Why Would Anybody Buy an Apple Watch?

You are terrible at predicting the future of technology and your own behavior: a short story.

Stephen Lam/Reuters

This is a story about the Apple Watch. It starts on Friday, June 29, 2007. Days before the iPhone debuted, the market research company Universal McCann came out with a blockbuster report proving that practically nobody in the United States would buy the iPhone.

"The simple truth," said Tom Smith, the author of the iPhone-damning report, is that "convergence [an all-in-one device] is a compromise driven by financial limitations, not aspiration. In the markets where multiple devices are affordable, the vast majority would prefer that to one device fits all."

He was right. Or, to be more precise, that was a sensible conclusion to draw from the data available.

Solid survey research suggested not only that the iPhone would fail, but also that it would fail particularly hard in the United States because our phones and cameras are good enough, already.

iPhone Fail
Percent agree: “I like the idea of having one portable device to fulfill all my needs”

That's the story you might not know. What happened next is the story you do know. Some people bought the iPhone and said "this thing is amazing." Some of those people were professional critics that you read. Some of them were friends whose iPhones you borrowed, played with, and decided it wasn't so hard to type on a screen, after all. Within a few years, the iPhone became perhaps the most successful consumer product of its generation and transformed Apple into the richest technology company in the world.

Today, there are lots of people saying "I have no idea how I could buy a $300 smartwatch with no battery life when I have an iPhone already." They are telling the truth. They really can't imagine owning a smart watch.

But the moral of the story is that it doesn't matter that they're telling the truth. A smart watch that syncs with Apple's ecosystem and makes payments over the Internet and opens the door to technology that brings healthcare to wearables on a massive scale doesn't exist yet. Apple just invented it. Our projections of a piece of technology that's just been invented don't matter compared to the factors that actually drive adoption, like widely read reviews and the user experience of your colleagues, friends, and family. The success of Apple Watch is in their hands.