Mobile Mavens

Burberry, Lamborghini, Hairdressers... It's the $10,000 Apple Watch question

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Burberry, Lamborghini, Hairdressers... It's the $10,000 Apple Watch question

It could be argued that Apple Watch will be the company's most unpredictable hardware launch of recent years.

Before iPhone, people used mobile phones, while the conception of a notebook without a keyboard was a logical one in terms of the basic use case for the iPad. 

However, few people now regularly wear watches and to-date the smartwatch market is best described as nascent.

In that context, we posed our Mobile Mavens a three-part question:

  • Do you think the Apple Watch will be a success?
  • Do you think it provides any opportunity for gaming?
  • And which version will you be buying?


William D. Volk Chief Futurist Forward Reality

While there's reason to be skeptical, it would be wise to remember this little video clip from 2007:

I think it has a good shot at major success. It sure helps to have the retail organization Apple has built since 2007, that's for sure.

As to gaming, I think what makes sense is what made sense on feature phones back in the early 2000s - simple games that fit the form factor. Add into that the fitness APIs and connectivity and there are some really good possibilities. Maybe even some real-world location based stuff...

However, having learned from our iPhone experiences, we'll start with simple familiar games to be the "first and best" in these categories.

Kudos to Christopher Kassulke and HandyGames for launching some really well thought out games on the Android watches. I suspect they will do the same on Apple Watch.

Since I do a lot of cycling, I think the aluminum Apple Watch Sports will be my pick.

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

I think the watch will do fairy well. I don't think many people will get the $10,000 edition but I know a lot of people in my life that want the base models.

A hairdresser friend I know wants it so she can see texts that come in as she is working.
Dave Castlenuovo

Seems like a lot of the devs I speak to are fairly skeptical but many of my non-dev friends (especially women) want the watch the day it comes out. A hairdresser friend I know wants it so she can see texts that come in as she is working, the others just want it.

Speaking of the hairdresser case, I could see it being useful when you are in a loud environment where you can't really hear calls or texts coming in. It would be nice to have that haptic feedback to let you know that your million dollar meeting is lost and trying to find you at GDC.

I will probably get the space gray Sports edition for testing, not sure if I will actually wear it every day. I don't normally wear watches so I'm still a bit skeptical whether this will overcome that hurdle.

Gaming is a no brainer and will be fun to figure out games that can work on this device.

Andreas Vahsen CEO / CCO / Game Economist MachineWorks Northwest

It will do well. However, I will not be getting one.

Enough frequency pollution and radiation - I don't need yet another gizmo and specifically not one around my wrist.

Plus, it will never be as beautiful as a mechanical wrist watch.

Christopher Kassulke CEO HandyGames

As William already mentioned, we are an early adopter and already released a lot of smartwatch games and apps.

Apps for wearables are different to mobile apps. We did several state of the art products like Max - My Fitness Dog and My Fitness Racer, which already show where the trend is going.

We at HandyGames believe in Fitness meets Games for our gaming products.

As apps. we like very innovative titles like our Live Watch Face for Instagram - which is a clock on your wrist with your favorite Instagram account or hashtag.

Will the Apple Watch be successful? I am quite sure as Apple is good in selling a products and showing the pros of such a new technology.

But the success of the Apple Watch depends on the portfolio of apps. So Apple really need to come up with great partners very soon.

Personally, I already have several smartwatches and I prefer my Sony SWR30 (or another Android Wear), which has a way longer battery life and provide more features.

Oscar Clark Chief Strategy Officer Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

I echo a lot of what has been said before but it doesn't matter how many people buy at the $10,000 (or $17,000) price point; what matters is that they exist.

The really smart play Apple have made is to categorise their watches as objects of aspiration.

We need to see smartwatches as aspirational devices that also bring benefits to our everyday lives.
Oscar Clark

This is very different from the strategies so far of smartwatch providers like Sony, LG, Motorola or Samsung. Apple have remembered that watches are essentially the only notable piece of man jewellery. Aligning their devices in that way and not just as technical gadgets for the geek is actually really, really smart.

Chris is also right (as always) that smartwatches are still very much early adopter items and that they occupy a very specific opportunity for combining exercise and fitness. Here the existing offerings are functionally better suited to the task in my opinion.

I am a Samsung devotee at the moment and the combination of a Note 4 and Gear Live offers a great experience with clear efficiency and lifestyle benefits. But it's not perfect by any means. The number of times I try to demo the advantages and there is a problem is ridiculous.

Apple's entry, as well as the huge response to the next generation of Pebble, are essential to this market taking off.

We are now at a tipping point, in my opinion. Vital to this is that we need to see smartwatches as aspirational devices that also bring benefits to our everyday lives; not just being a technology gimmick.

Bling for rich, old men?

When I can take a call on my watch without having to take my phone out of my pocket, that's a benefit. When I can see my notifications by simply raising the watch my wrist, that's a benefit. When I can ask Siri or Google where the nearest café is to me without getting my phone out, that's a benefit.

Despite all this - and my expectation of a serious purchase spree initially from the Apple fan boys - I'm still not predicting that this year will be the breakthrough point.

Don't get me wrong. Smartwatches are going to be taken more seriously, but I don't think they will become a scalable market until Holiday Season 2016. By that point I think about 30 percent of smart phone users will have smartwatches and it's at that point the apps market for them will explode.

I can even imagine a point where we start putting the SIM in the watch.
Oscar Clark

Right now, I don't think any of the devices on the market are quite good enough for the transition from Early Adopter to Early Majority. They still require too much explanation and are still too unreliable with too little battery life when being used in earnest.

The possibilities for watches are amazing and not least because I can't wait to see the possibility for gameplay, payment interactions, as well as what happens when we have devices with dual cameras for both video blogging and video calls.

I can even imagine a point where we start putting the SIM in the watch, potentially replacing the need for a phone (although we will still carry various sizes of tablet I'm sure) but that's going to take some pretty serious advances in battery technology.

John Ozimek Co-founder Big Games Machine

John is co-founder of PR and marketing company Big Ideas Machine. Also an all-round nice guy...

We've been working with tech companies in the wearable space for a while, and I was pleasantly surprised that Apple avoided many of the pitfalls of early consumer products in this space and announced something that is several steps more refined and thought-through than anything else currently on the market.

Will it be a success? Yes, undoubtably. As Oscar said, this will be due more for the fact that they have launched a very nice looking and well-priced product.

Probably 90% of people will buy it because it's the Apple Watch, rather than for anything it does.
John Ozimek

I expect the Apple Watch to now become a must-have consumer product in the short term - and I don't see them having any problems in selling the $17,000 version. Exclusivity sells :-)

Probably 90% of people will buy it because it's the Apple Watch, rather than for anything it does.

It is actually a desirable device to use? I'm less certain - although inclusion of the heart rate monitor shows how well they have thought out the huge market for fitness and health-related wearables.

It seemed to me that they have created enough opportunities for developers to carve out some really interesting uses. The immediate impact may be on companies like fitbit and Jawbone (and maybe even Polar and Garmin), who will undoubtably see cannibalisation of their sales.

The two big limitations are the fact that you still need a phone in close proximity, and the short battery life. I really thought that they would hold off for a minimum of 24 hours between charges - 18 hours (and likely less) is a very short cycle, like the early days of mobiles.

I don't want to have to remember to charge my watch once or twice a day.

I think there's some great potential for games uses, but I think the really big opportunity is in gamification of other uses and experiences; this is where the heart monitor and other sensors could be really cool.

Will I get one? No. I think wearables are a couple of years away from being genuinely useful in my everyday life.

I've got no real desire to walk around talking into my wrist, and a watch that I need to charge (and likely replace every couple of years) is not what I need on top of phone, tablet, laptop, and everything else I carry around.

But as with the iPhone, I expect this to drive other companies to innovate, and when things like battery and screen technology improve to the point that a smartwatch is as reliable as my current watch and it means that I can carry less tech with me rather than more, then I'll consider it.

Kevin Corti Principal Spidershed Media

Will it be a success? Well that depends how you define success. I don't believe it can have the impact of the iPhone or the iPad.

Firstly, the iPhone turned the mobile phone into a personal smart device which we all now have. What can the Watch do on top of that? It isn't able to replace the phone!

I don't believe it can have the impact of the iPhone or the iPad.
Kevin Corti

Sure... some people will figure out some awesome, unique use cases and build apps to enable those but they will be far fewer than was the case with the iPhone.

Secondly, the cost. £400-600 is still a sizable amount of money to shell out for a phone for most people but the impact of that is commonly diminished by it being amortised over an 18 or 24 month contract by the telecoms network. They cashflow your desire.

That won't be the case with the sim-free Watch. It's cash up front or, at least, on tick. That has to be a barrier to scale especially as this is on top of your smart phone purchase not instead of it.

Opportunity for gaming? I do believe that the Watch (and other manufacturer's smart watches) will provide a fertile breeding ground for innovation in gaming. Of course it will. It is a new form factor that has a huge brand behind it and hardly any competition.

Will Apple Watch have the least impact of the range, apart from Apple TV (not shown)

Yet. Quite what and when I don't know but 'fitness-related games' seems like a safe prediction. I don't think that will be anything but a statistically minor subset of mobile gaming overall however.

As for which version I will be purchasing...

I recently moved to the Costa del Sol so mine will likely cost €10 (without VAT) from a Moroccan gentleman on the beach. It will look like the $17,000 version but I suspect it won't have a guarantee. The battery life, however, may well be better than the genuine article!

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

I did have a thought about the $10,000-$17,000 edition watch.

I was previously concerned that people would buy the gold edition and immediately have buyer's remorse as soon as they figure out it would be obsolete within a year (can you imagine buying one 2 months before the next Apple Watch reveal?).

The gold edition is really for Apple hardware whales.
Dave Castlenuovo

But at the time I was thinking the price point would be more around $2,000-$2,500. Not easily affordable but doable for an average person that is really materialistic. At $10,000+ however, that's almost half the price of a car. If you can afford a $10,000 watch, you can probably afford to buy one every year.

I think Apple has taken a lesson from the many freemium games we all enjoy (sarcasm?). The gold edition is really for Apple hardware whales. It's the equivalent to a $100 sack of berries in that it's way for people to efficiently spend money.

I can actually see a lot of people buying the Apple Edition Watch.

In the western world there is a pressure against buying things that are overly ostentatious. But in most developing economies (China?) the bigger, gaudier, and more expensive something is, the better it is.

Kevin Corti Principal Spidershed Media

Dave's point about having an aspirational price point is an excellent one.

By offering the 'same' product at a bunch range of very different price points it has the potential to maximise revenue all along the price curve.

Gold but still just 18 hours charge per battery

It sets an (out of most people's range) perception of 'worth' but where the low(er) price points don't, then, seem quite so bad. It also allows them to target different demographics and niches.

As a counter to this materialistic money-chasing 'my Watch is better than yours' world domination strategy, however, they all still have the same battery life.

A utopia ... delivered by a measure of electrical storage capacity!

Harry Holmwood CEO Marvelous Europe

A games programmer before joining Sony’s early PlayStation team in 1994, he then founded developer Pure Entertainment, which IPO’d and launched a free-to-play online gaming service way back in 1999.

He was also a director of pioneering motion gaming startup In2Games, which was sold to a US group in 2008.

Along the way, he’s been a corporate VP, troubleshooter, and non-exec to a variety of companies and investors in and around the games sector.

Harry was European CEO of Marvelous AQL, a Japanese developer and publisher of social, mobile and console games, known for console games like No More Heroes and Harvest Moon, but now highly successful in the free-to-play mobile and web space in Japan and Asia.

Harry is CEO of Magicave.

I think it looks great, maybe a little better than the Android watch I currently have. I don't like being without it, even though its main use is telling me the time and vibrating when my phone's (silently) ringing.

Once you get into a $10,000 disposable watch with a short lifespan, you're into the area of conspicuous consumption.
Harry Holmwood

The gold version personally I think is a mistake, but I may be being overly British about it.

For me, at the moment, Apple's done a fantastic job with both Mac and iPhone/Pad of building products at a premium price but which users of can justify because of the experience and the quality justifying it. Once you get into a $10,000 disposable watch with a short lifespan, you're into the area of conspicuous consumption instead.

That runs the risk of taking a brand people are passionate about into the realms of being 'for idiots with more money than sense'.

I was arguing with Will Luton on Twitter about this the other day and I described the risk of the 'Burberryization' of Apple (ie a well-regarded brand being pushed into the area of being considered very naff). It was only the next day I found out that a former Burberry VP is in fact working on Apple Watch.

Will Apple suffer from the Burberry effect?

As I said, I may be being too British and reserved about this: to me people having expensive Rolex watches is a naff thing anyway, but at least they can be justified as things that may retain 'value' and last a lifetime.

Expensive disposable items like smartwatches seems a step too far, but maybe it will play just fine in a lot of places.

Vladimir Funtikov Co-Founder Creative Mobile

I believe there's a fairly large segment of consumers who want a smart watch, but are under pressure to wear a more expensive article to be accepted into certain groups (or feel good about themselves).

People don't buy $5,000+ watches because they fly antique aircraft. They do it to send a certain message.
Vladimir Funtikov

It doesn't matter if that watch is more useful compared to mass-market version. People don't buy $5,000+ watches because they fly antique aircraft or dive 300 meters. They do it to send a certain message.

That message will be received by everyone else and will drive sales of mainstream versions.

Most consumers don't judge this category by practical value. Android Wear has been around for a year, but it's nearly invisible to the mass market.

Apple are really good at making consumers desire certain things, but to sustain interest they need "important" people to endorse these products. "Important" means whoever you look up to - might be a celebrity, your CEO, or that guy you know who makes $500,000/year with mobile games.

If these people wear a smart watch, then you can go and get yourself one, just without the gold case. This is how Apple Watch will look special in a sea of similarly priced and cheaper smart watches who all basically do the same things.

Apple Watch Edition - the R8 of luxury watches?

I think the price is right. I would say it's premium, rather than luxury, so it's not going to be viewed as investment.

In a car world it would be a [Lamborghini] Gallardo or [Audi] R8, not a Bugatti. It's expensive enough to attract a certain type of buyers, but affordable enough to fall within their range of disposable income.

The Mobile Mavens are a group of mobile gaming veterans, of whom we ask regular questions about the state of the industry.

If you would like us to consider letting you join the group, please email jon at{dot]uk

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.