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More Apple Watch predictions

Posted 2015-03-05

Unless something really unexpected happens, Apple will further unveil the watch on Monday. I also think it's safe to assume the event will be streamed. If you're in Europe, remember that the time difference is an hour less than usual because the US will "spring forward" to daylight saving time this weekend while we'll be on winter time a few more weeks in Europe. So the event starts at 18:00 CET.

Here are some musings and predictions.

First of all, I'm pretty sure there's another shoe that has yet to drop. There will be something significant that hasn't been revealed yet. Another sensor? Maybe it'll support GPS after all? Less iPhone reliance than we currently assume? An additional cool use case? I don't know. But I'll be surprised if there isn't something.

I think pairing with an iPhone 6 or 6+ will happen through NFC: start the watch app, select "set up an watch", touch the two devices, and you're done. Pairing with an older iPhone will probably be more like regular bluetooth pairing.

I wouldn't be surprised if a software update will be needed out of the box. Apple is probably working on the software until the last minute while factories have been cranking out watches for some time. If that's the case, there's really no need for a staggered international release, so the watch could be available in a good number of countries from day one. (I can only hope.)

Battery life is a big unknown. The watch can do a lot of things that require a fair bit of power, so its tiny battery could easily run out during the day. On the other hand, most of the time the watch will be sleeping, doing nothing more than monitor the acceleration sensors and the bluetooth link, neither of which require much power. And I'm sure Apple realizes that having to charge the watch halfway through the day would be extremely problematic. With a phone, topping up the battery when you're around a power outlet isn't too big a deal. But with a watch, you'll have to take it off, so you can't really use it while it charges. The watch absolutely needs to be able to get through the day on a charge for nearly all users.

We know charging will happen through an inductive connection. What we don't know is what's on the other end of the charging cable. Maybe there won't even be a cable, and you'll have to use your existing lightning cable to charge the watch. That would suck big time, because then you can't charge your iPhone and the watch together overnight. Hopefully Apple won't be that cheap. The opposite would be that the watch comes with its own charger. That seems somewhat unlikely, too.

I remember people mentioning that the watch's inductive charging system uses a lightning cable, but I don't see that on Apple's website and it doesn't seem very likely. I think the inductor will have a cable attached.

What makes the most sense to me is that the watch's charging cable is plugged into an existing iPhone charger and allows the iPhone's lightning cable to be daisy chained, so the phone and the watch can be charged together from the same charger.

Then there's the price. People have been speculating about truly stratospheric prices. However, if Apple is going to sell watches for $20000 or more, this is likely going to alienate their regular customers to some degree. Also, even though the profit margin is enormous, the infrastructure required to sell such a super luxury product would be significant, and could very well be not worth it. Just like with the iPad, Apple is probably going to want to disrupt the high end watch market with relatively low prices for the gold watch. I stand by my earlier prediction:

❝I'm thinking just like Apple is dragging up the low end, they'll probably drag down the high end. $3500 sounds like a nice, round number that still quite a few people can afford. Maybe they'll go a bit higher, but I doubt they'll break the $10k barrier.❞

I mentioned a price range of 700 to 1000 dollars for the steel version. I'm hoping maybe it'll be 500 and then I'll consider that version, if it's not too heavy. However, $80 for bands seems on the low side now, looking at Apple's website it's obvious that they'll want to use the bands to be a differentiator, so those will get expensive fast. They may not even sell them separately, but if they do, expect to pay a lot except maybe for an extra sports band. I also wonder if we'll see third party bands, or if Apple has a way to keep those off the market.

I wonder if the 42 mm model will cost more than the 38 mm model. In the past, bigger devices have invariably been more expensive. I wouldn't put charging $350 for the 38 mm sports model and $400 for the 42 mm one past Apple. On the other hand, this is uncharted territory, so the old rules are out the window. It makes sense to me to sell the two sizes at the same price, except maybe for the gold models.

There's also the storage tiers that Apple has traditionally used to differentiate pricing. I doubt that they'll want to further confuse things; my guess is that all the watches will have 8 GB storage.

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