For months, the buzz built ahead of the Apple Watch launch. At CES and Mobile World Congress, every conversation seemed to have an unspoken element tied to the impact of Apple’s newest device. As the online sales date approached, brands and agencies were inundated with questions about the implications and opportunities the Apple Watch could create. Most preached a wait-and-see attitude with a perspective that Version 1 of the Watch would probably fall close to Google Glass as a fast fail into a new category. But, after missing the “Year of Mobile” time and time again, no one would dare risk missing the next potential game changer. At launch, more than 3,500 apps were available on the Apple Watch.
This fear of missing out seemed validated when, after a few hours of online sales, the first run of the Watch had sold out and suddenly would-be wearers found themselves facing a wait until June for delivery. I was in that group, and while I was told June, I found myself skeptical that Apple had so badly under-predicted demand and thought it was more likely that an under-promise, over-deliver situation was ahead. And in fact, that’s precisely what happened with Apple delivering my Watch on April 24.
So, what does one make of the Apple Watch? My first impression is just how important the first impression is going to become for brands. The Watch has two core options: There is the standard app view that allows you to see all of your apps, and then there is the Glance view, which allows you to swipe up from the main screen to see a single piece of information from the apps loaded onto the Watch. At the moment, the app functionality still feels bloated and inappropriate for the screen real estate, and likely, for usage of most of the Watch. I would equate it to the attempt to move TV commercials to the Web. Moving your app experience to the Watch is simply not a viable plan, long-term.
Instead, the big takeaway for brands has to come in two elements. First, establishing enough value with a consumer to warrant being in their pocket, on the phone and on the wrist. For years, people have called the phone the most personal device to own. What the Watch represents is a gateway or filtering solution to make your technology more useful. For anyone who has ever felt that the fire hydrant of access was too much, the Watch may be the perfect solution to allow for metering of information that is specific to your needs. So a brand has to be “worthy” of being attached to one’s person.
Think of it as the next step forward in friction reduction between consumer and brand. For Uber, that is allowing a single-click call for a car based on Watch location. For many brands it’s still a work in progress. Regardless, for every brand – whether on the Apple Watch or not – this understanding of greatest value will be key to getting on the device.
Once a brand makes the cut to reach Watch-worthy status, the next challenge is attaining Glance status. This is where brands can have a long pondering about the future of their connection with consumers. For several years there has been a trend of moving from mass to micro in communications. Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and messaging services such as WhatsApp have all pointed to a future where less is more. Platforms and brands have worked together to bring video into every environment to try and stem this tide, but clearly the one-click generation wants immediacy as much as they want depth.
A Glance occurs when a Watch wearer swipes down to see notifications or up to see a single data point from an app. Notifications sync with iPhone settings to deliver information without going into the pocket. It will be interesting to see if Apple adds a Watch notification option for greater control. The apps that have made swipe-up Glance status for me are all personal passions (health, weather, sports). Over time it will be interesting to see which apps figure out how to earn Glance status with a single piece of content that is worthy of prominence and frequent viewing.
With the Watch, there can be no mistaking the importance of brevity, clarity, and utility. Historically, a watch had one function – tell the time and do it in no time at all. The brand challenge with the Apple Watch and all future wearables will be about doing less and doing it as efficiently as possible. Brands have to replace a meet-the-needs-of-all mentality with a singular delivery of the most valuable interaction possible.
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