When Apple first announced its wrist-worn wearable at a media event last September, some industry watchers wondered how the company planned to convince consumers to spend hundreds of dollars on a device that didn’t seem to offer any “killer” feature. With the iPod, Apple offered users the ability to put their “entire music collection” in their pocket. Similarly, the iPhone provided users with a portable “Internet communications device with desktop-class email, web browsing, searching and maps.” On the other hand, besides its health and fitness-related features, the Watch’s primary selling point appears to be its ability to relay notifications from the iPhone. Will that be enough to make the Watch as successful as Apple’s other blockbuster products? According to a recent study from Adobe Digital Index (ADI), the short answer appears to be “yes.”
In a report published on Adobe’s CMO.com website, ADI principal Tamara Gaffney argued that Apple’s recent shift to larger-screen iPhones may actually help drive the sales of its upcoming wearable. Apple surprised many industry watchers when it introduced its 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus models last year. Although the market for larger-screen smartphones has been steadily growing over the past several years, the Cupertino-based company had long refused to jump on the phablet bandwagon. Some of Apple’s entrenched opposition to larger-screen devices was inherited from the company’s legendary former CEO Steve Jobs, who derided smartphones with screen sizes over 3.5 inches.
As reported by Engadget, at a media event in 2010 Jobs mocked big smartphones that “you can’t get your hand around” and predicted that “no one’s going to buy that.” Ironically, it is the cumbersome size of Apple’s latest iPhone models that may actually help the company sell more watches, according to ADI’s Gaffney.
As explained by Gaffney on CMO.com:
There are some use cases for [the Apple Watch] that are kind of helpful, and one of them is that with the larger-screen smartphone, it’s actually less convenient to pull it out all the time. The Apple Watch is a hand’s-free and much less conspicuous way to look at my emails, my text messages, instant messages, Facebook Messenger, and maybe a little bit of my social media postings on my wrist without taking this big phone out of wherever I put it. So the fact is that as the smartphone screen size gets bigger, then there’s an alternative use case for this wearable—that if it’s synchronized together with the smartphone, it makes for a good compatible couple of devices.
Gaffney isn’t just pulling her argument out of thin air. Apple CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly emphasized the benefit of having iPhone notifications delivered to the Apple Watch, including during a talk he gave at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference earlier this year.
“And so you can imagine, in a meeting, how distracting it is to watch everybody do this all the time. [Miming pulling an iPhone out of pocket.],” said Cook, according to a transcript provided by iMore. “And here, it’s kinda little subtle. And if you’re interested in keeping up with the sports score to the financial markets to whatever it is, it’s like this, the Watch knows you’re looking at it, and it comes on. If I’m not looking at it, the Watch is off. Which can be very important, right?”
Cook reiterated the importance of the Watch’s notification feature during the company’s recent “Spring Forward” media event. “Every notification you can receive on iPhone can be received on the Watch,” said Cook. In other words, one of the primary reasons that Apple believes consumers will want to own a Watch is for the simple convenience of being able to access some of the iPhone’s capabilities on their wrists.
Considering that the entry-level Watch starts at $349 for the Sport model and goes as high as $17,000 for certain gold Watch Edition models, the price for this convenience may be a bit too high for some Apple users. On the other hand, ADI’s survey found that 27% of smartphone and tablet owners said they are likely or very likely to buy a smartwatch during the next six months. Of those respondents, 67% said they would opt to purchase the Apple Watch.
Of course, many of these respondents may be interested in purchasing the Watch for reasons other than its ability to relay notifications from the iPhone. However, with the company’s latest iPhone models now at a size that many people find too cumbersome to keep in their pockets, the Watch’s ability to function as a more accessible second screen for the iPhone may be one of the device’s most appealing features.
Follow Nathanael on Twitter @ArnoldEtan_WSCS