades, assuming Apple's update cycle allowed it.
A better analogy may be the iPad. We bought two original iPads when it came out, and when the iPad 2 came out, we got one. When the third-generation iPad came out, if I remember correctly, it was clear that the original iPad wouldn't be able to keep up with new versions of iOS, so we bought one of those too. However, since that point, because the iPad 2 and third-generation iPad have been able to keep up with iOS revisions, we haven't bought another iPad since, so we're what, three generations behind? (fourth-generation iPad, iPad Air, and iPad Air 2, not to mention the various iPad mini models) We don't rely on the iPad for anything, though I like watching Netflix on it while I do bodyweight exercises.
So that's the question - will the Apple Watch be something like the iPhone that's essential at all times, or like the iPad, that's not.
IMNSHO, the iPad is more essential than the iPhone. I can gladly live w/o a phone, but an iPad, with it's much bigger and more useful screen, is WAY more useful. I have an iPad 4 and an iPhone 3GS. guess which one gets more use.
Interesting. Do you have a Mac too? For me, the Mac is far more useful than the iPad at everything the iPad can do, whereas the iPhone does completely different things (and is with me wherever I am, whereas neither the Mac nor the iPad are). The Apple Watch will fall into the same category - it will have to be with me all the time to be useful.
That's kind of the point of making it a watch, no? So you can wear it all the time and have it with you and easily accessable. A couple of weeks ago, we were at DisneyWorld and we were using texts a lot to communicate. Since I couldn't hear my phone in the crowds or even count on feeling the vibration it made, I used the smart watch functions of my Garmin Fenix (which I wear all the time but use for it's primary purpose regularly only in winter) to receive texts relayed via my iPhone. It was quite useful, since I could easily see incoming messages and more importantly I could feel the vibration it made when something came in so I didn't miss anything. I'm not going to be buying an Apple Watch for myself (I have a Garmin Epix on preorder), but I can easily see how it would be useful to a lot of people (and given my experience with Garmin, the Apple Watch is more likely to work properly out of the box than the Epix).
"But Apple has never presented us with a purchasing decision that couldn’t be resolved rationally.."
What about the 20th Anniversary Mac?
Yes! I had even written a paragraph about the TAM, but in researching it, I ran across this wonderful video of a young Jony Ive talking about it.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GIFdBp8rbtA
Once you watch the video, you realize that it's not as good an example as you'd think. The problem is that it had a lot of very neat design and manufacturing that went into it, and I think Apple (or at least Ive) felt that it would be the basis for a lot of future design work on the Mac, perhaps much like today's 12-inch MacBook.
Plus, Ive reportedly wanted it to be a mainstream Mac, whereas the Apple marketing team decided it should be an expensive one-off.
So it may have been massively overpriced initially, and aimed at an "executive" market, but it was designed to be completely different from any Mac of the time, and hadn't been intended to be a luxury good. That disconnect may have played a role in its failure.
or the first Intel Macbook which cost extra for the matt black model instead of iBook white?
The major reason for it's failure, in addition to being overpriced, was that it was woefully underspec'ed for the price and in general. It was cutting edge in no way whatsoever from a tech standpoint. plus the stigma of bose speakers was a huge turnoff too, IMNHSO.
Agreed, and that's not the only example. the Mac G4 Cube would fit in that category.
Pricing of the Lisa was pretty ambitious when released and for a while afterwards, and wasn't purely based on specs though it didn't really have any competitors at the time.
I can't help thinking that if Steve Jobs were still alive, then the Iwatch would offer far more than basically a repeat of what can be obtained via other Apple products. As a gadget to encourage those of us with iphone 4 to upgrade I can see the benefit to Apple but as someone amongst the 20% of Snow Leopard users Apple's product line seems to have lost its shine over the years. As for the more pricey prices of the iwatch, plenty of luxury watches cost five figure sums so why shouldn't Apple try to cash in on that market if it wants.
(I haven't worn a watch for more than 40 years. Want to know the time? Ask a policeman!)
I don't like to wear a watch and if I do wear one it is my trusty, never fail Timex, a $9.95 thinnest I could find, owned since the late 1980s. I've been an Mac owner since 1984 and have always upgraded to better more powerful for many work reasons. Already have 15 items in a one bedroom condo that tell me the time. A new Apple watch will have to spin straw into gold before I make the purchase.
Here's an interesting data point on upgrades. At the end of his excellent look at Apple's manufacturing process for the Apple Watch, Greg Koenig says:
"I do have a theory that the port may remain on the Sport models because I suspect the "movement" on the Sport is installed in the case permanently with adhesive. As such, it stands to reason Apple might maintain a diagnostics capability to troubleshoot issues at the Apple Store before simply trashing the defective unit and handing the customer a new one. With the Watch and Edition lines, it would make more sense to simply pull the movement out and replace it (something that can be quite easily performed with most mechanical watches; it's taking the movement itself apart that requires the skill of a watchmaker)."
once iFixit does a teardown on them we'll know for sure so no sense wasting cycles speculating about it.
And unfortunately, even if iFixit determines that the module can be swapped out, it doesn't answer the question of whether Apple will do so for anything other than repair.
For me being "given a choice between different Apple Watch models that are functionally identical" isn't uncomfortable - it is freeing. I can choose the cheapest model without feeling that I am missing out on some feature.
I need several simple questions answered before I can consider getting one:
1) Can you wear it on the INSIDE of your wrist rather than the outside? Will it still work?
2) What will the watch do if it is NOT paired with an iPhone? Will it still keep (accurate?) time? Are any of its other functions operable?
3)Is there any sort of upgrade path in the future?
Once the watch is out we can answer the first two questions. The third one can’t be answered until Apple says one way or another, which likely won’t be soon.
The purpose of the $10,000 iWatch is to sell lots n' lots of Sport editions.
I guess I've REALLY failed the Rorschach test: When apple announced the Apple Watch I immediately ordered a Steinhart.
Luckily, it's not a pass/fail test. You are, however, far more self-aware now. :-)
I won't be buying one for three good reasons: I own a beautiful Rolex which will last me the rest of my life; the Apple Watch is not submersible and that is a deal breaker for me (yes, my Rolex IS!); it's more than I can justify paying for a watch. I do think the 18K gold one is a stunning watch - looks a lot like the Hermes watch.
I hope they will figure out how to update the watches, as that is WAY too much (especially at the high end) for something that will be outdated in a year. Perhaps, they might have addressed this with the introduction?
I think our mistake in looking at the Watch is to think of it as technology, and not as a watch. I know that it is a "smart" watch, and contains technology, but Apple's approach is to approach the Watch as first and foremost as a watch. That is what is reflected in the pricing scheme. Watches are priced based, not necessarily on their internals, but on the materials they are made of. That is certainly true of the Apple Watch as well. And when you consider that fine watches of comparable build sell for the same or more than the Watch, then the Watch begins to look like a reasonable purchase instead of, for instance, a "brand name" analog watch. What Apple is trying to disrupt is the analog watch market, and convert it to digital. Will it work? Who knows...
I agree with you, at least on the pricing side. However, the problem is that the Apple Watch, from what little I know of the high-end watch market, isn't really competing on the same playing field. An awful lot of those watches make a big deal about how they're timeless designs, and how they'll last forever. Because the Apple Watch has so much of today's technology in it and relies so completely on an iPhone, it's impossible to know if it will even function acceptably in 3-5 years, much less 20 years.
When watch 2.0 arrives, if it can run as a standalone device with it's own radios and not be dependent on an iPhone for connectivity, THEN it will be an unquestionable success. Until then, I don't think I'll bother. But if/when it has its own autonomy, it will be a force to be reckoned with in the market.
Great article, Adam. You hit the key concern areas for me.
Re: "For those of us who instinctively avoid luxury brands, being given a choice between different Apple Watch models that are functionally identical is uncomfortable."
I feel just the opposite, in a way. The fact that all models are functionally identical makes the choice relatively easy! You don't have to be technically astute to make a wise choice, unlike when you go to buy a new computer. The only differences you have to consider with the watch are style differences. What colors do you like? Which size looks best on your wrist? Do you prefer stainless enough to justify a $200 premium? That's about it, right? There are no other considerations.
When you go to buy a computer it's a lot harder, and lot more worrisome. Some Apple computers can't get memory upgrades; so if you make a mistake and buy too little, you're out of luck! That's the sort of thing that makes me uncomfortable. There are no such problems in choosing a watch.
The choices you have to make in buying an Apple Watch are no different in kind than those you would have to make in buying any watch. Watches come in a wide range of materials, styles, and prices (some very expensive). Some watches are for timing your laps around the track and some are just accessories you wear when you dress up to go to the symphony. Perhaps that sort of thing is not part of the way you live, but it's not something that is especially problematic for the Apple Watch.
I think this proves the main point of the article, which is that what you think about the Apple Watch says more about you than anything else. For me, being able to rule options in or out based on quantitative specs is reassuring, since then I know I'm getting the right thing.
When it's all about colors and materials, I have to think which watch and band I like the most, how much my liking is worth in dollars, and then I have to feel bad if I'd really like a stainless steel 42mm Apple Watch with a Link Bracelet band for $1,099, but all I can justify financially - given that there's no functional difference - is a 38mm Apple Watch Sport with a plastic band for $349.
You're right, it's all about colors and materials and style, just like buying virtually every other watch that's available. So why did you write about the Apple Watch, specifically?
Surely, you have the same bad feelings when you contemplate the prospect of choosing between the cheap Casio Men's Black Resin watch that Amazon sells for $7.29, the Timex Expedition Field Chronograph for $49.84, the Fossil Grant Brown Leather at $97.75 and the Breguet Classique Complications Men's Rose Gold Tourbillon Messidor Swiss Made Mechanical watch at $124,000. All those styles and colors and prices and basically they all tell the time as accurately as just about anyone could desire.
It sounds to me like you're just saying you hate buying watches and you decided to take out your feelings on Apple. ;)
Re: "For me, being able to rule options in or out based on quantitative specs is reassuring, since then I know I'm getting the right thing."
Wow. I am totally amazed you would say this. I remember the Mac from its earliest days. Quantitatively speaking it has always been possible to put together a PC with better hardware specs than Apple offers its customers. If quantitative specs are what determines you are "getting the right thing," then you should never have purchased a Mac.
I am a Mac user because I appreciate the style of Apple's machines and the elegance of its software and the convenience of having it all packaged for me ready and easy to use. These features are less about numbers and more about aesthetics, both in hardware and software. I look at OS X and see beauty; I look at Windows and see ugly, although it may be running very fast.
Well, no. I own a Garmin ForeRunner 620 that has the functionality I want as a runner. I chose it over a lot of other watches that didn't have the functionality or usability I wanted.
You're really taking this far afield - I wonder what that says about you. :-)
I only buy Macs when it comes to computers because the Mac OS offers the capabilities and usability I want. I'm more productive on the Mac than I am on Windows. So all my decisions are within that constraint. I just replaced my 2008 Mac Pro with a 2014 Retina iMac because it had the capabilities I needed, whereas the Mac mini lacked the performance I wanted and the Mac Pro was too expensive for no real performance win.
I appreciate that Apple's hardware is nice to look at, but I never buy based on that. And I despair about Apple's constant changes to OS X and its apps purely to make it look different - I don't feel that the latest version of iTunes is any more functional than previous versions; it's just different looking, which is a cost to me, not a benefit.
Re: "Those who are dubious of Apple’s commitment to current customers (as opposed to attracting new ones or generating upgrade revenue) will consider the Apple Watch a dead-end purchase that will end up in a drawer alongside that old iPod nano. It’s not like you can upgrade any other Apple device these days."
When I graduated from high school in '65, my parents gave me a self-winding, analog watch. It was not upgradeable and I never saw a watch that was, but that didn't make me think the manufacturer was not committed to current customers. The watch came with a guarantee that indicated to me that the manufacturer did care that they had made the watch properly and that it would serve me well. They never promised to replace the mechanical internals with new electronic parts as watch technology progressed. Since no watch that I ever heard of is upgradeable, I don't think Apple's customers will be dismayed that the Apple Watch hardware won't be.
On the other hand, Apple will surely offer upgrades of the software in the watch, as they do for all their devices, that could greatly enhance the functionality of the Apple Watch. New apps can be installed in the watch from day one that will give it capabilities it doesn't have when purchased. So the claim "It's not like you can upgrade any other Apple device these days" is simply not true. The most powerful features of all the devices that Apple sells resides primarily in the software, not the hardware. You don't need to buy an iPhone 6 to run the latest version of iOS; it runs just fine on my iPhone 4s.
When I used to run, I owned a variety of more or less fancy runners watches with lap counters, GPS, mapping features, etc. None of them were upgradeable. They all ended up in a drawer after being replaced with a fancier model. Apple's watch will be better than all of them, because while the hardware may not be upgradeable, the software will be!
Will Apple's watch end up in people's drawers? Sure, eventually. Just like the old analog watch I was given in '65. I keep it for sentimental value only now.
High-end watches often promise significant longevity - one even advertises that you don't own it, you're merely taking care of it for the next generation. So that's what the Apple Watch Edition is going up against.
You're absolutely right about software updates, but historically, those last only for a couple of years. Your iPhone 4S can run iOS 8, but an original iPad from 2010 is stuck at iOS 5, for instance. It's possible that the Apple Watch will do better in this regard since so many of its capabilities are really in the iPhone, rather than in the watch itself.
It is strange to hear Adam bemoan the fact that things become obsolete and quickly superseded by more desirable and more capable things. It's the changes that keep him in business. ;)
My old mechanical watch wasn't replaced by a watch with better insides. It was replaced by my iPhone.
I do what I do to help people, and if I do that well, my business will prosper. I have no vested interest in change for change's sake (quite the contrary, it makes my life harder). Frankly, I wish Apple would slow down and focus more on software quality than constant releases.
Adam, would you feel better if Apple had only offered the Sport Watch with only one color and style of band? Or would you join the throngs of reporters and users who would complain that they had not been given choice?
I also would like to point out that people's choices of romantic partners, which often affects their lives much more significantly than their choice of a watch, also depends (for the vast majority of people) on intangible emotions and desires. ;)
I don't know why you care so deeply about what my personal opinions are on this topic, especially before I've had a chance to use an Apple Watch in person. My opinions are mine alone (though others may share them), and the entire point of this article was that the opinions any given person may have about the Apple Watch speaks most loudly about that person, not the product. If I've revealed what sort of person I am by expressing those opinions in the article and in these replies, so be it.
I don't have a significant opinion about the Apple Watch Sport band until I try it. I don't care much about the color one way or another, but if it's uncomfortable, I'd like the option to get one that's more comfortable, something that is sadly not possible with the Garmin ForeRunner 620.
One's choice in romantic partners is not a purchasing decision, and thus the analogy makes no sense.