When Apple launched the original Watch it was within a framework where it expected to destroy the watch industry with a watch designed to be jewellery, a fashion statement and an extension of an iPhone. Despite significant investment in promoting the product, including putting one on every A-lister’s wrist, significant TV and print advertising and prominent placement in the Apple Store, the Watch hasn’t been a great success.
Yes it’s the best selling smartwatch, but in a market this small that’s of little consequence. What’s more enlightening are sales compared to fitness trackers: in the most recent quarter Fitbit outsold Apple by 15:1.
The market doesn’t want a smartwatch, it wants a fitness tracker, with some smarts. Apple’s revised Watch shows that it gets this. More focus on fitness, less on fashion,
Microsoft on the other hand judged the market just right, shipping a fitness tracker with smart features. The original Band wasn’t the best looking device ever made, but the second was a significant improvement. Paired with the Microsoft Health app and cloud services the band’s class competitive array of sensors made for a pretty could tracker.
Of course being Microsoft it was woefully under promoted, restricted in availability and was bought by pretty much nobody.
Had the Apple Watch been a Band I wonder just how well it would have sold? The Band design complements a watch rather than seeking to replace it. With Apple’s hype machine behind it and a wider range of devices and pricing I would imagine that sales would have gone through the roof. This could have been the success that Tim Cook needed to validate his leadership of Apple. Instead Apple has had to resort to burying its sales numbers as best it can and, belatedly refocusing the Watch on health.
Apple’s swerve from a smartwatch to a fitness tracker is only half done and the next Watch will probably take a further step towards being a Band instead of a Watch. The original Watch was fumbled by Apple – something rare enough to be notable – I expect Apple to refocus and repackage its way to success in the wearable market, ironically by following where Microsoft led.