years ago, Apple Inc. executives made the case that
anyone with an iPhone would be better off also owning
the companyís new smartwatch.
as many gadget buyers remain unsure about the usefulness
of high-tech timepieces, Apple this week pitched its
second-edition watch to a much narrower audience.
and activity tracking capabilities surged to the front
and center, taking over the spotlight from messaging
features and customizable timefaces. The promotional
video for the Watch Series 2 featured almost only
athletes: swimmers, tennis and basketball players,
cyclists, skateboarders and runners.
shift in approach reflects some major technical changes.
The Apple Watch Series 2 has built-in GPS ó essential
to athletes who donít want to lug their phones on runs
or bike rides ó and is water resistant for use while
swimming and surfing.
establishing the Watch as a fitness tracker rather than
a catch-all smartwatch serves a bigger purpose too,
analysts said. Thanks to smartphones and popular devices
such as the Fitbit, consumers now understand how devices
can track steps and monitor sleep. Emphasizing those
features make the Watch a more familiar device than the
revolutionary communications tool Apple touted in 2014.
"ultimate device for a healthy life" is how
Apple Senior Vice President Jeff Williams summed up the
Watch at a media event Wednesday. Two years ago, Apple
called the Watch its "most personal device
showcased games, animated messages and other features on
stage this week as well, but health and fitness
underlined even some of those presentations.
get people into the Watch through the guise of fitness,
but then you get people messaging and playing
games," said Jitesh Ubrani, research analyst at the
data firm IDC.
Apple hasnít released sales figures, analysts
estimates upward of 12 million Watches have been sold
since the original incarnation went on sale in April
2015. Some experts say the device suffered from an
identity crisis. The deviceís benefits werenít clear
and immediate for most.
disorder is what I would like to call it," venture
capitalist and Fitbit investor Om Malik told Bloomberg
TV on Wednesday. "Until they figure that out,
Fitbit has a clear lead and will maintain a clear
the pitch for the Watch suggests Apple may be on its way
to reining in aggressive ambitions and figuring out a
clearer, albeit smaller, role for the device. Apple did
not respond to a request for comment.
absolutely a refocus toward fitness," Ubrani said.
"Itís the low-hanging fruit."
faster version of the Apple Watch Series 1 will go on
sale next Friday for $269, or about $80 less than the
retail price at launch last year.
Watch Series 2 starts at $369, including a set of
wristpieces with unique colors and features designed in
collaboration with Nike.
marketing campaigns around the Watch could spur more
interest in offerings from Fitbit, Jawbone and other
fitness tracker makers. Their wearables generally cost
less and have longer-lasting batteries than Apple Watch.
Their limited apps havenít turned off consumers, who
are satisfied with just having smartphone notifications
pushed to their wrist, said Ray Maker, who runs the
popular fitness-device blog DCMaker.
competitors also work in tandem with Android smartphones;
the Apple Watch only syncs data with iPhones. And data
suggest Appleís rivals have plenty of room to grow as
a result. Only about 25 percent of people who purchased
a Fitbit online since the start of 2014 also bought an
iPhone over the Internet, according to data from receipt
tracker Slice Intelligence.
and cycling watch companies such as Garmin sell well
among endurance sports enthusiasts, but they may lose
sales to Apple if consumers find the Watch Series 2 more
multi-functional, fashionable and fairly priced.
may continue to opt against the Apple Watch because
other options are better tailored for harsh-weather and
rugged environments, Maker said. Another big problem for
many athletes is the battery. The five-hour GPS battery
life on the Watch wonít hold up for some marathon
runners or any Ironman competitors.
youíre training for a marathon or a triathlon, itís
likely youíre going to want something that you know
will get you to the finish line," Maker said. The
Apple Watch battery life is "well below virtually
all fitness companiesí GPS watches today on the
25 percent of wearable devices sold last quarter were
Fitbits, with models from Xiaomi, Apple and Garmin
following in the low teens and single digits. Fitbitís
dominance is expected to continue through the holiday
season in large part because demand has been for
affordable, lower-tech fitness trackers, analysts said.
In other words, for all the robust capabilities of Apple
Watch, it might be the simple things that get consumers
to consider it.
will be a slow transition from basic wearables to smart
wearables," IDC research manager Ramon Llamas said.