MorningWord 6/8/15: On Watch $AAPL

by Dan June 8, 2015 9:16 am • Commentary

I have been wearing the Apple Watch Sport 42 mm since May 28th. After one day I was surprised that the battery drained as quickly as it did. I Tweeted the following:

I got a wide range of responses, most of them starting and stopping with me being a moron. Like “you’re a moron for buying a 1st generation tech product” and “you’re a moron and don’t know how to use power reserve” to “you’re a moron $AAPL hater”.

But I will tell you that the Apple “ecosystem” is alive and well in the Nathan household. Since buying the first iPhone in 2007, (and every iteration since), I bought my first MacBook the same year, followed by 2 Macs, 2 Macbook Airs, 4 iPads, 3 iPods, 4 Beats products. My family and I are huge fans of Apple products. As for the stock, I own it as you do in every large cap US mutual fund, but I am a hater of stock market manias and AAPL stock has been one from a cultish perspective for years.

After ten days of wearing the Watch at all times other than when I am sleeping I am hard pressed to come up with a reason to continue to wear it aside from continued testing. And to be honest a secret desire to like it.  I will give it a little more time. But this is printed out and ready to go:


If you are already bored and expected this to be my response then you can stop here.

For those wondering about the Watch, here are my initial impressions:

the Face: is too small to manipulate most functions on the touchscreen, Force Touch is maybe cool but Watch is not the product where its usefulness will become apparent.

the Digital Crown: created to help navigate apps and functionality, it’s far from user friendly for those like me with large fingers when on wrist.

the Design: not that unique, elegant or distinctive.  If the company is going for style they fail miserably.  The only Watch I would put on my wrist was the lowest end Sport, as it is the simplest and in my mind the only one that really fits with the company’s minimalist style. The stainless steel is unattractive in my opinion, the Edition is Gaudy, and most bands look cheap as if they were purchased from a kiosk in the mall.  Many watch owners that I know generally don’t want to have the same watch as many others.

the Battery: who knows how good and how long it will last after continued use, but the fact that I have something else to charge daily is totally annoying.  If it had a battery like the old Blackberry’s that lasted for days, that would be another story.

Connectivity: for all other functions than telling time, the Watch does not work out of Bluetooth range from your iPhone.  While this is annoying, its very similar to most current health offerings like Fitbits/Fuel Bands.

Usefulness: I suppose looking at your wrist is easier than taking your phone out of your pocket or purse, but it is also very distracting and has the potential to be far ruder than checking your phone in my opinion.  I still prefer a buzz in my pocket to the near impossibility of not checking your Watch at new alerts.

Dangers:  far more inclined to check it than a iPhone while I am driving, and I have. My kids couldn’t have one in school as they are not allowed to use phones in school but can have them in their lockers, this will be a disaster for teachers.

the Price: the starting point for the 42 mm sport is $399.  This feels a little high for what it is and what it does, and what it is, basically an extension of my iPhone. The Watch feels unsubstantial on ones wrist. That being said a large man’s Swatch is $150, and go to the mall and try one of those on and at that price point the introductory Watch may appear to be a decent value.  Some of the other Watch, models starting at $550 or up to $1000 seem oddly priced and going after a weird segment.



In Sum: My Watch is on-watch. While I have been fairly vocal on the site and on TV that I thought the first iteration of the Watch would be a dud, I sincerely wanted to be proven wrong, for two reasons, Apple products for the most part make my digital life better, and I love gadgets/new technology. For those who are in that camp, and have $400 burning a whole in their pocket, the Watch will serve as a decent timepiece, ok looking thing on your wrist and solve some of your gadget curiosities.  For me though, it complicated my digital life, and was another thing to worry about charging and frankly already looks dated.

This last point is important. I have two watches that I wear routinely, both from Italian watch makers. One I bought 13 years ago, the other 6 years ago, and in my mind their age only makes them more unique.  The main point here is that the Apple Watch, aside from the Edition series will always be dated, first because of its innards and secondly because of its style.  For the product to move the needle they need to sell tens of millions a year, to do that with a style product like this they almost need to appeal to the masses, and this is a fairly new challenge for Apple.

There have been no shortage of Apple product fanbois who have had glowing reviews for the Watch, not unexpected and most professional reviewers for major publications are massively conflicted in my view. If the NYT or the WSJ were to give a poor product review they could be shut out for “testers” for AAPL’s next new iThingy or possibly given even worse access to management.  Then there are the Bloggers, not too different, but most of those peeps are just Apple Fans.

Here is the thing, I wanted to like the Watch. I really did. But it’s fairly unimpressive, and frankly for someone like me who loves his iPhone 6 and loves my current watch, I find it to be massively un-compelling.

In my mind AAPL missed the big opportunity to go after the segment that could have made their first foray into the Wearable market an instant hit, and that’s the health/activity segment. Re-defining the FitBit/Fuel Band experience at a much lower price point. Heck the tear-down on the Watch showed on average a cost of $84 in components, they could have built a killer workout/health band, with memory for music and a screen with a very nice margin.  But whatevs…

I’ll give it a little more time, but I’m not expecting any miracles, and I am very interested to see if the company reports any numbers for Watch sales today at the company’s World Wide Developers Forum. I suspect not.