There are a couple of things that have occurred to me about Apple’s latest new product line. The first is that fashion and rapid technology upgrade cycles don’t really mix.
Thinking about the evolution of the iPhone (a product whose significance has been compared to the Apple Watch)
each new iteration was thinner, more powerful, and larger than the one before. In the case of the watch, I very much doubt the screen will become larger – wrists aren’t going to get any larger any time soon (though I suppose we could get a widescreen version at some point!) but undoubtedly they will be thinner and more powerful. With technology doubling in power every 12 to 18 months it would be remarkable if they didn’t.
That will be OK for those who paid £300-£400 for their watches – Apple customers have shown themselves to be quite happy shelling out this kind of fee every couple of years for an upgrade. But what does this mean for those customers who paid £10,000 for a gold watch? Will they be happy with a watch which is thicker and less powerful that the current model? Especially when a few years down the line it probably won’t even run with the latest version of iOS.
This could lead to some very dissatisfied customers – unless Apple comes up with a way to overcome this. One way might be to offer a technology upgrade service. Send in your £10,000 watch and Apple will retrofit the latest innards, upgrading your family heirloom to the latest, greatest tech. There are all sorts of implications and challenges with this approach – logistical and manufacturing complexity, weakening the bond between this year’s shape and desirability and so on.
And I don’t think a trade-in will work – people current buy expensive watches to keep, not to exchange in two years.
The second observation is not so much that the launch of the watch is the first time online has been pushed ahead of the physical experience – though that is obviously true. It is that mobile was where Apple was most prepared and efficient. At 8.05am we were still waiting for the Apple online store to come back online (it was promising to be open for buisness at 8.01am). The iPhone app, though, was functioning smoothly and to plan. The combination of a physical Apple Store as a showcase for the physical product, and the Apple app as the way to purchase seems to be the ideal future for Apple. After I had bought via the app I was invited to take a survey of the experience by Apple which asked a large number of detailed questions about the online experience. It seems they are determined to get it very right.