Two Watches Enter, One Watch Leaves

This week, instead of our usual post, we’re bringing you our internal Apple Watch debate. In one corner, Joseph Farrell, who wouldn’t wear one if you paid him. In the other, Brant DeBow, who plans to pre-order the second it’s April 10. After the release we’ll be bringing you posts about utility, functionality, and life with an Apple Watch.

Brant:

“The difference between the TAG Heuer watch and the Apple Watch is very important,” Mr. Biver said. “That one is called Apple and this one is called TAG Heuer.” That quote is pretty telling – this is a “well, people will buy it because it has our name on it, who is this little Apple in our space” quote. Cue Palm CEO quote, Ballmer laughing at the iPhone, and a host of others. This is probably the most bullish sign for the AppleWatch ever.

All of Apple’s success rests on their own execution. If they can deliver on a device that is truly enjoyable to use and truly integrates software with their vision (e.g. iPhone) they have a wide open field. Luxury can command a lot more money for a product that is no better than it’s competition (see: luxury handbags), but it will not long command a high price for a product that’s worse of an experience. Also Apple has something that none of these other watches will have:  ~ 3 Million paying customers on opening weekend (I agree with Neil Cybart’s estimates).

Biver and the others can’t have it both ways: You can’t say “Apple doesn’t matter up here, because we’re timeless and we don’t care about utility on the wrist” and then say “And we’ll beat them at things like NFC and smart capabilities.” If I were a luxury watch executive, I’d take the first of those options and hope it’s right. It’d be better to stay utterly focused on timelessness and luxury and just keep serving the people who haven’t cared about utility in a long time.

Joseph:

I would buy the TAG watch. The design is awesome. By contrast, the Apple Watch is antiseptic. Apple is completely stuck because they need to make one watch to rule them all (oh, with a few bands) they are not able or interested in diversifying the design so greatly. This is why I have always claimed that Android will be a better wearable platform. Everyone can just grab Android and slam it into their watch design. And if I want ten smartwatches, they will all look different but be able to communicate so it doesn’t matter if I wear the Smart Swatch or the Smart TAG. All my data is the same.

Android will rule the smartwatch platform. Watchmakers can integrate it into any design. Apple has only one look plus some bands. The TAG launch is exactly what I predicted would happen two years ago – once the watch makers make the shift and see Android as just the guts that replace the quartz or gears of the watch, they can recalibrate slightly and still make the same gorgeous watches they have always made. This partnership is huge. The only issue  will be how to have Android wearables for iPhone users. Unfortunately there will be no HealthKit integration.

Brant:

This is a bet that says the smartwatch won’t expand the watch market in any meaningful way. I disagree, but its a reasonable position. You are saying it because you don’t think there are any meaningful features in the Apple Watch. Also if android wear will be disadvantaged with iPhone (and it will) where do you find yourself TAG buyers? It’s doubtful they’re on Android.

Joseph:

Not really. I am saying I want it all! I want the form and the function. I am utterly unwilling to sacrifice form.

Brant: 

Modular means function will be behind.

Joseph:

Yes. Functional will lag for Android no doubt until it doesn’t and Android catches up. If being an early adopter is important then the Apple Watch is a great product. But if design, variety and fashion is important the Apple Watch cannot compete.

Brant:

Variety perhaps. It’s ridiculous to say it’s poorly designed. Not your taste, sure.

Joseph:

True. Variety then. 1 watch for 365 days.

Brant:

Also, I disagree that design is purely in how it looks and involves no function. Technically, you can get like six different watches. 😛

Joseph: 

Lipstick. 🙂

Brant:

“Lipstick” is what you described: TAG can come in and paint pretty pictures on a low function design.

Joseph:

Well its all pretty low function right now. Right? I mean Apple Watch has a long way to go.

Brant:

We’re back to my original thesis:  you believe this because of that right there. I think if it remains low function – if this does not mark the return of utility to the wrist – then we are looking at a few niche products that don’t change much, and to which luxury watch makers will have no problem adapting. It’s also a colossal failure for Apple even if they sell in the millions, because they were the one with the shot. It’s their execution that determines whether its big or not, and that rests on whether you’re right about low function or not.

Ultimately, this will be an interesting showdown of modular vs. integrated: can three companies with only loose motivations to work together produce something to compete with one company who is all in on this being their next biggest platform? Can Apple deliver on an experience that moves the needle far enough to justify their status as a leader?

Joseph:

And this goes back to my original thesis: smart watches need both form and function. Will Apple have superior wearable function for the next few years? Absolutely. They have complete vertical integration and the laser focus that comes with it. Plus it’s Apple. They are going to hit this hard and do a great job around functionality and form (to some extent). But the phone, laptop, iPad are not accessories we match our changing daily outfits to. They are tools we use regardless if we are at work, at dinner or relaxing with friends. If you are concerned with fashion, one watch plus various bands won’t fit your needs. I can’t conceive of wearing the same watch 365 days a year. But if I buy an Apple Watch that is exactly what I have to do. This watch, no other.  

Android will be slower out of the gate, as they were with the phone, but in the end they will offer watchmakers a highly performant OS that will be the new standard for watches in the future.

Brant &Joseph:

May the best wearable platform win.

#android #Apple #applewatch #BiTE #Controversy #debate #fashion #IoT #iphone #tablet #wearables