Will the Apple Watch & Wearables change Technology Usage?

Apple Watch

It is hard to miss all the commentary, commercials, ads and reviews on the soon to be released Apple Watch. It got me to thinking about how much has changed over the last 15 years when it comes to how people perceive and use technology and how the Apple Watch may just signal the next shift in technology usage. Yes, we have had wearables now for some time but when Apple does something new they have proven to be able to tap into the broader market conscious and in doing so take us to new places.

The iPad just turned 5. The iPhone was released just over 8 years ago. The iPod that started it all was released in 2001. (I have one of these and my kids think it is ancient. They always ask why it does not have a touch screen)

Apple iPod Generation 1 (circa 2001)

iPod in 2001


There were no touch screens or “apps for that” in 2001. In fact the touch wheel at the time for navigation was at best quaint. It ended up helping to change the entire music industry and set the stage for Apple and others to continue to innovate on this new technology platform for years to come.

What happened over the next 15 years were some really interesting trends that may be completely changed by how the Apple Watch adds to the discussion of wearables.

Some of the big trends pushed by the iPod-> iPhone-> iPad have included

1. Increased access to technology at a entry to medium level price point. As the these devices became more powerful and open platforms developed for applications and internet access the average person had access to ever increasing information and tools. While Apple products tend to be more on the higher price points of the market they did help create opportunities for other vendors to enter at lower price points.

2. Task based applications. An “app for that” mentality has grown and is very engrained in both the consumer and enterprise market. This mentality is very much at odds with the traditional monolithic application and stack world and has created many opportunities for specialized applications and services. Even where a software vendor continues to offer a platform or stack they are forced to think about the architecture and API access that would support smaller and more mobile applications.

3. Mobile first. While this is a bit of chicken and egg question it is worth giving credit to the explosion of personal devices for helping drive a mobile first approach on many consumer and enterprise solutions. Of course we also have seen a huge explosion in access to reliable (mostly) Wi-Fi access in public locations but it is reasonable to believe the user demand for access is more what has driven so many places from airports to McDonalds to offer free public Wi-Fi.

4. Social media. Really would all the Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchats and others of the world big as big as they are today without the huge increase in access from more mobile devices? Most likely the answer is no.

Ok, so why is the Apple Watch a possible shift in these usage patterns and not just the continuation?

1. Device Driven Attention Deficit Disorder (DDADD). Yes, I just made that term up but it is a real problem and we all either have it at times or we know people that suffer from this issue. Unless your actual job involves doing social media posts it is not really reasonable (or polite) to be posting away on your device every 5 minutes all night long. The watch/wearables may just provide a way for some people to strike a balance by streamlining interaction with all those applications on their larger phone or device. The review in the WSJ today really hit up on this point of the smartwatch being able to drive user efficiency by only bringing specific tasks to the watch. It is too early to tell but that sure sounds like a good thing.

2. Form and function. Just as the laptop, smartphone and tablet markets have changed the overall computer market (just ask those companies that sell desktop PCs how that is going) the smartwatch over time may do the same. This seems especially the case if the smartwatch can in some cases be a replacement to another device in addition to being used in conjunction with another device the way the Apple Watch and iPhone are used together.

3. New applications and services. These are coming and it is not easy to guess how much change is coming. In some ways the wearables market seems much harder compared to the micro-applications market but that could just be because all things new are hard to predict.

Applications by App Stores Explosion (originally appeared at app figures)4. Concerns over data and personal data. The data aspects of this are complex as we get into both usage data and personal data both of which are valuable and highly regulated. It’s hard to say how the wearables market changes things other than to put a bigger spotlight on the need for industry solutions that put the user in charge of their data.

In summary while the Apple Watch may or may not be a commercial success it seems like we could look back in 5, 10 or 15 years and see this as yet another huge shift in the way people perceive and use technology.