Last week, after several years of build-up and hype, the world had the opportunity to place their pre-orders for the Apple Watch. It hasn’t generated the queues outside stores that have come to typify recent Apple releases, and despite some options “selling out” we have no idea what that means in terms of total numbers ordered, as supply is obviously constrained. Slice Intelligence reckon that over a million people signed up on launch day, but I suspect that’s over-optimistic. Nor I am I convinced by other analysts predicting sales of 19 million this year. However, over the course of the rest of this year I expect several million people around the world will spend between $349 and $20,000 each to acquire one. It will be the start of an interesting experiment which is far more than just about what we wear on our wrist. I see it as a similar, but larger scale experiment along the same lines as Google Glass, albeit a much lower risk one in terms of social acceptance. But it is still an experiment. To succeed it will need to change user behaviour – it’s not enough that it’s just a new Apple toy.
It may turn out to be an experiment which will indicate whether our love affair with the smartphone has a best-before date. That may seem an odd statement, but we’re already seeing some interesting feedback from people who have had the opportunity to trial the Apple Watch. Matthew Panzrino at Techcrunch has interviewed a number of these, reporting that the biggest recurring theme from those lucky few is how little they use their iPhone once you have an Apple watch. People he spoke to that have worn the Apple Watch said that they take their phones out of their pockets far, far less than they used to. One user told him that they “nearly stopped using their phone during the day; they used to have it out and now they don’t, period”.
Last month at the Apple presentation Kevin Lynch echoed the same point remarking that “you can put your iPhone down when you get home – you don’t need to have it with you all of the time”. For the VP of Technology at Apple to say that sounded almost heretical, but it highlighted an important point – Apple connectivity products, like the iPhone and Apple TV could become invisible hubs for connectivity to more personal products which Apple may produce in the future. That could have an important bearing on the way we use smartphones.
Apple is doing a lot of interesting things in its product ranges and we’ve yet to see how they fit together, or what that will mean for the future of the Apple ecosystem. But it’s important to get past the hardware and understand how they could work as an ecosystem to change behaviour. This is my view of where the iPhone may be going.