Six years later, the Apple Watch is a bit of a crossroads. After a few years of explosive growth in hardware improvement, it seems that Apple has hit a bit. Last year’s Apple Watch Series 5 only added a single main feature, it always appears, but it was a big milestone.
This year’s Series 6, though? Clearly, even Apple knew how step-by-step this update was. An oxygen sensor is good, but since it is not approved as a medical device, Apple’s implementation feels a bit weak. A brighter always on screen? Great, but the very definition of step by step. You know that an update feels a bit dull when Apple throws in a bunch of new colors to evoke some excitement.
In six years, the Apple Watch has done incredibly well. Faced with a skeptical industry, it has defined and dominated the smartwatch category, become the most popular watch in the world and driven growth in Apple̵
So let’s consider year seven. Where does the Apple Watch go from here?
Time to break compatibility
For years, I worried about the possibility of Apple throwing out the existing Apple Watch design (and potentially compatibility with all existing watch bands). It all seemed premature.
It no longer does.
To be clear, I do not think Apple should get rid of the existing Apple Watch design right now. Maybe not in the years to come! But one way Apple could really change the Apple Watch next year would be to offer a new style, a completely different look than we expected.
The obvious choice is, of course, a circular dial.
Competing smart watches have tried this approach with varying degrees of success. But the fact is that Apple constantly refers to the history of timekeeping and clock design in all its videos and launch events for the Apple Watch. And watches are traditionally round. So it seems inevitable that Apple will eventually release a circular Apple Watch.
App developers will moan, of course, but there are pairs for the course. It’s been three years since Apple introduced the big screen format change in the Edge-to-Edge Series 4 watch. Time for the next adventure.
Reassess the low end
Apple has done a great job of making the Apple Watch cheaper for more people. At $ 199, the Series 3 is a pretty good value – although it would be better if the Apple Watch SE was that price, and the Series 3 was dead. Seems like a thing from 2021, if not sooner.
But at $ 199, believe it or not, Apple still rejects leads. And it’s not just the price: Some people do not want a fancy computer watch. Maybe they hate watches, or maybe they love watches so much that they will not share with their beloved fancy watch.
There is a market there, and competitors like FitBit take advantage. So why would Apple not consider a low-cost product that is not pretty an Apple Watch, but using the technology that Apple has built over the last six years?
Think of an Apple Fitness Band, much smaller and with a small screen, or no screen – but maybe with Siri integration! This would be a device that would not be meant to do anything other than collect activity data and sync it with the iPhone. It can provide longer battery life than the Apple Watch, and complement the iPhone as a training ecosystem, while reaching people who do not want the Apple Watch.
The only downside to such a product is that it can steal away users who might otherwise buy an Apple Watch at a low price. But I have to believe that Apple is confident enough in the benefits of the more full-fledged Apple Watch that it will not be afraid to cannibalize some of its lowest users, in exchange for an influx of new customers who just are not interested in a smartwatch of some kind.
Make the power move
I’ve suggested it before, and I would suggest it again: Android Wear is a bug. No one could beat Apple at the game. The next step is the ultimate power movement – Apple Watch support on Android.
I know, I know, it sounds like a crazy idea. But think about how people felt when the iPod expanded support for Windows PCs. It seemed like a big mistake – but it turned out that the iPod was Apple’s best ambassador for a group of people who otherwise would never buy an Apple product. Some of them switched to Mac, yes. Others bought iPhones. Today, more iPhone users use Windows than Mac – it’s just math.
I think Apple Watch can convince Android users that Apple’s ways are the best, and pry them away from Android to iOS when they next update their smartphones. If the Apple Watch experience on Android was good – and I have to believe it would be – then Apple can use it as a way to capture users, delight them and convert them.
It is a move you only make when you are in a position of strength. And I think Apple definitely is when it comes to the Apple Watch. The current Apple Watch hardware may have reached its apotheosis, but there are other worlds left to conquer.