There’s been a tremendous amount of fallout after the Wall Street Journal report that Apple scrapped much of its health monitoring features. Wait for the second generation. It’s being rushed to market. It’s missing a killer feature. These have been some of the reactions on blogs and social media. Are they warranted and does the lack of groundbreaking sensors and health features seriously impact the potential success or failure of the Apple Watch?
The timing of this story, which cites unnamed sources, is curious. It’s a story that lowers expectations for Apple’s first generation wearable. If this was a message Apple wanted to send, the message was received, loud and clear. Prior to release, there had been a number of rumors, most uncovered by Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac, that Apple was working to include advanced sensors. The sensors would allow for measuring glucose levels, blood pressure, heart rate and more. That’s not happening, at least with the first generation Apple Watch. Innovation is hard and Apple was forced to scrap these plans after they failed to meet certain quality expectations. Hurdles like ‘hairy arms’ and ‘how tight a person wears their watch’ proved to be difficult.
The health and fitness features shipping this April aren’t game changing. Like the iPhone, it measures steps, going further to provide with the ‘quality and frequency’ of your movement. There’s also a built-in workout app for cardio sessions. Over time, it’ll learn your habits and suggest fitness goals for you. While great, these are all relatively pedestrian features, most of which are already handled by an iPhone.
The rumored sensors and subsequent monitoring would have been life altering, especially for those who require any level of regular testing or monitoring. For their part, Apple never promised, nor demonstrated any of these features. This story seems to backtrack on some of what’s been rumored. Between rumors and social media, unreleased Apple products have plenty in common with the folklore of William Wallace. There’s a false expectation that’s not rooted in anything factual or based on any official statements from Apple. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in Apple’s labs. It’s just not ready for primetime. I’m sure there were a number of folks who were disappointed that the iPhone 6 didn’t come with a sapphire crystal display. Rumors create expectation, which can lead to disappointment.
What’s left of the health and monitoring features should find appeal among those who workout or aspire to get in better physical shape. When you look at the US market, 80 percent do not get the recommended amount of physical activity and that number is going up. The Apple Watch isn’t going to change this number. Looking at that same number, you could extrapolate that most of Apple customers could care less about fitness tracking. Purchasing an Apple Watch may spur an initial enthusiasm about working out. Will that interest fade, much like gym memberships purchased in January?
The lack of groundbreaking health monitoring won’t responsible for the success or failure of the Apple Watch. It will be the sum of existing features and how they improve upon our existing digital ecosystems. Is there a digital void that you see the Apple Watch filling?