​Apple Watch: A look at the unintended consequences so far

Apple Watch sales in terms of units remain a mystery, but the device has already created a few side effects and ripples in the ecosystem. Here's a look.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Apple's launch of the Apple Watch is nearly a month old, but the ramifications of the device are starting to become obvious. While the Apple Watch is potentially a boon for Apple it has also shed the spotlight on the smartwatch category as a whole and may just expand the pie for other players.

Finding Apple Watches in the wild is still tricky, but it's likely the devices will start hitting the masses more amid Apple's marketing and availability. It is telling that Apple hasn't blabbed about its first million or so units yet. The fact Apple didn't crow about the Apple Watch on its latest earnings conference call highlights how the device will have a relatively slow buildup.

More: Apple prepping in-store pickup option for Apple Watch orders | Apple Watch Sport review: Apple sets high bar for smartwatches on first attempt

Nevertheless, the Apple Watch is important. Here are few thoughts about the unintended consequences of the Apple Watch so far.

  • The Apple Watch makes Android smartwatches look better. Before the Apple Watch, Samsung's smartwatch efforts looked like a glorified beta. Android Wear is a work in progress. Since those Android smartwatches were first out of the gate, they were hammered as being clunky. Newsflash: Android smartwatches are still clunky. However, the Apple Watch is also clearly a first-gen device. The Apple Watch has a better user interface, but is far from perfect. As a result, those of us who were hard on the Android smartwatch devices are less so now.
  • "Why do I need one?" is a larger question now more than ever. The Apple Watch, like all smartwatches, is plagued by this question. The question isn't going away as long as smartwatches need a smartphone to function well. The launch of the Apple Watch has actually magnified the question. The search for a killer app continues in the land of smartwatches.
  • An increased focus on smartwatch user interfaces. Android's approach to smartwatches was to throw a bevy of features at you with a user interface that at best looked like a Google Now card. At its worst, the Android smartwatch user interface as clunky as hell. Apple's user interface for the Apple Watch is a move forward and will give other smartwatch makers approaches to mimic. The reason iOS and Android have improved on smartphones is because the two platforms copy each other. That game of leapfrog can only help smartwatches.
  • Developers are now on board. Android developers were the first to carry the smartwatch torch and get some props for early entry to the market. But Apple Watch brought more than 3,000 apps to the launch. Eventually, all developers will spy the dollars in smartwatch apps. That development can only be a good thing.
  • Expansion of the watch category. A funny thing happened to me after writing about smartwatches so much. I wanted a dumb watch. My Apple Watch interest wound up going to Citizen. In that way, the Apple Watch, which is training people to wear things on their wrists again, can expand the entire category. I'm still not sure I want a do-it-all smartwatch as much as a portfolio of purpose built devices. GPS watch for running, fitness tracker and plain old watch. My game is to avoid notifications, not get them on the wrist. That said, the Apple Watch is expanding the market for more players.

ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener is our opening salvo for the week in tech. As a global site, this editorial publishes on Monday at 8am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US. It is written by a member of ZDNet's global editorial board, which is comprised of our lead editors across Asia, Australia, Europe, and the US.

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