After the runaway successes of iPod, iPhone and iPad, Apple is now turning to the wearable technology market with the debut of Apple Watch.
It is easy to understand why Apple’s CEO Tim Cook is quite excited about the upcoming offering, the first wearable to be launched by the world’s most valuable company.
Industry players and watchers are eager to find out if Apple, under Cook’s leadership, still has the power to be a game changer in the market, introducing a technology that changes how people live, just like what it has done in its previous products.
Apple Watch will be available on April 24 to customers in Hong Kong and mainland China as well as in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and the United States.
According to the company, it’s “the most personal product Apple has ever created”. It is meant to redefine what people expect from a smart watch.
Rivals such as Samsung Electronics, Sony and LG were ahead in the race by one or two years, yet their products have yet to make a splash in the market.
Apple, of course, remains unfazed as it considers itself as having a market of its own.
“Apple Watch begins a new chapter in the way we relate to technology and we think our customers are going to love it,” says Cook, brimming with confidence. “We can’t wait for people to start wearing Apple Watch to easily access information that matters, to interact with the world, and to live a better day by being more aware of their daily activity than ever before.”
Critics doubt the market potential of Apple Watch. Most people do all their stuff on their smartphones, from accessing the internet and communication to organizing their schedules and completing transactions.
This means that Apple Watch could turn out to be an additional, if useless and expensive, gadget for even the most die-hard Apple fans.
But Cook is thinking of the rising popularity of personal fitness and mobile payment. These two could be killer applications for Apple Watch.
Leveraging its strong presence in the smartphone apps market, Apple Watch brings an entirely new way to receive information at a glance and interact with the world through third-party apps designed specifically for the wrist.
As Apple Watch will hit the streets later this month, developers are rushing to update their apps to support their functions on a tiny screen on the wrist. The New York Times, for example, has customized its news content by providing one-sentence new summaries for the watch. Users can swipe on the watch screen to save the story for later. The newspaper also uses emoji graphics to notify users of the latest content such as recipes to save on screen space.
Chinese social app WeChat, which also supports Apple Watch, has come up with special stickers and text to allow users to reply to friends’ messages using the watch.
All these will build up a habit among users to first check the watch screen for the latest alerts before turning to their iPhone for a more extensive perusal of messages and detailed responses, thus enhancing their stickiness to the device.
But its key selling point is the Apple Pay function, as it can work with iPhone 5 and later models through a dedicated Apple Watch app.
After filling in the card information on the app and a four-digit passcode on the watch on first use, Apple Watch users will just need one click and they can swipe the watch next to an Apple Pay sensor to settle a payment — that’s much easier than swiping the iPhone in front of the sensor.
The watch’s payment function automatically turns off once the user puts down the watch. They need to key in the four-digit passcode to restart the function. Thus, security is guaranteed.
Apple Watch is not just a simple device worn on the wrist. As some industry watchers point out, it is a wrist computer.
A commentary published on PC Magazine said the phrase “wrist computer” is important as digital watches are easily copied. But Apple will be difficult to copy because it has its own hardware, software and layers of services.
Over the past five years, iPhone has become such a big hit that people no longer wear watches and instead look on their phone screens to check the time.
Now Apple would like to bring back the habit of wearing watches again — not only to know the time but to do many other things as well. In fact, Apple Watch is intended as an extension of iPhone, enabling the user to be alerted of important news and messages while attending a meeting, conduct a financial transaction with the swipe of the wrist, and count how much calories are burned while walking or jogging.
All this points to Apple’s dedication and aggressiveness in transforming the watch from a timepiece to a wrist computer.
It’s a big test for Tim Cook and Apple, as well as a challenge to traditional timepiece industry.
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