My prediction is that the Apple Watch will sell better than all previous smartwatches combined within a few days of its release.
Critics will say that Apple Watch market success is due to Apple’s marketing mojo or because Apple fans are sheep who buy anything Apple sells.
Some will say that it shouldn’t succeed because it merely duplicates existing iPhone features while still requiring an iPhone. The Apple Watch is redundant, pointless and unnecessary.
In other words, nobody needs an Apple Watch.
The “need” argument is the worst argument against the Apple Watch. And here’s why: Nobody needs lots of things. Nobody needs smartphones, sports cars, nice clothes, HDTVs. Nobody needs to go to restaurants, bars and nightclubs or to watch movies.
We spend huge sums on all these things we don’t need because they make us feel good.
And this is why the Apple Watch will be a runaway hit. It will make us feel good—in fact, better than alternative smart watches will make us feel.
The Apple Watch will— literally—be the feel-good product of the year because of Apple’s integrated user interface that combines amazing touch capabilities with sound, high-definition visuals and unique tactical experiences.
Critics reading this column will dismiss the UI as mere window dressing. But this dismissal will be the exact point of failure to understand the Apple Watch phenomenon.
If you want to succeed in understanding why the Apple Watch will succeed, read on.
Why the Apple Watch Is Like a Drug
The Apple Watch will eventually do a lot of jobs. It will monitor fitness, unlock and start your car, control home automation devices, keep you notified of calendar events and messages, pay for things and much more. All these tasks could be enabled by a smartphone or an alternative smartwatch.
However, the Apple Watch will dominate the wearables market not because of what it can do, but how. Its superiority lies not in which tasks can be accomplished, but its impact on human psychology.
User interface elements working together will provide the constant minor thrill that will make the Apple Watch compelling. But the star of the symphony will be Apple’s so called Taptic Engine, which buzzes to let you know something is happening as well as a high-definition haptics chip which drives a linear actuator that provides subtle, high-speed vibrations that the watch uses to prompt users.
Unlike other devices, Apple’s Taptics feature enables a new form of communication. You can send your heartbeat to someone and they will feel it on their wrist. Or you can draw a picture, and they will see and feel the drawing of it.
The most popular use I believe will be simply tapping someone on the wrist from afar. One friend can do the old “shave and a haircut” routine, with the other responding with the “two bits” part. This feature will be as compelling as it is needless. You won’t be able to communicate much, but the instant gratification and immediacy of it will be off the charts.
The Apple Watch supports Apple Pay. After a transaction is complete, the Taptics engine, combined with a specific sound, confirms it. Instead of the cashier telling you the payment is done, you tell the cashier.
Turning the Digital Crown, a small control wheel on the side, will reward your nervous system with a specific feeling; you’ll feel the wheel turning.
Why Millions Will Buy an Apple Watch They Don’t Really Need
Apple touched on these features (pun intended) during its big March 9 announcement, but didn’t drive home the point that I am talking about, which is the compelling, even addictive nature of these user interface elements used in concert.
The Apple Watch is a body part, not a possession
Smartphone users experience “phantom vibration syndrome,” when people feel their smartphone vibrating in a pocket only to discover that the phone isn’t there.
The reason for this is that over time the sensation becomes hardwired into memory, a memory which is rewarded by the message or information that follows the buzzing.
Likewise, the Apple Watch’s combination of vibration alerts with the sights and sounds that go with them, will be mapped into the minds of Apple Watch users, and become something their minds expect, enjoy and even crave.
Humans are naturally attracted (and can become addicted) to multi-touch user interfaces—or, for that matter, bubble wrap, snowboarding and playing video games—because the combination of sights, sounds, tactical experiences thrills our brains, releasing dopamine, which itself is a mildly intoxicating and addictive drug.
It’s astounding to see how addicted people have become to their phones. The Apple Watch will be even more addicting, because by being lashed to the wrist, it becomes part of you.
Another touch feedback loop will be provided courtesy of the Apple Watch’s Force Touch feature. The Apple Watch screen can tell how hard you’re pressing the screen, which will enable applications to respond to how you touch the screen with specific visuals (thicker lines when you press harder, for example), sounds and haptic sensations.
The Apple watch doesn’t suddenly give you capabilities you never had before, for the most part. It moves many of the things you do with an iPhone (if you use an iPhone) to the watch. This aspect shouldn’t be underestimated. Some users will nearly stop using their iPhones completely, doing everything on the Apple Watch, including making phone calls.
While critics slam the Apple Watch as an unnecessary duplication of some iPhone functionality, it’s more accurate from a psychological or experiential perspective to look at the iPhone and Apple Watch together as a new platform.
That’s a more accurate way to understand the entire wearables revolution. Eventually, you’ll be able to have a smartwatch, smart glasses, smart clothing, smart shoes, and they’ll all work in concert, with or without a centrally-controlling smartphone.
You become the computer or, if you like, your physical self is enhanced by the technology (as opposed to the idea that you “have” or “carry” technology). If wearables are nothing more than independent gadgets, then the wearables revolution isn’t worth showing up for.
This is the fundamental reality that Apple seems to understand better than its competitors. Wearable computing isn’t about being necessary or making you more efficient or productive. It’s about enhancing your body in a way that thrills.
Apple announced this week that the cheapest Apple Watch will cost $349 and the most expensive one will cost $17,000.
Realistically, I think the sweet spot version is between these extremes. The mid-range Apple Watch (with stainless steel and sapphire) will cost between $549 and $1,099, depending on size and band. That cost is in addition to the required iPhone.
If the Apple Watch were merely something people need it would be a lot cheaper. But like all the over-priced things in our lives, the Apple Watch is something that makes us feel good, and that’s why we’ll buy it.
So as we argue about the merits and benefits of the Apple Watch, let’s save a lot of time by dispensing with the false “nobody needs it” argument.
Of course nobody needs the Apple Watch.