The iWatch first-mover non-advantage

While iWatch rumors continue to run hot and heavy Apple hasn't said word one about any specific wearable product. Many of their competitors, however, have had smartwatches on the shelves for months if not years. That's led to some market and media sentiment that Apple's "late" to the game. Apple, however, like wizards, tends to arrive precisely when it means to. Jim Dalrymple writing for the The Loop:

It’s pretty clear that if you made a list of feature you would like to see on a smartwatch, the Gear doesn’t begin to measure up. So why would Samsung release a product like that? It seems the only reason is to be first on the market, which shouldn’t be a motivating factor for a company if they want to change the way we think about a product category.

Apple wasn't first to smartphones with the iPhone. They waited until they fully understood the pain of Treo, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Symbian users, felt like there was a problem Apple was uniquely positioned to solve, and then pulled the trigger. Same with the iPad. It launched from the ashes of a decade of Tablet PC misteps.

The smartwatch space isn't at the Treo or Tablet PC point yet. There's still more pain to learn from and more honing to be done. Only then, when the market is ready and Apple feels like they have a great enough product to enter it will we see their take on an iWatch or wearable.

If Apple did release a smartwatch first, that would be cause to worry.

Go read the rest of Jim's piece and then let me know what you think — is the smartwatch market ready for Apple, and vice versa?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, The TV Show, Vector, ZEN & TECH, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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There are 33 comments. Add yours.

stale_bread says:

Technically the square iPod nano could be considered a smartwatch. So Apple beat everybody to it, and more likely planted the seed of the whole smartwach phenomenon.

iOS Gino says:

When I think about it, it seems like it was a highly sophisticated R&D tactic.....IMO

David Hroncheck says:

I've had, or have, just about every known, and unknown, smart watch and fitness band since the first Sony Ericsson LiveView. All with a common denominator of playing within a smartphone ecosystem. My excitement peaked sometime between testing the WIMM One and Pebble. Since then, including Samsung's efforts, I'm left waiting for the category to have its iPhone moment. I could talk all day on this subject, but it comes down to this:

The smart watch UX quality has to be on par or better than flagship smartphones to have mass appeal.

SockRolid says:

Exactly. An Apple "iWatch" will need to be compelling in one or more ways.
No "smart watch" is or has ever been compelling. Not yet anyway.

Illustrator Joe says:

Compelling to you. Others disagree.

ಠ益ಠ

David Hroncheck says:

Once a user gets past the initial wow of having any smart watch, they quickly lose interest. Seeing Twitter and FB posts, reading email, playing Flappy Bird and taking pictures absolutely sucks on a smart watch versus your phone.

For an iWatch to succeed it won't be a UI thing, it will be a UX that delivers new reasons to want one. Jobs might have asked, "What can an iWatch be better at than an iPhone is?".

prlundberg says:

To clarify your memory of the original iPhone...Apple provided a toy while everybody else was providing tools. The early iPhones weren't an option for business use, functionality was years behind everybody else. Apple did not "solve a problem", what they did was attack a new market with features well suited for that market. Same thing with the iPad. Tablet PCs were focused on business and their associated needs, Apple focused on consumers and found success.

That is not the case today, current smart watches have clearly been targeting consumers for several years now. That's not to say I don't believe Apple can find success with an iWatch. I'm just saying it's not the same situation.

Rene Ritchie says:

That's semantics. Interface is the application. Before the iPhone and iPad, smartphone and tablet interface sucked. Apple solved that problem.

Arguing about functionality and ignoring interface is like arguing about horses and buggies vs. early cars.

We're in the world we're in today because the future of the iPhone and iPad held more promise than the future of any similar device to launch before them.

prlundberg says:

I don't dispute your last sentence. But it is not mere semantics that Apple went after a different market than everybody else. They would not have had the success they did had they not focused on consumers first. Interface was their main application, yes, but useful functionality was sorely lacking otherwise.

My point is that the smartwatch consumer market is pretty much covered already. They could improve it, but they won't be entering a new market.

SockRolid says:

"So why would Samsung release a product like that?"

I think Samsung's corporate Gear thought process went like this:

1. We hear that Apple is developing an iWatch.
2. What's the quickest dirtiest smart watch we can bang out?
3. Let's do it, then use it as "prior art" if and when Apple sues us.
4. Pretend that Gear is a relevant, hip, trendy product.

Illustrator Joe says:

Haha #4 is what Apple has done with every product they have ever released. It I their biggest marketing tactic. Don't hate.

ಠ益ಠ

rchapman80 says:

Apple has shown a skill when our comes to entering a market late. The iPhone and iPad are prefect ramped of things companies have tried and we're not overly successful. They see what the competition is doing and swoop in to make it and improve on what the competition did.

I have no doubt that when they finally decide to release a smart watch that it will be a very good product and will improve on the concept.

This isn't from a fan boy, it's just historically am accurate statement.

Posted via the Android iMore App!

rchapman80 says:

Sorry for the typos. Damn auto correct.

Posted via the Android iMore App!

richard451 says:

That author reads like an angry AAPL investor trying to save his bacon.

d ha says:

Gee late to the game?
Doubtful. Highly doubtful.

Apple is years ahead of everyone with R and D with stuff that will blow the "watch" concept out of the water.
They have better things to focus on.
Another petty trivial story.

Nicholas Kathrein says:

They are not years ahead. Don't kid yourself. That's a fanboy comment.

rogifan says:

I like what Bruce Tognazzini said on CNBC recently: that Samsung's wearables are all about one thing - being able to say they shipped something before Apple did.

SockRolid says:

A guy I know went to CES.
He summed up the whole "wearables" concept in two words:

"Disposable Electronics"

Illustrator Joe says:

That could be said about all mobile tech right now. Everything is phased out in a years time.

rogifan says:

But only Apple seems to be knocked for so-called "planned obsolescence".

asuperstarr says:

Great points and definitely agree. I think that is what set Apple apart from Samsung. They will not release a product just to release a product. There are going to work and build something great.

Sent from the iMore App

cc3d says:

if Apple does it, it's the smartest move. Apple has never made a bad move and is nearing God-like perfection

Illustrator Joe says:

Rene, how can you say it will arrive precisely on time when it hasn't been announced yet? Also are you inferring there isn't a single smartwatch worth owning a this time? That is just how this read to me.

ಠ益ಠ

Nicholas Kathrein says:

I'd have to agree. That Samsung fitness band has wowed just about everyone whos touched it with apple like excitement. Apple may come just late.

Illustrator Joe says:

Agree. The gear 1, 2, and 2 neo aren't for me. But the Samsung fitness band has me impressed. Of course I don't own a Samsung device so that isn't happening. If I did though I would consider it. For now my Pebble seems to be the best companion device and I like the fact I can change phones and it most likely will be compatible. Can't say that for Sammys wearables and I assume the same will be for Apple.

ಠ益ಠ

AnthLC says:

The whole idea of a health app is a great idea but there still lot to be done before it is a reality. The sensors to measure biometrics aren't fully there, accurate or comfortable. There is a difference between a fitness and a medical tool.

Powering the iWatch so that it is not inconvenient to use. The Samsung gear failed on this point alone. No one wants to recharge a watch daily it is to inconvenient.

The Samsung gear primarily failed because it was simply a expensive screen you wear on your wrist. It added no compelling functionality was expense, cheaply made, very unstylish. Considering most people could pull out there smart phone from a pocket to check for updates it was stillborn before it even had been released.

Did Samsung do any research most people wear watches for fashion and they expense, heard of Switzerland for instance.

It only helped Apple as to how not to do it. I heard Apple solved the battery problem via Bluetooth charging from smartphone.

Also Apple apparent will make it work with current devices. Samsung gear was limited to the latest Note released.

I think if Apple can configure the iWatch with biometrics sensors that are comfortable to wear, accurate enough to be useful for your doctor. Eliminate the need to recharge, stylise and work with current iPhones, even Android devices it be a killer game-changer.

I suggest they make it work with Android mainly cause it would probably convert Android users to the IOS ecosystem. May be 6 months after first being released.

Just like when Apple made iTunes available on Windows it opened them up to a great percent of users without comprising what they do.

Rene Ritchie says:

It was a play on words from Tolkien; what Gandalf says to Frodo Baggins at the beginning of Lord of the Rings :)

Ipheuria says:

I don't understand investors need to see a new hit from Apple when they are still making money hand over fist. As a consumer I have not seen the need for a wearable. Personally unless the price is under $100 I wont be getting it. So my interest is just interest in seeing it but can I wait? sure but that's just me.

Sent from the iMore App

tigerinexile says:

My Pebble is a great smartwatch, and I look forward to replacing it with the second generation iWatch. (See iPhone, iPad -- first generation isn't worth it. It's the second gen that lasts a few years.)

Samir Shah1 says:

"If Apple did release a smartwatch first, that would be cause to worry."

Yes, indeed.