Why I dropped everything to create Apple Watch apps

By

Are Apple Watch expectations just too high?
Are Apple Watch expectations just too high?
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

I dropped everything to make apps for the Apple Watch. I’ve owned the Watch from day one and I admit it is has its shortcomings, but oh my does it have potential.

The device convinced my co-founders and me to start Tap Get to work exclusively on Apple Watch apps — early, while the rest of the world is still making up its mind about smartwatches and other wearables.

To catch a wave, you need to be in the water. Right now, these are relatively uncontested waters: There are 8,500 apps for the Watch in total, a tiny fraction of the number for iPhone.

It’s easier to get noticed in the early days, and don’t forget that every Apple Watch is paired with an iPhone. Win users, gain traction, then segue into the larger iPhone market. And it’s not just apps you can make for the Watch — hardware could be a big hit too.

Apple Watch is big and getting bigger

The Apple Watch is already bigger than was hoped. Yet only a few months after the tidal wave of hype at launch, some skeptics are already hailing the flop of the Apple Watch and pronouncing it dead.

Why so hasty? Whenever Apple released new products during the last decade, the initial impressions of how we thought they would be used — and what actually made them massive hits — were hardly ever the same.

Remember when the first iPhone launched? It was cool, but what was it for? This “Internet Communications Device” had no third-party apps and it didn’t even support copy and paste.

I doubt anyone then foresaw it being used by millions of people to fling angry birds at green pigs, take a billion selfies, or give rise to a $16 billion app like WhatsApp.

The iPhone was a complete departure from everything else that came before it. It took almost 2 years to gain momentum but then it became the blueprint for literally every smartphone since.

Apple Watch is killing it

Just like the iPhone, the Apple Watch is unprecedented. How big it will become is still anyone’s guess but based on comparisons with other first-generation Apple launches, the Watch is killing it.

Apple has sold 210 million iPhones last year, but in its first year it sold only 5.4 million. Tim Cook says the Apple Watch is already exceeding that pace, and we haven’t even had an “Aha!” moment with it yet.

Either the Swiss or Apple should be worried

Some may be surprised to learn that 80 percent of luxury Swiss watch brands use the same movements made by one manufacturer, ETA SA Manufacture Horlogère Suisse (owned by Swatch). The value in a Swiss watch is in how brands customize the insides and case design — and how the watches make people feel.

A watch is more than a device; it’s a statement.

Consider the Apple Watch as a watch movement, one that is infinitely more customizable on the inside than anything mechanical. How long will it be before we see brands using it as the base for luxury watches and creating an entirely new market segment? Could making base movements even be a way for someone else to play catch up using Android?

‘Mobile-first’ is so 2014

As of today, nobody has quite figured out what the killer app is for the Apple Watch.

The race is on. There’s no doubt Apple will continue improving the Watch for at least three years, so it’s really a matter of when, not if, these apps emerge and the next wave of multibillion-dollar startups arrives.

To make this happen, developers will need to see the Watch with completely fresh eyes. They will need to ditch the “mobile-first” attitude and embrace “watch-first” thinking.

Some developers are creating Watch apps without ever touching one, relying solely on the simulator; this approach won’t work.

Apple Watch is not a small iPhone for the wrist to add bolt-on features for existing apps. Those who recognize that are the ones who are going to make the Apple Watch big. It’s just a matter of time.