Apple Watch: The smartwatch is five years old

The Apple Watch started on April 24, 2015 with high expectations – and initially a quick disappointment. However, the iPhone company showed perseverance and made the computer watch a success with a mixture of flair for current lifestyle trends, technical developments and price reductions. This not only ensured Apple’s place on dozens of millions of wrists and a billion dollar business, but also a key position in the tech industry’s price issue: what comes after the smartphone, which is by far the most important consumer device today?

In spring 2015, success was anything but foreseeable. No one has yet succeeded in establishing a computer clock on the mass market. There were specialized sports watches from Polar, fitness wristbands from Fitbit – and also smartwatches from Motorola. The latter shared an operating system with Android phones, but looked chunky like an ice hockey puck on the wrist. One of its characteristic features was that the lower edge of the round screen was cut off flat, like a flat tire. The reason was prosaic: somewhere you had to put the contacts on the display. That flat-tire design should keep track of even expensive Android watches for years to come.

High pressure to succeed

Before the start of Apple’s computer clock, experts and the media increased the pressure to succeed: after all, it was the Group’s first foray into a new product category after the iPhone 2007 and the iPad three years later – and also the first since the visionary founder died Steve Jobs in autumn 2011. When the watch finally went on sale on April 24th, a line formed in front of the Berlin fashion boutique The Corner – one of only six stores worldwide where the device could be bought without online pre-order. According to calculations by the market research company IDC, 3.6 million users bought an Apple Watch by the end of the quarter.

But far from everyone was satisfied. Among other things, it was criticized that the apps started too slowly and needed a connection to the iPhone. Sophisticated functions such as the possibility of transferring the heartbeat to a partner’s watch found no users as a gimmick and were deleted. The golden Apple Watch, which could cost more than $ 20,000, also turned out to be a bad idea. A technology that was practically obsolete after just a few years simply did not match the price of a Rolex that can be passed on for generations without sacrificing functionality.

According to market researchers, 1.6 million Apple watches were still sold in the second quarter of 2016. That was enough to keep the lead in the smartwatch market – but also to make the device a flop. “A year after the launch, it is clear that almost no one needs an Apple Watch,” headlined the news site Quartz.

Apple remembered the most popular usage scenarios: notifications, navigation, and fitness. The watch proved to be helpful with its vibrating alert, so as not to miss a message or email – or to point out when navigating with the map app that you have to turn right away. In sports she measures pulse and distance – fitness watches can do that too. In the second generation, however, Apple made the processor faster and inserted a GPS chip in the housing for location.

From the third generation onwards, thanks to LTE radio, the watch can also be used to answer the Internet and make phone calls without an iPhone. The fourth edition of the Apple Watch focused on the health trend. Since then, the computer clock has also been able to recognize cardiac arrhythmias, record a simple ECG and detect falls. Since then, Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly presented media-effective reports from customers who owe their lives to the Apple Watch, as a medical emergency was recognized just in time.

In the fifth generation last fall, the watch finally got a screen that was constantly lit instead of just being raised when the wrist was raised. In parallel with the improvements, Apple lowered the price of older models: the two and a half year old Series 3 still costs CHF 219.

30 million units sold in 2019

The strategy led to success: Last year, according to calculations by the market analysts from Strategy Analytics, Apple sold a good 30 million of its watches – more than the exports of the entire Swiss watch industry. However, the Swiss are ahead in terms of sales because the average price of a typical chronometer from the Alpine Republic is much higher.

For Apple, however, the smartwatch developed from a near-flop to a hit: the wearables sales also helped the company in the meantime over the weak phase of its iPhones. The Android warehouse, meanwhile – unlike smartphones – was unable to roll out the business in a few years using the platform approach. Although the Google operating system dominates smartphone sales with a share of more than 80 percent and many suppliers of fashion watches also have Android models on offer, according to IDC calculations, Apple held the top spot last year with around 29 percent market share. (awp / sda / dpa / cbe)

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