The launch of Apple’s (NASDAQ: APPL) Watch, scheduled in approximately a month, will be a pivotal moment for the company. The Apple Watch will be an entirely new product line for Apple, the first for the notoriously cautious and conservative (when compared with its competition) company since the passing of Steve Jobs in April 2011.
Compared to the competition Apple is late to the game in the smartwatch field. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Samsung’s (KRX:005930) first smartwatch was launched nearly a year and a half ahead of the Apple Watch. Apple has had plenty of opportunity to learn from its failures, and also the success of the Pebble Smartwatch and demand for the Pebble Time.
There will be two factors that drive consumers to buy the Apple Watch: pure aesthetics, and its practicality to enhance productivity.
There will be a large subset of consumers that buy the smartwatch simply because of its aesthetic. Apple is considered to be a fashionable brand, and there are many consumers who will simply line up to purchase it because of the brand and style. This holds particularly true in China, as demand for Apple’s iPhone 6 was record breaking leading to an underground economy of re-sales from Hong Kong (where it launched well it advance).
But many consumers will be unconvinced that the Apple Watch is a worthwhile purchase unless the device’s App store can prove to be viable, and full of useful, sustainable apps. Consumers that purchase the Apple Watch based on the strength of the app library will make up a larger subset of consumers that purchase the device beyond the initial hype phase.
Apple has already shown off a compelling library of apps at the device’s launch event in early March. At launch there will be apps that let the watch double as a boarding pass, a hotel room key, and even an Uber-hailing device. This is a good start, as when the iPhone launched in 2007 users had to wait months for the corresponding app store to launch.
Given the limitations of the Apple Watch, the majority of the apps that launch on the platform will simply be extensions of existing iPhone apps. For now that’s acceptable, as the Apple Watch is essentially tethered to the iPhone but as the platform matures developers will figure out use cases that are less dependent on the iPhone.
Success is already written, just add the apps
Many naysayers have pointed to Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Glass as reason that the wearable market as a whole is doomed. But, pardon the pun, this is comparing apples to oranges.
Google’s Glass was cursed from the get-go because of privacy concerns and the lack of practicality. At the end of the day, the Apple Watch is still a watch — a tried and true product line. It will still sell partially because of that alone. In contrast, Google’s Glass was something nobody could figure out how to practically use: the idea of strapping a computer to your face didn’t resonate with many.
The Apple Watch just needs a sustainable and in-depth app store. This alone will ensure that different waves of consumers buy the device, guaranteeing its success, not just those looking for a fashionable wrist piece.