Apple Watch: Three hurdles to overcome

The new wearable from Apple looks nice, but like the competition there are hurdles that must be overcome to see it take off.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

Smartwatches have been around for a few years, and got a breath of fresh air when Google recently launched the Android Wear initiative. A few smartwatches have hit the market as a result, but it's not clear how well they will do in the market. It depends on getting past some major hurdles, and the same applies to the Apple Watch.

Apple Watch
Image: CBS Interactive

Apple's entry into the wearable space won't be available until next year. It looks stylish as shown off by Apple, and it has some unique features that will likely appeal to customers. The "digital crown" control and the user interface (UI) are innovative and typical for Apple products.

CNET: Apple Watch unveiled: Starts at $349, coming early 2015 (hands-on)

ZDNet has good coverage of the Apple Watch, and it's worth checking out. The details are laid out in good fashion and won't be restated here.

Just like the Android Wear competition in smartwatches, the Apple Watch will need to overcome three hurdles to get customers to buy them.

Many don't wear watches anymore

Apple will have to face the reality that many don't wear watches. At the Apple Watch unveiling, Tim Cook admitted that many use the phone instead of watches. This is a big hurdle to overcome, as many need a compelling reason to change back to the watch.

The Apple Watch has some nice features, but it remains to be seen if these are enough to convince customers to switch to a watch. They can do most everything on the phone that they will do on the Apple Watch, so selling them on an expensive gadget they don't need will be just as tough for Apple as it is for the competition.

They don't do anything new

Smartwatches are attractive to some tech-savvy folks but you rarely see them being worn, so that doesn't seem to be the case with most folks. One reason may be that smartwatches don't do much that isn't already done on a smartphone.

While smartwatches are often used to get notifications, receive email, and similar communication functions, those are handled well by most phones. The bigger displays on phones make those functions better than they are on tiny smartwatch screens.

Apple is putting some features on the Apple Watch to appeal to physical fitness buffs, and maybe this will attract some buyers. The sensors integrated into the new watch are pretty cool, and not present on phones. We'll have to see if this is a big enough draw to help Apple move watches out the door.

Nobody wants them

What Apple has to understand is that no one has been asking for smartwatches. Ask people what they think of smartwatches and you'll find many are downright indifferent to them. The smartwatch is a product that practically nobody wants.

Apple may be able to market its watch in an appealing way to make customers receptive to them. It has a knack for doing this, but it's going to take a huge effort to get past this hurdle. Selling an expensive product that people don't really want will take all of Apple's expertise in marketing.

A big risk

The hurdles facing the company with the Apple Watch are not insignificant, and only time will tell if they can be overcome. It will take a careful marketing plan to sell the expensive gadget to a customer base that doesn't want them. Apple must convince its loyal customers that they are cool, fashionable, and add value to the iPhone in their hand.

The folks in Cupertino are in a better position than the competition to overcome these hurdles, but it won't be easy. Convincing customers to buy a smartwatch won't be like selling the iPhone. Everybody has and wants a phone, but it's not clear how many of them can be sold on the idea of the Apple Watch. Apple will have to grab customers by the wrist to get a watch on them.

See also: Wearables in business: Deployment plans, anticipated benefits and adoption roadblocks

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