Four reasons the Apple Watch might fail, and one reason why it won't
The Apple Watch will be launched on Monday in California, the company's first brand new product since the launch of the original iPad in 2010, and many industry observers are predicting a flop of potentially gigantic proportions.
Here's why it could flop:
It needs to be charged every day
Battery life is a major issue for all modern devices, and the Apple Watch will be no different.
Latest reports from insiders suggest the device will last around 19 hours on one charge, based on "average use". Heavy use of apps and other functions will cause the battery to drain in around five hours.
This is broadly similar to battery life on the iPhone, but users may be a great deal less forgiving in this case: most watch batteries last around four years.
It's too expensive
Not all Apple Watch owners will drop US$5,000 (or more) for the 18-carat-gold Edition, but even the most basic version of the device – the aluminium Apple Watch Sport – will cost around US$349.
Of course, watch owners regularly spend thousands of dollars on their wrist bling, but they're making an investment in a device which will last for years, if not decades.
If iPhone and iPad release schedules are anything to go by, the Apple Watch released today will be replaced in a year, and obsolete in a couple more. Even Mark Zuckerberg thinks the price is too high.
You need an iPhone for full functionality
While most of the people who rush to buy an Apple Watch in the next weeks will be loyalists with a house full of Apple products, not everyone has an iPhone.
And yet to get full functionality on the Watch, you may need one. Apple says the Watch "uses multiple technologies in conjunction with your iPhone", and reports suggest that receiving calls and emails on the Watch, GPS and full health tracking will not be possible without the expensive smartphone.
The infrastructure isn't there
One of the most exciting features of the Apple Watch is the potential to use its built in near-field communication (NFC) chip for wireless payments in the manner of an Octopus or Oyster card.
But as Mark Wilson points out at Fast Company, "even Apple Pay, Apple's iPhone-based payments standard, doesn’t have enough retailers supporting the product to be any bit as ubiquitous as paying with a credit card [...] If hundreds of millions of smartphones can’t get wireless payments figured out, how are a few million smartwatches going to?"
While some analysts have said that Apple Pay could be NFC's own "killer app", popularising the technology and greatly increasing adoption, others warn that full market penetration could take years. Chip and pin credit card security has been available since the mid-90s and is still not widely used in the US.
That said, there's one very good reason why even the most pessimistic critics of the Apple Watch might be wrong...
Here's why it could succeed:
Apple has had its flops: the Newton, Macintosh TV, the Apple Pippin (yes, Apple once made a games console).
But for all its failures, the company has had spectacular successes. The iPod, iPhone and iPad, despite not being revolutionary products in and of themselves, were all market changing devices, confounding critics and making Apple one of the largest companies in the world.
While the criticisms of the Apple Watch are legitimate, and it could most definitely flop, there's at least as good a chance that critics will be left with egg on their face.
If the Watch lives up to its hype, Apple may well become the first US$1 trillion company.