Some questions I’ve been wrestling with in the runup to the launch of the Apple Watch this week. But first, a quote from Wired’s entertaining post iPhone Killer: The Secret History of the Apple Watch:
Along the way, the Apple team landed upon the Watch’s raison d’être. It came down to this: Your phone is ruining your life. Like the rest of us, Ive, Lynch, Dye, and everyone at Apple are subject to the tyranny of the buzz—the constant checking, the long list of nagging notifications. “We’re so connected, kind of ever-presently, with technology now,” Lynch says. “People are carrying their phones with them and looking at the screen so much.” They’ve glared down their noses at those who bury themselves in their phones at the dinner table and then absentmindedly thrust hands into their own pockets at every ding or buzz. “People want that level of engagement,” Lynch says. “But how do we provide it in a way that’s a little more human, a little more in the moment when you’re with somebody?”
For decades, every time a new screen became commonplace (the TV, the personal computer, the smartphone) it did so in part by gobbling up large swaths of time devoted to legacy devices. Will the Apple Watch follow the same path, or is it additive to the time spent on existing devices?
If the Apple Watch succeeds in weaning people off of the four-inch smartphone screen, even in part, what kind of time will it be gobbling up? It seems designed to eat into the cumulative time spent on habitual usage: waiting in line, waking up, riding an elevator, etc. Will it also affect how people spend longer blocks of leisure time?
Even if the Apple Watch doesn’t siphon off of large blocks of leisure time, the cumulative time spent on habitual usage is a significant battle ground. This is where a lot of apps duke it out over small shreds of people’s attention. What will it mean for attention-based app businesses1 if the battle ground shifts onto a device intended for five- to ten-second interactions? What does it mean to be a “DAU” or an “MUV” in this context?
For ad-based app businesses in particular, what will happen to the concept of the “native ad” when transplanted onto a watch? Apple Watch is not just smaller. It has entirely unique design constraints compared to its smartphone cousin. If the form factor proves wildly popular, will this reset the clock against which successful native-ad-based businesses have been racing since 2008?
What about paid apps? There is currently no way to put a sticker price on an Apple Watch app. Developers will have to find other means of making money that are enhanced by bundling an Apple Watch app with an iPhone app. Is there much opportunity here?
The Apple Watch requires an iPhone for networking, communication, computing power, etc.. If and when that technical requirement is lifted, will Apple also lift the requirement that watch apps be bundled as extensions of iPhone apps? If so, what kinds of monetization would an “Apple Watch App Store” allow?
I’m casually lumping together IAP-fueled games, passive content streaming apps, ad-based social networks, etc. ↩