Though the Apple Watch, Apple’s long-awaited foray into the world of wearable tech, won’t be available in stores until April 24, some traditional businesses have already moved quickly to establish their presence on the device, presenting a major challenge to mainstream watch and wearable device makers.
As with the release of every Apple product, the naysayers and skeptics are everywhere. On the eve of the first generation iPad release, we remember all the people throwing themselves into hysterics over how the device was redundant and unnecessary and nothing more than a toy that Apple would struggle to sell.
Literally within months of that release, we were seeing tons of executives at traditional businesses — none of whom could refer to themselves as digitally savvy — already replacing their notepads with an iPad. The device allowed them to take better notes, better surf their emails in boring meetings (come on, you know it’s true!), and more quickly pull up and share documents related to discussions they were having.
The skeptics simply didn’t factor these uses into their estimates. However, the same can’t be said of the Apple Watch.
Marginalizing Single-Purpose Wearables
As a multi-purpose wearable platform, the Watch will quickly call into question the value of single-purpose wearables like Jawbone and Nike’s Fuelband in their current forms, a fate that the Cupertino company foretold by taking both products off its retail shelves.
In fact there are entire companies that are taking a hit from the impending release of this single product — earlier this month, Citigroup downgraded the communications and navigations company Garmin to ‘Sell,’ citing the predicted impact of the Apple Watch.
Wearables comprise a huge percentage of Garmin’s product line, especially its GPS fitness watches. With analysts predicting as many as one million Apple Watches flying off the shelves within a week of the release date (with already over a million pre-ordered) and Garmin’s profits stagnating, Citigroup’s decision is hard to argue with.
The real question is what other unforeseen uses the Apple Watch will offer that might displace other devices, products, or services. In this first of our ongoing series on the watch’s potential impact in a variety of spaces, we’re focused on an obvious target: the traditional watch itself.
An Impact Extending Beyond Wearables
It’s true! Some industry experts believe that the advent of the Apple Watch will not only impact the wearable market and the broader tech economy, but also the way that Americans see and purchase watches. Apple has gone out of its way to design its product with enough style and elegance to be a sartorial achievement as well as a technological one.
By offering the Watch in three different collections with six available straps that vary widely in style, the company is clearly hoping to compete with today’s mainstream watches like Fossel. According to AskMen, the Watch’s elegant design “echoes traditional timepieces, but with a modern utility that navigates menus among a host of other functions.”
The Skeptics Are Still Out There
Of course, not everyone in the traditional watchmaking community is running scared. Horologist Nicholas Manousos tweeted, “Apple watch will be great when it can be used without an iphone. I usually don’t carry a pocket watch and wear a wristwatch at the same time.” Still, such an analogy misses the point of what Apple might do to the watch industry. Manousos underestimates consumers’ willingness to carry multiple tech devices at once, and once Apple begins to siphon off customers who care more about being current than being classic, the experts in Switzerland might have a real problem on their hands.
But the impact on traditional markets like this is hard to predict. While some vendors begin to offer big sales on watches before the big release, others are sticking to their guns.
As for wearable companies like Garmin? The future looks bleak, and may in fact call for a complete rethinking of the way they do business. In the meantime, we’ll just “watch” and wait.