Caution, paradigm smashing ahead: Apple may be primed to give ‘smartwatches’ the iPhone treatment

“The demand drivers for smartwatches are not strong at all and it will take a really transformative product to stimulate demand beyond the current niche levels,” Jan Dawson writes for Tech.pinions.

“Among the major functions smartwatches look to perform today, two stand out: fitness tracking and push notifications on the wrist. The major challenge for smartwatch vendors is neither of these is exactly a mass market proposition. My surveys indicate 80% of the US and UK populations has never used a fitness tracker at all, and, of those who have, roughly half have abandoned them,” Dawson writes. “Turning to push notifications, about three quarters of the smartphone population uses them, which sounds good. But digging deeper shows (a) only about half the US population uses a smartphone and (b) of those who use push notifications, many use them for a single app only (often text messaging) and many more use them for only two apps. I believe the sweet spot for a smartwatch majoring on push notifications is people who use them for three or more apps, and that’s only about a quarter of smartphone users.”

“Smartwatches today, like smartphones then, had a niche appeal. Smartphone penetration in the US was in single digits in 2007, and that reflected the fact most people hadn’t seen the need to buy one,” Dawson writes. “All that changed dramatically in 2007 when Apple introduced the iPhone and gave people a fundamentally different set of reasons to buy a smartphone. It now became a sort of pocket computer, good for all sorts of tasks beyond email and work. And of course over the next few years, we saw other phone makers adopt a similar approach… Does Apple have the potential to somehow overcome these technical challenges, as it seemed to do with the iPhone in 2007?”

Read more in the full article here.

Related articles:
Woz on Samsung Galaxy Gear stupidwatch: I threw out the worthless thing after half a day – July 2, 2014
Clueless companies race to debut stupidwatches before Apple defines the smartwatch – January 3, 2014
Jim Cramer: ‘The curtain has closed’ on Samsung’s stupidwatch – October 3, 2013
The Verge reviews Samsung’s Galaxy Gear stupidwatch: Orwellian, unintuitive, oversized, and overpriced – October 2, 2013
Jean-Louis Gassée: I hope Tim Cook had fun goading Samsung to make their Galaxy stupidwatch – September 9, 2013
Stupidwatch: Why Samsung’s Galaxy Gear is a flop – September 5, 2013
Samsung Galaxy Gear watch looks rushed, misses the mark – September 4, 2013
The Galaxy Gear stupidwatch: Without Apple to copy, Samsung is clueless – September 4, 2013
Samsung announces ‘Galaxy Gear’ watch accessory for Galaxy Android devices – September 4, 2013


  1. The smartest watch will be the one you don’t buy. Apple has been very good at assessing a market, seeing what’s wrong, and fixing it.

    They will fix this market by not participating in the Watch frenzy.

    BTW- your buggy whip is ready

  2. It will not be an iWatch unless it is tied to the Apple TV (watch a “screen.”)
    I believe Apple will continue the iP naming series by calling it the iPulse and marketing it as the center (pulse) of your “connectedness”. The pulse name will fit in with all the obvious health applications but also can be thought of being core to “the pulse (beat or Beats) of your daily life.” Many very moving commercials showing that theme will immediately follow its announcement.

  3. I think this is mostly correct, as a general concept, but iWatch will work WITH an iPhone (or an iPad).

    With iPhones getting larger, it will be less convenient to “pull it out” of wherever it is being carried (a location that is less likely to be your front pants pocket). Therefore, having iWatch “notify” you about things like phone calls, voice mails, text messages, emails, an update on MDN, etc. (along with optimized info about the items) is very useful.

    You can then decide to pull out iPhone to take action now, or wait until later when its more convenient. iWatch itself is not getting the “notifications.” iPhone receives it, as it does now, and sends optimized info to iWatch’s screen. iWatch does not need its own cellular connection, because iPhone has one. It just needs a wireless connection to nearby iPhone.

    For “fitness tracking,” such as tracking your exercise, iWatch works autonomously. I’ve seen runners with their iPhone strapped to their arm. That will (again) be less convenient with a larger iPhone. iWatch tracks the run (or other exercise) by itself (as you can do now with an iPod nano). iWatch provides info during the run, as it happens. Later, when iWatch is in proximity of iPhone again, that exercise data is automatically transferred to iPhone, and iPhone processes it. This works with other types of health-related tracking, such as for heart rate (whatever iWatch is able to monitor). iWatch tracks it continuously (whether iPhone is with you or not).

    So, the more precise concept is for iWatch to be an extension of iPhone (or iPad). It provides a convenient always-visible secondary screen to display optimized info (and take basic actions). It acts as an autonomous “surrogate” for iPhone, when it is not convenient to have iPhone with you, for specific functions (such those related to health and fitness).

  4. The problem with downplaying an Apple smartwatch is assuming it will be a watch. I am betting on a new class of wearable device, rather than just an extended watch. If is *is* just a watch, then I don’t think it will be that successful, but you never know with Apple. Personally, I am hoping for a band-like device that can tell time, sure, but provides an interface to other Apple ecosystem features.

  5. I’m wondering if it will possibly just be the new Nano. The Nano has always changed shapes with regularity and has always been fitness oriented, not to mention the fact that I can wear my tiny square Nano on my wrist already and it has several watch faces (a feature mentioned by Steve Jobs onstage I think). Apple wouldn’t need to begin a whole new category with the new NanoBand or whatever because the Nano has gotten stale anyway. The category used to be a lot more experimental to the company and that was good. Totally onboard with it using my iPhone signal: perfection.

    (also I was recently lucky enough to be able to pick up an iPad Mini Retina and in case anyone’s on the fence it’s a perfect little device)

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