Can TAG Heuer help Android Wear defeat Apple Watch?

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Or is the TAG Heuer Connected destined to fail?
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

When it comes to smartwatch sales, Apple Watch has well and truly embarrassed the entire Android Wear ecosystem, even though it hasn’t spent anywhere near as long on the market. But with Google’s platform getting a high-profile supporter this week, is it time for change?

Friday-Night-Fights-bug-2TAG Heuer’s new Connected is the first smartwatch from a luxury watchmaker, giving consumers a high-end alternative to the Apple Watch. It has beautiful hardware, great specifications, and even comes with an upgrade program that lets buyers swap it for a traditional TAG watch when it’s no longer useful.

So, is this the device Android Wear needs to mount a threat against Apple’s popular wearable?

Join us in this week’s Friday Night Fight between Cult of Android and Cult of Mac as we battle it out over that very question!

Killian-FNFKillian Bell (Writer, Cult of Android): Luke, I know you’re a fan of luxury watches, so I want to get your thoughts on the new TAG Heuer Connected. Yes, I know it’s an Android Wear watch, so to an Apple fanboy like yourself, it’s terrible by definition. But I think this could be the device that really gets Google’s platform going.

Here’s why: Apple Watch is successful because of the Apple brand; that’s what makes it cool. But Android Wear doesn’t have that. We’ve seen some beautiful devices from the likes of LG, Motorola and Huawei, but these aren’t trendy names that people want to wear on their wrists.

TAG Heuer, on the other hand, is incredibly cool. Who doesn’t want a flashy TAG watch — especially one that connects to your smartphone and puts your notifications on your wrist?

If you have a $1,500 budget to spend on a fancy smartwatch, then, you can either get a stainless steel Apple Watch — which is becoming all too common. Or you can treat yourself to a stunning TAG Heuer Connected modeled on the iconic Carrera. It’s a no-brainer!

TAG Heuer Connected is the priciest -- and prettiest -- Wear watch.
TAG Heuer Connected is the priciest — and prettiest — Wear watch.
Photo: TAG Heuer

cartoonluke_360.pngLuke Dormehl (Writer, Cult of Mac): Yep, a no-brainer — but that’s more to do with the decision-making process that went into this slightly botched effort.

Look, I want to see smartwatches take off. I love watches, and I think there’s absolutely room in the market for traditional watchmakers to get in on the high-end smartwatch market by combining what makes a smartwatch cool with at least some of what makes a classic watch desirable. (I say “some” because, let’s face it, you’re probably never going to gift your son the same legacy smartwatch you bought fifty years ago on your 21st birthday.)

With that said, you’re 100 percent wrong if you believe this is what is going to finally get Android Wear moving. Let’s start with the $1,500 price tag. While there’s going to be a demographic who don’t fit this, virtually every study we see suggests that Android’s users are less well-off than iOS users. More than 80 percent of Apple’s devices sell for $400+. Android, on the other hand, appeals almost exclusively to the sub-$200 market.

Argue about the relative merits of both platforms if you want, but Apple is making products with wealthier consumers in mind and, although $1,500 is pretty much the smallest amount of money you can pay for a good “luxury” watch, it’s still $1,400 more than a lot of people would feel comfortable paying.

It’s also just a disappointing watch. I love some of TAG’s models, but this is pretty ugly — from the charging mechanism and the comically oversized look to the tacky wrist strap and disappointing display. It’s also titanium, so it’s crazily light, which is never something I’ve enjoyed in a high-end watch (although I appreciate this point is subjective.) On the tech side, it just doesn’t do close to what the Apple Watch does. There’s no heart rate monitor, it’s not designed for fitness-tracking which is a big use-case for the Apple Watch, and you can say goodbye to the idea of making phone calls with it.

The thing which really puts me off, though, is TAG’s apparent lack of faith in it. This doesn’t seem like a direction the company wants to go in, but one that they’re being forced into because it’s what the kids want these days. It refuses to call Apple a competitor and offers this deal that, after a set amount of time, you can pay $1,500 and upgrade to a proper, mechanical watch. It feels like they’re saying, “Once you grow out of this silly connected watch phase, come and join the adults over here.”

The whole thing is just… yech! Trust me, you’re better off with an Apple Watch in every way.

Connected is modeled on the iconic Carrera.
Connected is modeled on the iconic Carrera.
Photo: TAG Heuer

Killian-FNFKillian: How can you say that Android “appeals almost exclusively to the sub-$200 market”? That’s total bullshit. Samsung’s high-end Galaxy S series has given us some of the best-selling smartphones ever, and its Note series continues to outsell other high-end Androids year after year. Rarely do we see decent Android devices priced under $200.

When you spout off about Android users being “less well-off than iOS users,” it just shows your ignorance towards the platform. The reason for the data you linked to is Android is hugely popular in emerging markets, because people can’t afford iPhones there. But those aren’t the consumers we have in mind when we’re discussing expensive smartwatches.

I’ll ignore what you said about the design, because that’s all subjective; Apple Watch is butt-ugly to a lot of people, and it, too, ships with cheap silicone bands that cost pennies to manufacture. You can also use Connected for fitness tracking — it has all the sensors you need, except a heart rate monitor, and not everyone needs heart rate data.

As for TAG Heuer’s update program, that’s far from a lack of faith. And you’re contradicting yourself when you say “It feels like they’re saying, “Once you grow out of this silly connected watch phase, come and join the adults over here,”” just two paragraphs after you say, “I think there’s absolutely room in the market for traditional watchmakers to get in on the high-end smartwatch market by combining what makes a smartwatch cool with at least some of what makes a classic watch desirable.”

The upgrade program gives Connected a huge advantage over any other smartwatch on the market. When your Apple Watch gets outdated, you might as well throw it in the garbage, because it’ll be useless. And Apple doesn’t offer an update program, so the investment you made in that device is worth nothing. But you can swap your Connected for a traditional TAG watch that you can hold onto for a lifetime — and pass onto the kids when you kick the bucket.

cartoonluke_360.pngLuke: I’m not contradicting myself at all. I think there’s definitely space for high-end watchmakers to get on board the smartwatch bandwagon. But suggesting that after a year or so of having a stripped-down connected smartwatch people are just going to want to shell out more money for an analog watch is a demonstration of TAG’s lack of faith in the market.

I guess we’ll wait and see whether this becomes the device which turns things around for Android Wear, but I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. I also don’t see how you can say “I’ll ignore what you said about the design” when design is a large part of what makes a high-end watch desirable. It’s fine to take the view that these things are subjective, but if you’re being paid to write about said subjective topics, you’d better have an opinion you can argue. And while, as I’ve said, I’m a big fan of some TAG watches, I’ve listed all the things I don’t like about this one — and which I think make it a bad choice.

For the same $1,500 you could buy this TAG timepiece you could get a Stainless Steel Apple Watch with Milanese strap: a far more beautiful watch, without the “cheap silicone band” you mentioned. And it wouldn’t run Android Wear either, as an added bonus.

Your investment in Apple Watch is worthless when the technology becomes outdated.
Your investment in Apple Watch is worthless when the technology becomes outdated.
Photo: Apple

Killian-FNFKillian: No, it’s not demonstrating a lack of faith; it’s giving consumers peace of mind by ensuring them that their $1,500 smartwatch won’t be worthless in a few years — like every other smartwatch out there. Why bother wasting resources on designing, developing, and producing a smartwatch at all if they have no faith in the market?

Okay, I’ll argue my opinion about the design: I think it looks terrific. It reminds me of the Carrera, a watch I’ve always admired, and doesn’t have that standard, geeky smartwatch look. Sure, the band is cheap, but it’s adjustable, and prevents you from having to have links taken out of a metal bracelet the second you get it. Plus I’m pretty sure you can change it for whatever you want.

When I think about the kind of person who would spend $1,500 on a smartwatch, I don’t think all of them would want the same watch everyone else has — even if it has a nicer strap. And again, that Apple Watch is going to be worthless in a few years, and your expensive investment is no more.

Let’s turn this over to the readers now — I’m not sure my heart can take much more of this.

What do you think, readers? Can TAG help Android Wear take off and convince a decent number of iPhone owners to adopt Google’s platform? Or is it destined to be a flop like the rest?

Friday Night Fights is a series of weekly death matches between two no-mercy brawlers who will fight to the death — or at least agree to disagree — about which is better: Apple or Google, iOS or Android?