Do flagging Apple Watch sales prove we’ve passed ‘Peak Cupertino?’
Probably not. But I couldn’t resist using the phrase ‘Peak Cupertino.’
iPhone sales are still pretty solid, despite a pretty lackluster WDC and a host of schadenfreude-inducing technical issues over the past year or so. Apple is surprisingly resilient. Also, no one who actually knows what they’re talking about ever expected Apple Watch sales to keep pace with the iPhone. That would be silly. To be honest, the precipitous drop in Apple Watch sales that has much of the media declaring the device a “flop” is just the latest round of non-tech media’s raging hate-on for smartwatches and all things wearable tech. Sure, they were all about it when it was Apple’s Next Big Thing on the wishlists (and later the wrists) of everyone who was anyone and when pre-orders and online sales were so brisk that manufacturing couldn’t keep up with demand. But now that the novelty has worn off, the launch bubble has popped, and any Joe with $350 can pick one up at Apple Store, they’re just not as shiny-looking anymore. They’re selling less like the latest must-have iDevice and more like what they are–a non-vital tech toy accessory. A cool non-vital tech toy accessory, but a non-vital tech toy accessory nonetheless.
There is one thing that was a ubiquitous part of the way that the Apple Watch’s initial sales numbers were talked about in the press that is conspicuously absent from the current coverage of the drop in sales: How it stacks up to Android Wear. For awhile, you couldn’t escape reports that single-day sales of the Apple Watch had far surpassed the number of Android Wear devices that had been sold, ever, at that point. And considering that Android Wear had nearly a year’s head start, that is pretty impressive. But now, it seems that things have settled down a little bit, and Android Wear devices and the Apple Watch are selling at comparable rates.
It should come as a surprise to absolutely no one that I’m an Android fangirl through and through. But I want the Apple Watch to do well. Why? It’s mostly to do with the adage that a rising tide raises all boats. If anyone is going to get the general public to buy into what is, let’s be honest, a nerd’s toy, it’s Apple. And at the outset, it seems that they have. Whether the early adopters keep using their Apple Watch or buy the Apple Watch 2 (whenever that happens) is yet to be seen, but the Apple Watch has already done for Android Wear what Google couldn’t: get all consumers to see smartwatches as a more mainstream tech accessory. The Apple Watch only works with iDevices, though, and while some Android users might switch to iOS for the experience, most will want to stick with the mobile OS they already know while still getting some of those neat convenience features that smartwatches offer. And that means Android Wear. And for the iOS user on a budget, Google has promised Android Wear compatibility with Apple devices in the near future. And with most Android Wear devices selling at price points $100-200 below the Apple Watch’s cheapest model, you can bet that will capture a bit of that market.
To hear the media tell it, though, smartwatches are a flop as a concept, a fad that has passed, and a mostly useless accessory. And sure, smartwatches are pretty limited in what they can do, their interfaces could certainly use some work, and if you have small wrists, some of them can look downright ridiculous. But they’re a new concept still mostly in its first generation as a consumer device. I’ll admit to thinking 10 years ago that smartphones would never catch on outside of the geek and gadget-head set–most first and second generation smartphones were too expensive to most consumers for any perceived additional benefit they’d offer above a cheaper feature phone. Not to mention, most of them were comparably very fragile, had crappy battery life, and required insanely priced phone plans. Needless to say, the products available improved, we got over it, and now anyone who doesn’t have a smartphone in their pocket or purse is looked upon as a bit of a curiosity. Now, I don’t exactly think that smartwatches will ever quite reach smartphone levels of ubiquity, though I do think as the technology, design, and innovations improve over time, so will overall demand.