Tuesday, September 09, 2014

It's not about the iPhone

Apple Diversity

Subtitle: Apple announces the Apple Watch  (iWatch)

Let me start by saying that I usually regard Apple as an all too smug and somewhat Elitist corporation. It is however not evil and does have some great inclusive policies as shown in the above excellent video

I think what I'm proposing is that the following views are not that of a doting fanboy.  And so ....

A slow start to the Apple Announcement
As Joy of Tech somewhat ironically predicted on September 8th
the Internet bandwidth to most live technical journalists as well as to Marcus and Agata in Switzerland somewhat techtastically broke down whilst trying to view the livestream of the September 9 2014 Apple announcement. Between stuttering and stopped.

By continuously switching from Livestream to CNET to GeekBeat we managed to get by.

Let's briefly talk about the Apple iPhone 6
Yes there are 2 new phones and every tech journalist will be reviewing them in detail. Please see their coverage. In Switzerland we know we will be on the long end of a release so nobody in our country should be excited just yet.

I'd summarise that the iPhone 6 announcement seems disappointing with models being deficient in

a) Mediocre Camera  (8MP and unknown sensor size)

b) No Waterproofing
c) Larger screens that the rest of the industry already has
d) Apple Pay looks promising for the US and compensates for the Lax American card security  (no Chip and Pin in the USA as in Europe).  Also will Apple Pay ever arrive in Europe ... Yes when indeed?

6minute Apple iPhone 6 introduction

As I have publicly stated many times earlier, Apples entry into the Watch market is very significant.  In 2014 whilst many people carry a Smartphone nearly everybody has a Watch or for serious athletes a GPS fitness tracker. Significant penetration / domination in this market has every existing Watch manufacturer running scared and every Apple Shareholder in ecstasy at the riches they will make.

Apple Watch Analysis

Apple Watch Reveal

- Available March 2015 so really this is a pre-announcement designed to disrupt the non Apple iPhone and Android Wear marketplace (see below)
- Actually looks good
- Multiple physical and watch straps combine to generate a large number of unique watches, so in a room full or Apple Watch wearers, you can still look like an individual (critical)
- Heart Rate Monitor
- Requires Apple iPhone 5 or later  (lock in!)
- Induction Charging and probable 18 hour max battery life
(You could buy 2 watches to alleviate this problem and allow continuous wearing)
- Ingenious use of scrolling wheel (see video below)
- Innovative removable strap design
- Unknowns: Waterproof? Usable for tracking watersports?

Technical Analysis

From my Engineering perspective I offer these insights:

- The watch is late.  Announce today and deliver 6 months later is a last ditch strategy, because current desired technology can't be crammed into a watch body
- Apple have gone for the dependent tethered device model.  In order to save power the GPS and other sensors  (except the Heart Rate) are housed in your iPhone Smartphone. Ideally everything would be inside the watch itself, but is just not technologically possible due to power consumption.
- For 24x7 wearers having 2 complete watches or even 2 watch bodies and 1 strap could provide single user with a workable day and night watch solution and twice the Watch revenue sales to Apple. Again, good Apple business but based on real-world Battery limitations.

Comparison to GPS Sports Watches

Apple Health and Fitness

- GPS watches contain a GPS, Apple Watch does not have one
- GPS watches can be used standalone, uploading activity data post exercise.  Apple Watch looks like it will need the Smartphone to be carried during exercise (to be confirmed)
For serious athletes this is not only impractical (where to carry a phone, plus the weight) but also expensive (sweat/ water damage will kill any non waterproof phone)
- Apple Watch unlikely to be of any use whilst swimming.
- For casual to moderate athletes served by GPS smart watch manufactures like TomTom, Adidas this is a killer product  (i.e. who will need your products now), and even higher end vendors like Suunto and Garmin must be just below cardiac arrest alarm level.

Android User Advice & Strategy

Anybody who believes that the Apple Watch will significantly add to their well-being (i.e. I must have one!) and who does not currently use an iPhone is in the horns of a dilemma. The  Apple Watch requires an iPhone.

So for the existing Android Phone user who wants Apple Watch the options are

Money is No Object

Keep your investment in Android Smartphone technologies and defer iPhone purchase decision until March 2015 when Apple Watch is generally available.  Example, you could buy a new Zony Z3 phone or Samsung Note4 right now, expecting to replace it in 6 months time.

Money is a Consideration

Keep your current phone if it's Android or Windows mobile until March 2015 when a re-evaluation is possible.

New Phone required!
If your current phone is on it's deathbed then you can chart a middle way and buy an Apple iPhone 6 [plus] now because you know you'll need it in 2015.

Apple Strategy

The Apple Watch effective pre-announcement means
a) The non Apple Watch marketplace (principally Android Wear) is decimated
b) Even people that dislike Apple iPhones may buy them because they are needed for Apple Watch compatibility

And Switzerland?
First, Switzerland does not  anymore rely heavily on Watch manufacturing, although still a significant market segment.

The Apple watch is likely to retail upto about 600 USD.   I would predict that it will destabilise or demolish the Analog Watch market upto at least 1500 USD.  

Iff (If and Only If) however the Celebrity takeup of the Watch on wrists is significant, users that might usually wear Rolex or Cartier and the like;  the demolition may rise further up the prestige watch scale.  We will no doubt see.

Apple Watch -  a 10 minute introduction

Apple has a proud tradition of announce it now and buy it tomorrow products.  This time however it is instead a pre-announce plain and simple.  The product however does look exceptional, well, as reported on YouTube, and so I expect that most people who are about to buy into the Android Wear ecosystem will probably change their mind to Apple.

US no chip and PIN
Apple iPhone6 camera

Apple Watch page