A Formulated Technology Column


Apple Seems Awfully Confused About The Apple Watch’s Purpose…

Apple has spent millions, or even billions, of dollars developing and eventually producing the Apple Watch. But just don’t ask the company what the purpose of the Apple Watch is… because it doesn’t seem to know.

Internally, the reason to sell the Apple Watch (in fact, one of the major things that justified the Apple Watch’s existence) is pretty clear: to sell more iPhones, Apple’s most profitable product by a mile. The ability to use the Watch to persuade potential customers to upgrade to the latest iPhone 6/6 Plus was baked right into the Apple Watch’s retail sales strategy, as shown in this internal sales pitch guide obtained by 9to5Mac: 

Sell, sell, sell the iPhone seems to be Apple’s goal with the Watch. Even writer John Paczkowski, a long time Apple observer, noted:

And that’s where Apple’s larger strategic vision for Apple Watch comes clear. Fine, the Apple Watch may well “empower and enrich” the lives of those who wear it. As I said, the use-cases on parade today were compelling, and I haven’t even touched on the possibilities hinted at by the debut of the associated health diagnostic platform ResearchKit. But it’s also going to power iPhone sales. It’s going to push veteran iPhone users to upgrade to new iPhones and it’s going to give folks on rival mobile platforms one more reason to switch.

In other words, if it succeeds at market, the Apple Watch will become a new engine for iPhone growth. And that’s a big deal as the smartphone market becomes increasingly saturated…

The iPhone, as a product line, is a miracle: it allows Apple to get mass-market and premium pricing, while still selling an unbelievable amount every year. There is literally no other product in this world that can do this.

So, it would only make sense if Apple continues to reorient all of its marketing strategy and product lineup to sell more iPhones.

It is the one product, after all, that lead the company’s stratospheric growth.

But in a recent Wired profile on the Watch featuring quotes from Apple executives Kevin Lynch (VP of technology) and Alan Dye (head of human interface group) explains that increasing iPhone sales wasn’t the Watch’s primary purpose.

On the contrary, decreasing iPhone usage seems to be the main goal of the Watch. According to Pierce David, the author of the story (emphases ours):

Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels famously encourages his staff to work crazy hours because, he maintains, people tend to be most creative and most fearless when they’re deliriously tired. So it went in the Apple design studio: As the team worked away on app-launch animations and the new iOS 7 Control Center, daytime conversations about smartphone software led to late-night discussions about other devices. Questions started coalescing around the idea of a watch: What could it add to people’s lives? What new things could you do with a device that you wear? Around this time, Ive began a deep investigation of horology, studying how reading the position of the sun evolved into clocks, which evolved into watches. Horology became an obsession. That obsession became a product.

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?”

Our phones have become invasive. But what if you could engineer a reverse state of being? What if you could make a device that you wouldn’t—couldn’t—use for hours at a time? What if you could create a device that could filter out all the bullshit and instead only serve you truly important information? You could change modern life. And so after three-plus decades of building devices that grab and hold our attention—the longer the better—Apple has decided that the way forward is to fight back.

Apple, in large part, created our problem. And it thinks it can fix it with a square slab of metal and a Milanese loop strap.

From this report, it turns out that the main reason why Apple built the Watch is because our iPhones – the very same iPhones that netted Apple tens of billions of dollars – is ruining our lives.

Does that mean Apple made the Watch… to reduce our reliance on the iPhone… or increase it (no iPhone = no Watch)?

I’m not quite sure, and I don’t think Apple is either.

One theory I’ve got is that Apple’s executive team has got two explanations to justify the development of the Watch. And the explanations are targeted at two very different group of people…

For the investorsThe Apple Watch totally makes sense because it’ll boost iPhone sales. More iPhones sold equals more revenue for the company.

For the customersThe Apple Watch will take away the distractions of your iPhone, allowing you to focus on what’s important in life. 

This may, of course, be nothing more than a slight stumble in Apple’s narrative evolution on the need of the Watch – a product that was built before any use cases became apparent.