Written by Philip Magson
Launched to great fanfare in September 2014 and given its full reveal earlier in March, the Apple Watch marks the tech giant’s first foray into ‘wearable’ territory. Given its reputation for innovation, how is Apple’s timepiece going to serve business users?
The reveal video for Apple’s ‘smartwatch’ focused heavily on aesthetics: sleek, shiny, a high-resolution screen and a variety of attractive wristbands. Beyond its glossy retina-display, the watch has various obligatory phone, text and internet capabilities and, echoing gadgets like Fitbit, a range of fitness tracking functions. At a glance, the Apple Watch looks more like a lifestyle gadget or luxury accessory than it does the groundbreaking, intuitive products Apple is known for. At £299 to over £8000 (its most expensive, gold-plated version), its price-tag doesn’t do much to dispel that perception…
Apple is pitching its watch as more than a gaudy consumer luxury. Like, the iPhone and iPad before it, the Apple Watch has its sights set on business users.
“All watches tell time. This one helps you make the most of it” – Apple’s slogan for its watch emphasises work productivity. The Watch’s most immediately obvious advantage is its voice command features which allow users (wearers?) to send and receive calls and texts via a synched iPhone (5 or above) and streamline other functions, like setting reminders, checking schedules or finding directions. Apple Pay, the mobile wallet service launched last year along with the iPhone 6, turns the Apple Watch into a contactless bank card, promising transactions with a simple scan of the wrist.
Apple is aiming to penetrate enterprise with business-focused apps tailored to the Apple Watch’s capabilities. Early examples cover a range of business contexts:
Salesforce: bite-size updates on sales, performance and other relevant business data delivered directly to dashboards on your wrist.
American Airlines: watch-size travel information with info about gates and real-time updates to changes in flight times.
Evernote: dictate notes and memos to your watch, with instant sync to your iPhone.
Invoice2go: create invoices, orders and even price estimates on-the-go and check reports at a glance.
TL;DR: an innovative email ‘reader’, which condenses messages to small glimpse of their subject lines, and lets you to reply with an icon, like a ‘thumbs up’.
Twitter: quick, easy social media interaction – get instant notifications from followers and dictate tweets via voice command.
These represent only a small sample of the catalogue being developed for the Apple Watch – but the real question isn’t whether there will be enough app development, but will anyone in business use them? The apps on my iPhone already occupy the territory Apple Watch apps are shooting for and using that device is hardly a backbreaking chore… it even makes calls!
But just as your phone is used differently than your desktop, the idea is you use your Apple Watch for “10 second interactions”: a glance at the wrist before deciding whether to go to the phone or the desktop, or not.
I have to admit, taking calls from my wrist, staying updated on the move, and streamlining work tasks is something I’m excited by – but if the Apple Watch is going to become an essential cog in my workday it needs to deliver these services seamlessly. That said, it’s way too early to write Apple off: when the iPhone launched in 2007 nobody predicted the level of penetration it would eventually have in business. Apple changed the game by literally changing the way we interact with our mobile devices, convincing millions of users to take iPhones to work until employers and developers were forced to take note.
Since we’ll be wearing our Apple Watches on our wrists, half that battle is already won… and with initial sales projections for 2015 reaching 20 million units, it looks like Apple’s early-adopter fanbase is ready to bring the watch to work with them…