September 19, 2014

The Obsolescence of the Apple Watch

There’s been some talk about the Apple Watch and how getting people to spend the big dollars on a gold watch might be a tough given how the technology inside of it will be “obsolete” within just a year or two.

John Gruber writes on Daring Fireball:

It’s a computer. And all computers have lifespans measured in just a handful of years before obsolescence. If you buy a $6,000 mechanical watch and take care of it, you can expect it to outlive you and become a family heirloom. Paying even $1,000, let alone a multiple of that, for a premium Apple Watch seems like folly if it’s going to be obviated by faster, sleeker, longer-lasting versions in just a few years.

They also talk about it on the latest episode of ATP.

A thought that struck me when reading Gruber’s post was that given how the chip in the Apple Watch, the S1, contains everything: is it too far of a stretch to think that they might offer upgrades?

Of course future models will get thinner and slicker. But maybe even that’ll come to be a status symbol: “I had the first Apple Watch!”. People will see that it is bigger then every newer model.

I realize that this kind of upgrading would be an unprecedented move by Apple. So why would they do this? Firstly, it’s a way of fighting the negativity that comes with all the talk of obsolesence. If they promised upgradability for a forseeable future that’d probably encourage a few extra people to get the gold.

And while they wouldn’t get to sell another $10k watch to some rich dude they could probably have pretty high margins on an S2. Since they’ll be mass produced on a completely different scale then the gold cases are. The super rich people will probably pay for a new one anyway, given how they’ll want to own the newest and shiniest Apple gear.

That said, I don’t think Apple will actually offer upgrading. If they are it’s weird that they haven’t said so. Although they might be holding that back until they release the actual pricing. It’s an interesting thought though and not completely unplausible.