Apple Watch launch gets thumbs down from analysts

Apple Watch will be landing in 2015. Apple CEO Tim Cook termed the development of watch as the most exciting phase in his life.

Mobile industry analysts responded to Apple Watch launch. They say it is a risky business for Apple.

Ian Fogg, senior director, at IHS Technology.

Apple aims to reset the wearable market and make 2014 year zero for wearables, much like 2007 became the start of the true smartphone market because of the debut of the iPhone. However, moving into a new category is a bold, expensive and risky effort. This Apple Watch is a first-generation device and whether it is successful or not, Apple will aim to iterate and make it a must-have companion for every iPhone owner.

Apple Watch stands on the shoulders of Apple’s iPhones. Significantly, the addressable market for Apple Watch will be tied to the installed base of iPhones. While Apple has shipped 551 million iPhones cumulatively through the end of June, the iPhone’s global installed base will be slightly less than 400 million at the end of this year. But of those, only a little more than half—or more than 200 million—will have an iPhone 5 or newer.

Martin Scott, head of Consumer Services research at Analysys Mason

Analysys Mason anticipates that smartwatches will become the dominant wearable smart device by sales in early 2017. In our forecast Smart wearables: worldwide market trends, forecasts and strategies 2014 – 2020 which will be published this week following the Apple announcement, we forecast that sales for smartwatches will outpace smart bands, worldwide, in 2017. By 2020 we anticipate the smartwatch market to be worth USD12.9 billion, annually for developed markets, with an installed base of 92.6 million devices.

Smart watch take-up is still limited by total consumer interest. The total addressable market for smartwatches is limited by, for Apple at least, the iPhone base, but more significantly by consumer interest. Our Connected Consumer survey indicates that 30% of US consumers would be interested in buying a smartwatch, compared to 27 percent in the UK and 28 percent in Spain.

Apple will drive this market. Other manufacturers will benefit from a ‘halo’ of increased interest and awareness in smartwatches as a credible device type, but we do not anticipate any vendor from matching Apple in the short or medium term. The restriction of the Apple Watch to iPhone customers, and future cross-working with HomeKit and HealthKit strongly reinforce Apple’s device and lifestyle ecosystem.

Apple watch launched

Paul Jackson, practice lead, Media and Entertainment, Ovum

As expected the Apple Watch has a lovely design, and I like that they’ve thought of the screen obscuring issues that touch presents on such a small screen – hence the ‘crown’ controls. Features like sapphire screen, built-in heart-rate monitor and haptic feedback show an unusual level of technology leadership from Apple – who usually let others try and fail first. The charging solution is elegant and that crystal on the back is reminiscent of quality traditional pocket watches.

The interchangeable straps options and multiple cases and sizes also shows they have thought more about the fashion and jewellery elements compared to their competitors. This watch, along with the Moto 360 and LG G Watch R finally offer something non-techies might consider wearing.

Digital Touch is reminiscent of Nintendo Pictochat with added heartbeat monitor – and is just as likely to be used once and then never again.

The health and fitness apps look nice, but don’t improve significantly on other existing (and cheaper) solutions for those with more than a passing interest – it will thrive though if the various major players (Nike, Fitbit, Garmin) get behind the apps ecosystem

Obviously the price (and remember that is ‘starting from’ and you’re also going to need an iPhone) and that vague, distant release date. Expect to see the top end Watches top $500.

Aside from an ‘all-day’ quip by Tim Cook there was no word on battery life – given similar watches with fewer capabilities are tapping out at 12hrs, it’s unlikely the Apple Watch will do much better. The form factor and nature of today’s chipsets (many still designed with Smartphones in mind) simply can’t accommodate larger capacity batteries and more measured performance. This is still the major deal breaker for mass adoption – sure tech firms have trained us to charge our phones every day, but devices like watches, fit bands, glasses etc need multi-day capacities.

Disappointing after all the talk of personal devices, freedom and flexibility than an iPhone is needed to make it work. Wasn’t expecting full phone functionality (a la Samsung Galaxy Gear S), but something that would work as a stand-alone at least some of the time would have been a nice option (this may still be the case of course when we get more details).

Aside from nice looking devices (which we’re finally getting after 18 months of false starts), smartwatches will really make their mark when they prove to be genuinely useful – Siri and Google are now the current embodiments of this.

Even mapping and directions make more sense on a watch than all those annoying people who walk along the street looking at directions on their phone. WatchKit (the Apple developer tool) is a key element here too – who knows what useful applications 3rd party developers will come up with (when enough people have bought the device to make it worthwhile). If you can also replace your FitBit or Jawbone Up that’s another step towards justifying the cost.

The four smart watches we’re seen announced over the past few weeks (Samsung Galaxy S, Apple Watch, Moto 360, LG G Watch R) real represent an optimistic second wave of devices that, while still flawed (battery life, size, need for paired phones), point to a genuinely useful category of devices emerging over the next 18 months.


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