Is Apple's smartwatch strategy a smart move?

by Sohini Bagchi    Jul 17, 2013


Apple is reportedly increasing its focus on developing the iWatch, like its contenders Google and Samsung. The technology major is chalking out strategies to stay ahead in the smartwatch race. According to The Guardian, the company is recruiting aggressively while at the same time, buying small companies so as to strengthen its team for its iWatch project. Sources have informed that Apple sought outside expertise even for building its iPhone. Many believe the new iWatch will be the first of its kind innovative product since the death of co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011.

Speculations on smartwatch

Before getting into Apple’s iWatch strategies, a brief look at the present smartwatch market shows a widespread consumer enthusiasm in this segment. Likewise technology majors and developers of iWatch too see a huge growth potential here. A new research from Canalys projects that smartwatches “are set to explode by the end of 2014″ when vendors will ship more than 5 million units, a 900% increase from the current year with the launch of new generation of devices from Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and others. “Smart watches will be the most important new product category in consumer electronics since the iPad defined the market for tablets,” said Chris Jones, Canalys VP and Principal Analyst in a statement. Unlike earlier models, these smart watches will provide more sophisticated software and advanced features such as glanceable information, integration across sensors and hooks into web services.

There was also debate in the tech world whether wearable technologies such as smartwatches will replace mobile phones and vice versa. Some in the industry concluded that watches are trivial when compared to features smartphones and tablets have, but can pose a temporary threat to these mobile devices. Jones argues that these devices will not replace smart phones, rather complement them as ‘appcessories’.

Some believe that the smartwatches can be the next step in mobility & BYOD trends. As Tim Jennings points out “We are already in the era of ‘Bring Your Own X’ that transcends mobile devices and includes bring your own apps, data, device or everything you use at your work. Companies such as Apple, Samsung and Google can therefore trigger the BYOWD (Bring-Your-Own-Wearable-Device) or the BYOX further.

S for Strategy

Strangely, Apple initially detested the idea of watches. However, its trademarks applications for iWatch globally as well as patent filings in recent times certainly show its growing interest in the area. Currently Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive said in a statement that “these devices are now ripe for exploration.”

According to a Financial Times report, the company will continue to seek third party expertise to build its wearable technology products as it does not currently have sufficient expertise in-house to develop wearable devices. The company now has a  50-employee team, working on development and strategies on iWatch and will seek greater expertise from outside. Guardian also reports that the startup company Pebble, which makes smart watch that links to an iPhone or Android handset, has already received more than 275,000 orders for the device.

Meanwhile, Apple has seen a sharp fall in its iPhone 5, the latest iteration of its smartphone in India and several other emerging market for the first three months in 2013. Perhaps a little more innovation will help the company drive its sales in diverse markets and the answer may lie in its distinct new iWatch.  Nevertheless, the company do not expect a launch this year.

“Our teams are hard at work on some amazing new hardware, software and services that we can’t wait to introduce this fall and throughout 2014,” Cook claims at an event this April.

Industry insiders believe that with the new iWatch will give a tough competion to Google’s Glass wearable device, which has already created much controversy and popularity in the technology world. Similarly, Samsung announced earlier this month that it is heavily investing in wearable computers. So, in other words, Apple has just joined the smartwatch bandwagon and planning to take it to the next level. From that perspective, only time will decide whether Apple’s smart watch strategy will pay off like its earlier innovations - iPod and iPhone. As the company continues to build strategies around its new wearable devices, tech enthusiasts and analysts have to wait for the new era to begin.