Back in July we published our impression of what the Apple Watch means for marketers. A few months and the initial hype surrounding the device having worn off it’s time to take second look.
According to the latest numbers Apple has shipped 8.8 million devices, which is more than the iPhone did in its first year. Admittedly this is to a certain extent, if you’ll pardon the pun, comparing apples to oranges. However a few parallels can be made. Initially the iPhone and the Apple Watch were released with little to no support for third party apps but with the second version of their operating system this limitation was removed or diluted. One of the conclusions of the original post was that smartwatches are still in their infancy and that watchOS2 could help towards a fast catch up in maturity. Yet, despite a few app are now making use of the watch’s sensors this benefit isn’t obvious in one’s day to day interactions with the device. The main benefits still are fitness tracker features, if that is your cup of tea, and discreet delivery of notifications to your wrist. The latter however was already possible with the initial Pebble Smartwatch back in 2013. All in all it can be said that the Apple Watch definitely lacks a noticeable wow factor.
Does this mean we can call this device category a failure?
In August Gartner indicated that the wearable category, to which the Apple Watch belongs, had passed the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” and was heading towards the “Trough of Disillusionment” on their Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. Further that it would take 5 to 10 years until the category reached the Plateau of Productivity. While technology, especially the battery life, certainly contributes to a negative overall impression it is not the main issue. It is the experience.
As highlighted in the first blog post the fact that the device, with a touch screen, is worn “on wrist” makes it really exciting. But like spotting a raw goal scoring talent in a football team can excite, seeing it being mismanaged can equally infuriate you. In this case the hard- and software represents the raw talent. Organizations must stop creating half-baked solutions. Being first on a touch point doesn’t count for anything and shouldn’t be mistaken as a sign for being at the bleeding edge of technology. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Otherwise it’s like playing that goal scoring talent in defense. It’s possible but certainly not wise.
Putting the experience at the forefront
Remember this device category is really about personal assistance and convenience in micro-moments and a second-screen to your phone. Scanning your boarding card, recording your workout or executing a custom workflow are examples of moments were the device comes in handy. All of these examples are almost binary actions: Show the boarding card code and scan it, start or stop the recording of your run or trigger a call to your phone to get you out of an awkward situation. Identifying these potentials and business cases are by no means without its challenges and can only be done with a holistic view of the customer journey. But a necessary mean in order to lay to ground work for the customer experience which is required to create wow moments this device category should be destined to.
The next months will probably bring a second wave of Apple Watch apps which probably will have a lot to be desired for. While they will bring many important learning to organizations, the users probably won’t be the winners. However organizations must keep in mind that if the experience isn’t perceived as valuable they probably won’t recommend the device to their peers or consider purchasing a further generation. Making sure to get the experience right is the key. If marketers act responsibly Gartner will possibly be right by predicting we are still 5 to 10 years away of reaching the plateau of productivity, otherwise the young striker probably was forced to play in defense once too often for his own good.
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