M.G. is right that the Watch isn’t a flop. He’s right that so much about this product remains to be seen. But I want to focus on this specific line, which is a seed for several days worth of discussion:
If history is any guide, this is always what happens with Apple products. I happen to believe Apple Watch is a bit more “v1” than a lot of other products the company has put out there. But that may just mean that it has more opportunity to grow into something truly unique, useful, and worth upgrading for as iterations come.
I like the idea that the Apple Watch is more “V1” than previous Apple launch products. If the first iPod, iPhone, and iPad were examples of an Apple version 1.0, the Watch is (at least) 0.5. Unlike these other Apple products, the Apple Watch doesn’t make a clear promise. Further, what weak promises it does make it fails to deliver against.
To illustrate how muddled and experimental the Apple Watch is compared to other Apple launches, lets review each product’s initial advertisement. Each makes a clear promise. A promise which even first generation products delivered against.
The iPod’s promise was clear: “1,000 songs, in your pocket.” Fully delivered on day one. With ensuing models, the major changes were the number of songs and the amount of pocket real estate required. The promise never changed.
The iPhone’s promise was clear: your music, your email, the internet, and your phone — in one. This pitch was more complex, but it was consolidation of roles not invention. (Invention came later, with apps.)
The iPad’s promise was clear: the internet in your lap. For all it’s growth and slowing, this promise has remained the core selling point. It arrived delivering on the promise. Ensuing releases have improved upon it.
What is the vision promised by the Apple Watch? The clearest promise is, “apps on your wrist.” But even this is arguable and not entirely clear. A secondary promise, which is given nearly as much attention, is customization of the device through bands, colors, and faces.
For two reasons the Apple Watch does not match the “V1” status of the first iPod, iPhone, and iPad.
First, the promised vision is not clearly stated. Even if you agree that “apps on your wrist” is a compelling promise for a mass audience (I do not), it’s inarguable that this promise is presented as clearly and consisely as the iPod’s, iPhone’s, or iPad’s respective promises.
Second, the Watch does not deliver upon the promised vision. Apps are slow, offer little value when they do work, and voice recognition input is barely usable. Everyone I know who’s stuck with the Watch use it for time, notifications, and (maybe) fitness.
It’s a tired trope to talk of the “Old Apple” and the “New Apple,” but the Apple Watch launch — as a product and ad — is clearly a break from a streak of products that made clear promises and delivered against them. If the “Old Apple” launched this product it would have promised a fashionable watch that delivered notifications.
The Apple Watch is not a V1 product. It is an experiment, a collection of Post-Its on a whiteboard which somehow made it to your wrist. Hopefully, one or two of these can grow into a proper version 1.0.