Apple Watch 2 gives wearables a boring boost
Apple has unveiled its latest and greatest Apple Watch, with a new ceramic version to target buyers with cash to burn. Unfortunately for those hoping for innovation, the device is more of the same, and isn’t enough to drive the collective industry to new heights.
The problem that the wearable industry seems to have, in terms of dollar-value at least, is that it is the only brand capable of encouraging lots of consumers to part ways with upwards of two-hundred dollars for a wearable. Fitbit seems to have carved out a niche, and Garmin seems to do decent business too, while Samsung, LG, and Motorola (now Lenovo) are pushing hard for Android-powered smartwatches.
But while Xiaomi looms at the low-end of the value chain, admittedly a few notches above the dozens of no-name options for Bluetooth-powered fitness wearables that are available online, Apple seems to be the only brand able to sell large volumes of expensive wearables.
This means that industry bean-counters are forced to conclude that the wearable market grinds to a halt when Apple’s success slows. While the rest of town continues to sell well, enjoying collective growth as consumers are persuaded of the value of wearables, Cupertino is the main brand generating headlines – and dictating the narrative.
So with the Apple Watch Series 2, Apple has essentially added GPS and waterproofing – making the smartwatch a lot more capable for sporting enthusiasts looking to wear the watch while swimming and running. Deep-sea divers will still break the watch if they wear it at depths below 50-meters, but the watch benefits from a new and faster dual-core processor, a brighter display, and a new ceramic housing.
With software designed to track the lengths of a pool swum, the ceramic housing is mainly an aesthetic option for new buyers. It doesn’t seem that there are many features included that have the ability to force upgrades from existing owners, but by targeting the most physically active users, Apple is hoping to snare a subculture that combines luxury tech experiences with their physical activities.
However, there were no announcements regarding reduced power consumption or increased battery life, which suggests that adopters will still be charging their watches every day – for fear of emptying the reserves after 24-hours of moderate usage.
While the new WatchOS v3 software has apparently made great strides in improving the user experience, there’s still a sizeable proportion of consumers that see smartwatches as jacks-of-all-trades but masters of none – and can’t justify the $250-500 outlay on a wearable that might occasionally prove useful by providing directions without having to walk around with a phone in your hand.
There’s no LTE connectivity in the new Series 2, which means that the device still relies on a smartphone to provide it with a remote internet connection – and therefore the ability to perform most of its application functions. Standalone wearables are still only a niche market, and the likes of Samsung have failed to sway consumers and persuade them of the value.
The new version will sell with prices starting from $369, with the ceramic version starting from $1,249. There’s a special edition with Nike, called the Nike+, that is more geared towards runners. It doesn’t seem like the extra cash is going to gain users much in the way of extra performance in the most frequently used applications.