Earlier this month, Apple Inc. unveiled a new version of its smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 2, after what critics deem a disappointing year of sales for the original Apple Watch. At Georgetown, reactions to the new watch have been mixed.
According to Apple’s website, the Series 2 watch comes with an array of new hardware and software improvements, including a faster processor, a screen that is twice as bright as the previous model, a built-in GPS and a waterproof rating of full submersion in up to 50 meters of water.
The Apple Watch 2 comes roughly 18 months after the company’s introduction of the Series 1 watch, a product that “is considered a flop” according to an April article of the International Business Times. The product’s sales have decreased by 55 percent from its launch in April 2015 to July of this year, according to CNN Money.
Citing a statement from BMO Capital Markets, Business Insider reported that a possible reason for the low Series 1 sales was that the watch was “nice to have but not a necessity, and is a bit hard to use.”
Some commentators say the launch of the Apple Watch 2 could provide a chance for Apple to come back from low sales numbers. For instance, Tech Radar hailed the updated device as much more practical now that it has a built-in GPS so joggers do not have to bring their phones along to track how far they run.
Jeanine Turner, associate professor of communication, culture and technology at Georgetown University, has studied at length how technological advances affect the way people interact. Turner acknowledged some negative reactions to the watch from friends and colleagues who found the device difficult to use for communication.
“There are some people I’ve talked to that did have a smart watch that hated it because they… didn’t like the distraction of having the message come in but not being able to respond to it in the way they would want to,” Turner said. “Because, if you have a hard time seeing with your glasses or whatever, that has an impact on how much you can really get from the watch.”
Turner noted, however, that the Apple Watch also has proponents who feel they can communicate better as a result of the device’s capabilities.
“I have also talked to people … that are embarrassed to look like they’re looking for their phone in their briefcase or purse, and they find the smart watch allows them to be more engaged in a conversation,” Turner said. “Because they know if they get a text their body will know, because they will be able to feel it.”
Miranda Reid (COL ’18), who owns other Apple products like the iPhone, said the Apple Watch, which ranges in price from $269 for the Series 1 to $1500 for the Series 2 with a Hermès band, is expensive and does not offer any crucial functions.
“I’m sure it has lots of functionality, but I think all its functions could easily be replicated by a much cheaper device or by a device people already own,” Reid said. “So, in the end, it ends up being much more of a status symbol than an actual product that you would desire.”
One prominent Apple Watch competitor is Fitbit Inc., which reported $1.86 billion in revenue in the 2015 fiscal year from its fitness watch products. In the same period, the International Business Times estimated Apple Watch profits at over $1.7 billion. Fitbit watches range in price from roughly $100 to $250, with the more expensive models featuring many of the same texting and music-control features as the Apple Watch.
Sabrina Gugliuzza (COL ’18), who has owned a Fitbit since last summer, said she does not look for the multiple functions of the Apple Watch 2 in a wearable device.
“I know on the Apple Watch, you can see notifications from Snapchat, Facebook, send text messages, all that stuff. That’s not something I necessarily want or need in a watch or fitness tracker,” Gugliuzza said. “So, for the price that the Apple Watch is, I wouldn’t get it.”.
However, the watch also has strong of advocates among Georgetown students. Erin Napier (COL ’17) received the original Apple Watch as a birthday present and has been extremely satisfied with the product.
“I just like the convenience of it — that I can be more detached from my cellphone,” Napier said. “So, for instance, my phone can be in my purse or in my backpack or in another room, and, if someone is trying to call or text me, my wrist will vibrate, and it’s super non-intrusion.”
Napier added that she is not interested in upgrading to the Apple Watch 2.
“I don’t think it offers anything earth-shattering,” Napier said. “I’m sure it’s better than the one I have now. I mean, people get excited about the fact that it’s waterproof, but how often are you really underwater with your Apple Watch?”
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