Apple Watch: An App Developer’s Perspective

The in-store preview and pre-order of Apple Watch began on April 10, while the watch will be available for sale later this month, in select outlets. Media reports, based on a survey, indicate that in the US alone, Apple Watch pre-orders may have crosses 1 million units (more than all of Android Wear watches ever, as pointed out in this tweet). Apple is likely to make an official statement on the pre-orders soon.

Marketing for the Apple Watch, focused on fashion magazine editorial placements, TV ads and how-to videos on YouTube have been every visible. Needless to say, the Apple Watch will generate even more interest in the days to come.
NextBigWhat asked me to share my thoughts regarding the Apple Watch from a developer’s perspective and asked questions on these broad topics: (a) Will people see value in the Apple Watch? (b) Why did Apple retain the hardware and functionality across all the variants? (c) Will we see apps specifically built for high-end variants of the Apple Watch? Herewith my thoughts on these and related topics:

Value For Money Is Not About A Cheap Price Tag

‘Value for money’ is a term that is common in marketing circles and is usually used to connote a product, which is priced inexpensively, but with some great many features. In my view, it is incorrect to assume that a premium-priced product is ‘poor value’ because of its price tag and vice versa. It all depends on the market segment and target audience a brand is catering to. I am sure a Mercedes Benz owner sees great value for the price he/she has paid for the car. Also every product category has tiers and there is a market for every kind of offering. Take hotels for example – there are luxury hotels, mid-priced hotels, business hotels, lodges and so on – each catering to a different need.
Apple has always focused on the premium end of any product category they have entered into and cater to an audience who do not mind paying extra for a product or service. What they get in return is a product of great quality, design and a premium experience across touch points. I think Apple Watch is consistent with that product philosophy. Apple Watch is another step to lock in customers to the Apple experience across devices – as it works only with the latest generation iPhones.
As app developers we are conscious of the fact that any app experience has to match the sleekness of the Apple brand and has to offer a delightful customer experience. A shoddily designed app (and I don’t mean just the looks) runs contra to the premium, smooth experience of the Apple brand. That’s what we expect of premium brand’s right – everything from the website to packaging to the customer service call has to be of ‘one voice’.

The Variant Strategy: Hardware And Functionality

I think Apple is doing the right thing by not differentiating on the hardware (by that I mean the specifications, not the material) and functionality across the variants. The reason: the entire range has been positioned along a fashion brand and not as a geeky, tech brand. Let’s take a watch brand, which has both a premium variant and a mid-priced variant – the only difference is likely to be the material used and the process. Similarly, the Apple Watch variants have been differentiated purely along the materials used. A lifestyle element has been added on top of that – sport, all-occasion wear, luxury wear and so on.
For an app developer, it is critical to realize that purchase decisions for a fashion or style-driven category like watches, is not the rational mind at all. Consumers buy shoes, garments and other style accessories based on ‘love at first sight’ and not on any rational need – we all buy such when we don’t exactly ‘need’ one more of them. The creation of ‘faces’ and the add-ons like straps fit into such consumer behaviour. So apps need to be even more elegant, stylish. What’s more, with notifications on your wrist now, the chances of apps ‘intruding’ on our lives are even more. Already constant notifications on a phone are considered to be an irritant – app developers are thinking of ways and means to not go overboard with alerts. With the watch, we need to think even harder with notifications and alerts.

Luxury Variant And Apps

The code for luxury brands operates differently from regular, mass brands. Luxury brands – be it in watches, perfumes, accessories or clothing, thrive on exclusivity and an air of mystique. I think Apple is trying to create such a world of exclusivity with their retail and pricing strategy for the Edition variant. But as things stand, any app that is built for Apple Watch will work on any variant – there is no way to segregate via code. What may happen over time is a super premium brand, say a luxury resort, may have an Apple Watch app for its customers. Such apps would probably find takers among Edition users while there is no way of excluding owners of other variants from downloading it.
All said and done, it is still early days for the Apple Watch, especially from an app ecosystem point of view. The challenge lies in the fact that most apps, which are expected to work on the Apple Watch, are ‘companion apps’ of an app which already exists on the phone. So, a news-daily or a sports app, which already exists on the phone, is ‘expected’ to offer an Apple Watch compatible app, at no extra cost. Will consumers pay for stand-alone apps or games on the Apple Watch? That is when the real action will start.


 
unnamedPradeep Kumar is AVP – Delivery (Consumer Mobility) at Robosoft Technologies (www.robosoftin.com). @Robosoft helps businesses plan, design and build amazing mobile & digital experiences in a connected universe.
 

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