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While seemingly every third person in the tech early adopter crowd is wearing an Apple Watch these days, there is still a lot of skepticism about whether it truly can be a mainstream device. People point to the $349 starting price tag, difficult-to-come-by sales numbers, or the lack of many iPhone luxuries we’re now accustomed to, like GPS. They also point to the lack of quality apps and to how even the ones that are there have high quality mobile experiences but suboptimal Watch experiences.
This may all be true. The Watch may seem expensive as a companion device. It may lack GPS. And it may have a dearth of quality apps today. It would be easy to look at all of this and think the Watch is doomed to not break out of early adopter-hood. And when my company, Runkeeper, looks at the demographic data for people using our app on the Apple Watch, it seemingly supports this hypothesis even further. Seventy-seven percent of those using our Apple Watch app are male, and the average age is 40.
But even given all of this, I have a different perspective. I believe the Apple Watch will be a mainstream blockbuster, and it is only a matter of time.
For starters, my company was there when the iPhone App Store first launched, back in 2008. We saw how the first generation iPhone didn’t have GPS, and then the next generation did. We saw how the initial apps that were on the iPhone were fart apps and other silly novelty items, and how apps evolved over time to get more elegant, powerful, and useful to solve real problems. And maybe most telling, we saw that the demographic data of our app’s iPhone users in the early days looked a lot like they do now with the early days of the Watch. Early Runkeeper iPhone users were 90 percent (yes, ninety percent) male. Today, 50 percent (and growing) of our new users are female. Similarly, in the early days 54 percent of our users were 33–47 years old. Today, that number is down to 26 percent.
We also remember how everyone told us when we launched that “no one would ever run with their phone.” And, yes, slowly over time this perception has changed. Now, almost every runner who goes by when I go for my runs on the river is wearing an armband with a smartphone in it. And the point about an expensive companion device? Sure, $349 is a lot of money. But not compared to the thousands that people shell out for expensive fashion watches. Even in the early days of the Apple Watch, it is already starting to have an impact on the low end of the fashion watch market. And it is rumored that the next generation device is coming soon. It might be hard for people to justify it as a companion device today, but it is only a matter of time before people won’t be able to imagine what life was like before they had it.
Hey, we might be wrong. We don’t have a crystal ball. But we are putting out money (or our development resources, rather), where our mouth is and going long on the Apple Watch. We recently launched a new version of our app for the Watch, and we are already hard at work on the next version with even more improvements. Check back in a year or two and see how we’re doing!
Jason Jacobs is founder of fitness-tracking app maker Runkeeper.
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