Why the Apple Watch is just another way Apple turns its back on new customers

Like many people yesterday, we were forced into downloading Safari to stream the Apple Watch event. There’s no technical reason for this, other browsers are equally (more?) capable of livestreaming content. It’s purely a power play by Apple, a way of forcing you to use their products. As always, endless people tweeted that they were dusting off the browser, considered very much a runner up product, after 5 months of inactivity (the last Apple event being in September).

These bully-boy tactics are very much in line with Apple’s ethos, and while it’s worked in terms of creating an army of die-hard fans that only use their products, it’s getting to the point where it’s damaging their ecosystem. Apple can no longer ignore the approaching behemoth that is Android, and it shouldn’t try, because at this stage in the game there are very few people left who aren’t already in the market (at least for smartphones). That means to grow, Apple needs to migrate consumers from competitors, and the way to do that isn’t by pretending they don’t exist.

I’m very much interested in and considering purchasing a smartwatch, but the Apple Watch door is firmly closed to me because I don’t have an iPhone. I’m sure Apple think this is a genius move in that I’d need to buy both products to switch, but what it actually means is that I won’t even consider their watch. There’s an enormous range of Android Wear and third-party smartwatches on the market – for considerably less money, I might add – that won’t require me to replace my phone too. Can you imagine a watch that would only tick if you wore a certain brand of clothes? Would anyone buy that?

It’s only fair to point out here that the majority of non-Apple smartwatches only work with Android phones at the moment, but double agents do exist: the Pebble Time and Alcatel OneTouch Watch, for example. And did we mention that Google is working on iOS compatibility for all Android Wear devices? Because unlike Apple, Google is aware that they’re not selling products in a bubble.

At times, it feels like Apple are deliberately trying to exclude potential new customers like me. For instance, they’ve updated the Apple Store app to allow you to see the two variants of the Apple Watch at actual size, to help you determine which one is the best choice for you. That’s an excellent idea, especially when many smartwatches are comically enormous on women’s wrists – but the app is of course iOS only. You could argue (and I’m sure they would) that this makes sense given that I’d need an iPhone to use the watch anyway, but it actually just discourages me from even researching the product. It’s another door slam. I feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, constantly ushered out of the Apple boutique because I’m not ‘one of them’.

And that’s before we even come to the claims Apple is making about its watch. It’s unbelievably myopic to claim – as Tim Cook did yesterday – that “the day is finally here” when you can make calls from your wrist. The Samsung Gear S, the LG Urbane LTE, hell, even will.i.am’s wearable offer this functionality. There are only two options here: either Apple undervalues your intelligence to the point that they think you don’t know this, or they genuinely believe they’re the only ones doing it. Liars or fools? Which of these two companies do you want to be, Apple?

I’m resignedly aware that despite all of this – the overpromises, the slammed doors, the insane pricing – the Apple Watch will sell by the bucketload. But it can’t and won’t last forever. We’ve seen time and again that companies trying to hold on to the old way of doing things fail. Modern consumers want flexibility: they no longer stay in jobs and marriages from cradle to grave, they don’t live in their hometown until they die, and they don’t want a brand dictating what phone they have to buy and how much they have to spend. Open the door, Apple – there’s a queue of potential customers outside. And we won’t wait forever.

Holly Brockwell

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