The quest for the real Apple Watch

Comparing launches can deceive anyone. That’s what The Wall Street Journal has made speaking about the Apple Watch, which is supposed to have sold around 12-13m units on its first year.

The iPhone sold 6.1 million units in the 12 months after its launch in June 2007.

Both devices had clear limitations, and in fact the iPhone 3G was a clear advance but not that much in hardware: the App Store was the thing that changed that phone -and the rest of the market- forever.

With the Apple Watch, everyone is expecting a change as big as that one. Daisuke Wakabayashi writes about an important possibility in the future Apple Watch 2:

Apple is working on adding cell-network connectivity and a faster processor to its next-generation Watch, according to people familiar with the matter.

That would make the Apple Watch really autonomous, but will be that enough? Other smartwatches had that feature before and sales and functionalities haven’t been really convincing. At least, not according to sales figures. Samsung Gear S was a good example of this, and the Gear S2 has a version with an embedded SIM (eSIM) as well, although it’s not available yet.

It would be interesting to see if that autonomy can push smartwatches forward, something that I suspect will have to do much more with software (again) that with hardware. The smartwatch can certainly be more useful with that kind of option, but the smartphone is clearly the perfect fit for the world as it’s designed today.

Where is the future of wearables and smartwatches? 

 

This week we’ve been able to see a lot of new products and projects at the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona. The smartphone is showing its age and the evolution of the latest high-end devices has not been demonstrated on the devices themselves, but on the accesories we can use with them.

Virtual Reality has been the star of the show, but these accesories must prove that they really can work out for users. Last year smartwatches and wearables were clearly getting a lot of headlines, but not this year: this year the MWC hasn’t payed attention to them.

The latest numbers from IDC show how the market for this devices has grown: every company involved has shown double digit growths -Xiaomi multiplied its unit shipments by 12x- and Apple has become the greatest smartwatch vendor out there currently. There’s another confirmation in these numbers: the smartwatch isn’t killing the activity trackers. Far from it.

So if the growth has been so nice, what has happened at the MWC? Why not showing them some love? The reason is clear: there’s currently little room for innovation in current models, but that could change in the next coming months.

First, with the launch of new versions of watchOS and Android Wear before summer. And second, with the arrival of the eSIM, the technology that will transform the smartwatch into an autonomous, independent device that no longer has to rely on the smartphone.

We’re getting there, and I suspect MWC17 will give us a lot of reasons to talk about smartwatches again.

Samsung Upgrade Program: you’ll have the latest and greatest with this subscription model

Apple introduced its upgrade program last year and according to previous data a nice share of iPhone users would be really interested in that kind of subscription model. According to Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster, as much as 50% of iPhone 6S buyers would choose the new program. The real results are still not that great, but we’ll probably see them next September, when the new iPhones are announced.

The idea could make a lot of sense for Apple and other big makers, and some sources are pointing out that Samsung is planning to launch a similar subscription model for its high-end phones. Customers will pay a monthly fee that will vary depending on the device, and will be able to get the latests phones -exchanging their current ones- as soon as they’re available. The model is pretty similar to what car companies do with leasing programs that allow to get newer models each year, for example.

Samsung’s upgrade program could be launched at its MWC 2016 event, but according to the current information the deployment of that program will be limited to South Korea initially. It’s unclear if that program will be associated to the integration of an embedded SIM (eSIM) that would make more comfortable for users to manage their devices and their data and voice plans -this has been discussed too with Apple’s Upgrade Program, but it seems unlikely at the present moment: carriers aren’t welcoming this kind of option and they are a key part of the current distribution strategy at Samsung.

A new step towards the Embedded SIM

The newest iPhones are built to run on practically any network worldwide, and Apple is financing purchases. This means we’ll soon have the freedom to move between networks as we please.

Apple was the first to include its Apple SIM on their iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3, and now it has done the same on the iPad Pro. I wonder how long will it take to bring that embedded SIMs to future iPhones.

Their new iPhone Upgrade Program is the other setp in that direction: no more phones attached to carrier contracts. You’ll be supposedly able to use whatever data/voice plan you want when you want it.

The technology is ready for that change. Mobile carriers, of course, know it. And they won’t concede defeat easily. But that’s a triumph for consumers, and a big simplification of the market. SIM production and distribution costs could be reduced to marginal numbers. eSIMs are probably inevitable.

Source: New iPhone Means We’ll Soon Escape the Captivity of Carriers