Just yesterday, Apple news-breaker Mark Gurman reported that the company has plans to release an updated version of the Apple Watch sometime in 2016. According to Gurman, the Watch will have greater iPhone independence and will also gain a FaceTime camera.
It wasn’t long after the report that tons of folks on Twitter and other forums began to question — in a seeming endless cycle of déjà vu — why Apple would update its new product so soon. To them, the Watch should be more like the Apple TV or (fairly lately) the iPod — that it should only be updated every few years.
I couldn’t disagree more.
I truly see the Apple Watch as the iPod successor in many ways, when iPod was in its prime with awesome reboots and cool new features added almost every year. Right now, and possibly for the next few years, the Apple Watch is not what I would call a necessity for most people. Like most watches, Apple’s is something you buy because you want it, not because you need it.
But that doesn’t mean Apple shouldn’t push as hard as they can to improve this product as often as possible. They absolutely should. If Apple truly wants to dominate this category, and if they truly want to be the defacto choice when it comes to the smartwatch (or even the wristwatch, for that matter), they can’t rest on their laurels. They can’t wait around and iterate every few years. That’s not how success works at the beginning of a new product category.
Success for new products works by constantly pushing ahead even when most people may not notice — or care about — the gains. Take the iPad Air 2 for example. How many of Apple’s customers would be up in arms if Apple hadn’t put out this particular update? I’ll tell you: less than one percent. But Apple did it anyways, because pushing forward to make the best tablet matters. The same could be said with the iPod. Almost every year between 2003 and 2007, Apple refreshed the iPod line with a few new features. Did anyone with the previous year’s iPod need the newest version? Not really. But Apple did it anyways, because it matters. It helps bring in new customers, and as I said, pushing forward pays large dividends in the long run.
Think about your App Store experience: You’re looking for some piece of software that does some specific thing. You type in your search, see five hits that make good sense and have decent ratings, and then what? Which one do you choose? I don’t know about you, but I always choose the one with the most active (and recent) update histories. Software support means staying power. Hardware support means the same thing.
That’s why you can bet that Apple will put out a new Apple Watch as often as they can. Will it be every year? I’m not sure, but I tend think so, at least as regards the internals and spec bumps. (I kind of doubt the actual form factor will change much in the near future, but it will probably flatten out over time, maybe by the third generation.) Aside from the round display, Apple has no intention of leaving any room for the competition if they can help it. The more they iterate and improve, the less chance there is for other companies to jump into that space. This is how Apple won with the iPod and iPhone and iPad, and this is how I think they’ll win with the Apple Watch.
The next Apple Watch will probably look exactly the same.
But it will — and should — be a dramatic improvement in every other way.