Over the past few years, Apple’s much anticipated smartwatch has generated massive amounts of hype. And in recent months, the buzz surrounding the Apple Watch has only increased with the successful Kickstarter launch of the Pebble Smartwatch and the release of Android Wear watches from Motorola, LG, and Samsung.
The hype has spread beyond the tech world and seeped into the teenage zeitgeist.
Up until now, no one has designed a smartwatch that appealed to the more than 30 million teens in the U.S. As I stated in my commentary on the Pebble when it was released, the device was too much of an enthusiast product, requiring a complicated setup involving too much tinkering for the average teen.
Reviewers have also dismissed both Samsung’s and LG’s first attempts at smartwatches for having mediocre screens, unattractive designs, and short battery lives. Despite the panning of the Samsung Gear watch, it is the one of two smartwatches that I have seen a fellow teenager wear. When I asked him what got him to buy the watch, he said it was discounted to $100 when he bought a new Galaxy S5. The Gear Watch also intrigued him after seeing advertisements from Samsung. The two factors that got my friend to buy — marketing and price — were almost as important as the watch itself.
The last remaining relevant smartwatch is the Moto 360. Motorola’s first stab at wearable technology seems to have most of the features that consumers want in a smartwatch.
So far, the Moto 360 has the most attractive design and user-friendly hardware of any smartwatch on the market. However even with these better design features, industry reviewers and consumers still report that the Moto 360 has a significant shortcoming; its battery cannot last an entire day on a single charge. While some reviewers have made the battery life a huge purchasing factor with the $249 device, I don’t think that will stop people from buying it as long as it lasts a whole day (8 A.M. to 10 P.M.) As of right now, the new Apple Watch has only one clear competitor for teen market, let alone the mass market — the Moto 360.
As for the Apple Watch itself, the response I got from most teens was skeptical.
The key stumbling block: Teens typically don’t wear watches.
I interviewed several teens and asked what would get them to wear a smartwatch. The three factors: Price, design, and functionality.
Unfortunately for Apple, all three factors seem to have gotten negative responses from my age bracket. At $350, my fellow teen friends concluded that it was not worth it. Most surprisingly, the majority of the teens that I talked to preferred the design of the circular Moto 360 rather than the square Apple Watch. They said that they would never wear a square watch, no matter the cool and useful functionality.
In addition, many of the students that I talked to said that they are currently using Android and would not want to switch to iOS to use the Apple Watch.
While teens I spoke with seem skeptical of the Apple Watch, I am cautiously optimistic. In terms of the price, I believe that it is way too high.
But Apple may be able to do what they did with the iPod and iPhone: Start with an absurdly priced product and over time bring it down.
Additionally, Apple could use the same iPod strategy with the Apple Watch to bring high school students back to the iPhone, if Apple is able to provide a product with intriguing functionality. Of course, that is something in the control of third-party developers who build those applications.
That may take a whole generation of devices for Apple to fully realize the application support for the Apple Watch to generate large interest from the teen market segment.
While the my fellow high school students have been rather cynical about the Apple Watch, things may change when the Apple Watch 2 or 3 comes out. In that time, Apple will most likely have an improved design, lower price, and a full ecosystem of applications for the Apple Watch.
Michael Sherman, a student at Seattle’s Bush School, is a technophile with aspirations to be a future entrepreneur and/or politician.
[Editor’s Note: Michael’s father, Craig Sherman, is a lawyer at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati who represents GeekWire.]