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Apple revealed something interesting last week. No, not the products themselves (although I found those totally acceptable), but how they presented one of them.
What I’m saying is Apple finally figured out what the fuck its Watch is for. A task, friends, that only took it five years.
Let’s think about that for a moment. Five years. That’s longer than the World Cup cycle (that reference is for all you ‘football’ people out there, hope you enjoyed it). That’s about half the time the Beatles were a band for, a period that’s actually shorter than their evolution from the Please Please Me-era boys-next-door-whose-mom-cuts-their-hair to the oh-my-god-I-am-so-high-Ringo-get-down-from-the-ceiling days of Magical Mystery Tour.
During those five years, 62 generations of houseflies have lived, thrived, and perished. And that, friends, is how long it took for Apple to realize its Watch is a health and fitness tool. Which is an improvement over what it was before.
For a long time, the Apple Watch was an outlier in the company’s stable. No one was really sure what it was meant for, a fate little else beside early versions of iPad had suffered from, but at least you could give a tablet to your gran to use.
The Apple Watch never lacked technical sophistication. It made other competing smartwatches look like little tiddlers sploshing around in a tiny paddling pool, sure, but — to continue this baffling metaphor — it spent its early years making powerful, Phelps-ian strokes in the equivalent of a garden pond, rather than the Stratford Olympic pool it had its expensive little eyes on.
To put it another way, the Apple Watch might’ve owned over 60% of the global smartwatch market, but that was a hearty slice of a comparatively small quiche.
This changed over the past two years. Apple Watch shipments skyrocketed. And, to me, that’s down to the improvement of the heart monitoring tech and the introduction of the ECG feature.
The Apple Watch got good enough to actually save lives. Finally, it could do something better than an iPhone. It was no longer just an extension of the device, it was its own thing, with its own feature set, and it’s no coincidence the Watch’s popularity soared during after that launch.
And that brings us satisfyingly back round to last week’s event.
The main feature of the newest Apple Watch — the Series 6 — was another health tool. Specifically, the blood oxygen monitoring functionality. But, although it played a part, that wasn’t what convinced me that Apple finally had its shit together with the Watch; it was everything else that surrounded the product announcement.
Think of the faux-inspirational wellbeing stories we were shown in the keynote. The gamut of health-focused software features coming with watchOS 7. The Fitness+ subscription that requires an Apple Watch to function properly. This isn’t just pumping more features into a bit of hardware, it’s creating an entire ecosystem.
I’ll put it this way: Apple hasn’t simply decided the Watch is a health and fitness tool, it has invested in it being so. The Watch sits at the center of its wellbeing drive. It’s a product you need to own to experience this offering from Apple. And it’s going to be a goldmine.
The company finally figured out what the fuck the Watch is for.
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