Is the Smart Watch the Next Big Thing?

Apple watches

Images courtesy of Apple

Is the Smart Watch the Next Big Thing?
| published March 12, 2015 |

By Thursday Review staff


After more than a year of discussion and speculation, Apple released its smart watch this week during a live presentation by Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Technologists and investors have had their eye on wearables for several years now, but it has been Apple’s long-awaited roll out which has intrigued technology writers and Apple enthusiasts the most.

Starting at the low end, the cheapest Apple wrist product will sell for about $349—that’s the smaller version which comes in at 38-millimenters. A middle-of-the road “standard” version will have a price tag ranging from $549 to $850, depending on the bells, whistles, and the type of metal and other materials used in the case. And for those who have lots of disposable cash and little else to spend it on (along with folks who simply want to be first in line for whatever Apple sells), high-end, luxury models range from $10,000 to as much as $17,000. There are watches encased in gold and other luxury metals; others are encased in aluminum and include rubber or plastic sport bands.

The smart watch is the biggest leap in technology seen in the last few years, and its design reminds plenty of people (especially of the older generations) of the wearable gadgets used by the yellow-trench-coated detective Dick Tracy. In theory, wearable devices will be able to replicate most functions routinely found on smart phones and other handheld devices, but with the added advantage of watch-like portability and lightness. Smart watches and wearables can also be used for personal tracking (think of it as a tiny GPS) and health information, such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, even the number of steps taken in a day.

Apple’s Cook touts the product’s ability to enable users to hail an Uber ride, schedule an appointment, set reminders, calibrate one’s location on campus or in a large parking lot, locate a parked car, glance at a text message or an email, and—yes indeed—hold a phone conversation by simply glancing at your wrist. Oh, and it also tells the time and date.

Some industry analysts see the smart watch as a tool for not just health tracking in the conventional sense—keeping tabs on your heart rate or breathing during exercise, for example—but also in the larger sense of health care and clinical trials. Wearables could be easily adapted, some believe, to serve as monitoring devices for medical testing and prescription drug testing, arenas some investors feel might eventually create a huge demand for the smart watch.

But other investors are skeptical, and point out that without the right kinds of attractive applications, smart watch sales could stall as consumers realize the wearable offer little more than the tools already available on most cell phones. Others sense that the smart watch is simply too small for many users: sending and receiving emails, for example, which would require precision and dexterity (to say the least) considering the difficulty some people already have with email platforms on phones.

Some reviewers of Apple’s new watches have offered the complaint that the metallic cases can get extremely heavy, a design issue which Apple may be able to mitigate with time and experimentation with lighter materials. But in the meantime, some product reviewers have said even the lightest models—those encased in aluminum—feel bulky and weighty when attached to the wrist.

But investors, especially those impatient with “gadgetry for the sake of gadgetry’s sake,” want to see the kind of products which will catch on with consumers in the same manner as Apple’s ubiquitous phones and laptops. Many consider the smart watch a high-end toy—the sort of product which will sell to the big spenders and to those with a predisposition to buy any product with the Apple logo.

Technology analysts agree that the smart watch has its limitations, but some also point out that Apple has a better-than-average track record of developing and incorporating the sort of apps which eventually draw in more mainstream consumers.

Related Thursday Review articles:

The Really BIG Apple; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; January 29, 2015.

Apple’s iPhone Scores Big in Asian Markets; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; January 21, 2015.