Buying a first generation product, be it the Apple Watch today, an original iPhone or iPad back when they launched, or a newly redesigned Mac any time, is something that used to be considered the domain of tech aficionados and early adopters. For most people, conventional wisdom was to hold off, to avoid brand new products and let the early adopters serve as the early testers. Yet as technology becomes more mainstream, products are becoming more mature, even in their original iterations. So, if you're interested in an Apple Watch, is it okay to jump into the first generation, or should you wait for the next?
There will always be something better
The first generation iPhone didn't have 3G networking or GPS positioning. It didn't have an App Store. The first generation iPad didn't have a camera. The first generation iMac and unibody MacBook and MacBook Air all lacked ports or features later generations would provide.
Year after year, almost every product Apple has ever made has gotten better, sometimes in leaps, more often in steps. Taken to it's logical conclusion, you could have skipped the first iPhone for 3G, the second for video, the third for Retina, the forth for Siri, the fifth for a larger screen, the sixth for Touch ID, the seventh for an even larger screen... You get the idea.
Given the inexorable march of technology, you can always find a reason, each and every generation, to wait for the next. So, if you're unsure about a product in general, it's good to take your time and see if it's right for you. If you don't have the money, it's good to save up. If you are sure and the cost isn't a factor, however, all waiting does is make you to wait.
The cost and recouping it
With the Apple Watch, an entry level model costs $349. Even if Apple updates every year, the way they typically do with iPhone and iPad, buying the first generation Apple Watch now works out to roughly $1 a day until the next one comes out. And you have it and can use it right away for a full year. Instead of waiting for what's next, you can help shape it.
When the next generation is announced, if it's substantively better enough to make you want to upgrade, you can upgrade. If you have the money, it's just another $1 a day for the baseline. You can hand down your original Apple Watch or keep it as a collector's item. I've got the first generation iPhone, iPad, iPad mini, Apple TV, and MacBook Air all on the shelf in my studio. They're on display like the amazing objects of design that they are. This is by no means a typical thing any normal person would do, but I know a lot of people who either have kept first generation Apple products and are happy they did, or didn't keep them and wish they had. (Most of my other devices I've given to family members or co-workers who don't care as much about having the latest and the greatest.)
If money is an issue, you can always sell your previous generation and put that money towards the next. That's what a lot of iMore readers do to make sure they can get the new iPhone every year. Whether they sell it themselves on eBay or use a service like Gazelle, it greatly reduces the costs of early adoption and frequent upgrades. Since Apple products, if you take good care of them, tend to hold their value, you basically end up paying what amounts to a usage fee a year.
The mainstreaming of the early adopter
With the iPhone, iPad, and some other devices, the first generation has been picked up mostly by the usual early adopters — technologists. Then, by the second generation, the iPhone 3G or iPad 2, the mainstream started to buy in and big. With the Apple Watch, however, we've been hearing from a lot of people in the mainstream, including friends and family members, that they have no interest in waiting. They want it now.
Whether awareness about Apple and technology has gotten more widespread or Apple has simply learned to make products more mainstream friendly in their first iteration, the lines are definitely blurring. Neither my mom nor my sister, by way of example, wanted a first generation iPhone or an iPad. They both want first generation Apple Watch.
The bleeding edge
New technology can be fun but it's still new technology. That can be exciting but it can also be frustrating. No one, including technologists or even Apple know exactly what a product is or what it needs to be until it hits millions of people. Being one of those millions means you can help shape the future, but it can also mean some glitches, hiccups, and misses in the present. If you're among the first to own a device, any device, you'll be among the first to hit any issue that device encounters. It's not a problem exclusive to first generation products — many major redesigns can be the same — but the potential is biggest when you're dealing with the brand new.
Again, you can always find a reason to wait, a month, a year, an eternity, so it comes down to knowing your own comfort level and figuring out, based on that, when's best to buy.
Who should wait for a next generation Apple Watch later?
If you have a low tolerance for new technology, if you're not sure you really want one, if money is tight, if you'd rather watch others for a while than have a watch of your own, go ahead and wait. Apple will almost certainly keep making them and you can jump on whenever you feel ready, or feel it's ready.
Who should buy the first generation Apple Watch now?
If you're interested in technology, if you want a piece of the future today, if you have a problem the Apple Watch is likely to solve, or if you just want a conversation piece, go ahead and get the Apple Watch now. You'll enjoy whatever the current one can do, and be ready to upgrade whenever a new version can truly offer you more.
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.