Apple Watch Not So Ancillary

This week, Apple announced its latest steps in mobile computing, yet it omitted its greatest mobile device of all: the iPhone. Nor were there new laptops, particularly their forthcoming ARM based version. For now, Apple’s advances in portable gadgets focused on the Apple Watch and iPad, which are not as ancillary to mobile computing as Apple would have you believe.

The example shown by Apple, which established mobile computing in 2010, indicates that there are four mobile devices worth having: laptop, smartphone, tablet, and smartwatch. Interestingly, in 2010, the lineup was almost the same save one: laptop (MacBook), smartphone (iPhone), tablet (iPad), and mp3 player (iPod).

In a reality distortion field, you need four mobile devices. But in reality, mobile computing excels with only two devices for you: laptop and smartphone.

I’ve reasoned before how the laptop and smartphone squeezed the tablet out from between them. Basically, laptops are still better than tablets at computery “truck” level tasks. And smartphones are still greater at tablety “car” level things.

The smartwatch, though, is objectively much better at certain “bike” level tasks than your smartphone or laptop. So it could be the device, small as it is, that finds space between your iPhone and Macbook.

The Apple Watch has sensors that the other devices lack. And its form factor, tied to your wrist, gathers data about your body in ways your other mobile computing devices never could. In fact, with this week’s unveiling, Apple showed it continues to expand its smartwatch capabilities utilizing yet more sensors.

The watch is unique enough that marketing it becomes easier than it is for iPad. Apple’s tablet is too similar to its smartphone and even its laptop to be distinguished. The iPad is really just another version of both, an iteration of the form factor of a computer.

Apple Watch, on the other hand (pun accepted), thinks different indeed.

Here’s how the marketing goes:

  • Macbook – your portable computer.
  • iPhone – your phone/music player/communicator.
  • Apple Watch – your wellness partner.

You see, each gadget is distinct enough to focus on specific use cases.

The Apple Watch has increasingly become about wellness (health or fitness) above all else. It’s an area of everyone’s life that can use computational power.

The iPad just makes sedentary couch surfing easier, an antithesis to mental and physical wellness. But if you have an Apple Watch, your rings will tell you it’s time to quit watching Apple TV+ on your tablet and get moving. So that kind of works. Apple could even market it well:

Less Movie. More Moving.

Despite the utility of Apple Watch, I still think it’s not as ancillary to mobile computing as Apple markets. Generally, for wellness, you neither need a fitness band nor a gym membership. Just wear a good pair of shoes and get moving.

For mobile computing, all you really need is a laptop and a smartphone. And it seems Apple is saving the best for last in 2020, as they’re said to be planning new iPhone and Macbook releases later this year.

Until then, we’ll wait to see what changes to mobile computing may be coming. Will Apple further iterate the lineup? Or will it enthrall with a gadget revolution? Like this week’s announcements, I think the former.