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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Horace Dediu on Apple Watch revenue

Horace Dediu:

From a revenue point of view, I believe next year’s fourth quarter will see the Watch generating higher revenues than the highest quarter for the iPod.

Let that sink in. Amazing. Some flop.

The Apple Watch is less obtrusive than a phone

Jeremy Keith:

I’m always shocked when I’m out and about with someone who has their phone set up to notify them of any activity—a mention on Twitter, a comment on Instagram, or worst of all, an email. The thought of receiving a notification upon receipt of an email gives me the shivers.

Me too.

I thought this might be a good time to bring this topic of notifications back up. Not only because Jeremy wrote about it but also because I now own an Apple Watch – which may seem counter intuitive to this whole distraction free discussion.

However, I’ve found the Apple Watch to be a lovely little device that can easily be set up to unobtrusively notify you of important things. In fact, I believe it is less obtrusive than an mobile phone.

I have a few notifications turned on for my phone:

  • Text messages – I get very few of these
  • Calendar reminders – I live by these
  • Dark Sky rain alerts – I like to keep dry
  • Night Sky condition and object alerts – I heart the universe

I am not notified of any social network activity or emails. Those things I dive into when I feel like it.

With this set up I feel I’m very rarely distracted by a notification. And now with the Watch, I can say I’m less distracted during a conversation with the persons in front of me physically.

Here is a scenario: you’re have a chat with someone and you get a text message alert. Your phone either makes an audible noise or it vibrates and the screen illuminates. The other person saw and/or heard the alert. So now they know your brain is wondering what that alert could be. Even if you don’t break eye contact with that other person, they know and you know you have a message waiting. With the Apple Watch I get a gentle tap on the wrist when I’ve gotten a text message. The screen does not illuminate. The other person doesn’t know I’ve gotten an alert. I’m able to stay present and check the alert when there is a break in the conversation. In this way, I think the Apple Watch is less obtrusive than a phone.

First day with Apple Watch Series 3 (audio)

Recorded on September 22, 2017.

I’ve been writing a lot about the Apple Watch Series 3. So, of course, you want to hear me yack about it. Enjoy.

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Apple Watch sales so far

Horace Dediu, doing what he does best:

Overall, about 33 million Apple Watch units have been sold since launch and they generated about $12 billion in sales. Coupled with a 95% customer satisfaction score, altogether, this has been a great success story. But only 2.5 years in, it’s still act one.

An incredible beginning for this product.

Side note: I don’t blame people for comparing the Apple Watch to, say, Rolex because Apple themselves are the ones that brought it up. But I don’t feel it is an oranges to oranges comparison. I do not view the Apple Watch as the same product as a Rolex. I have a lot more to say about this but I’ll save it for an upcoming post.

Marco Arment on needed watchOS updates

Marco Arment:

But limitations in watchOS 4 make it impossible to deliver standalone podcast playback with the basic functionality and quality that people expect.

His post focused on updates that are needed for podcast apps to make sense on watchOS.

After using the Apple Watch Series 3 while traveling for the weekend I expect to see a massive OS update from Apple in watchOS 4.1 and 4.2 to enable much more capabilities for developers through APIs. The Series 3 is not being fully tasked by the third-party apps currently. Not by a long shot.

How to save battery life on the Apple Watch Series 3

The following tips are very likely no-brainer battery saving tips for most of you and I’ve only used my Apple Watch Series 3 for a single day so feel free to completely ignore me. However! Here is my current strategy for saving battery power:

  • Only turn on Cellular when needed – If I have my phone with me or I’m home, I’m turning off cellular. If I go for a hike or a walk or a paddle, and I do not bring my phone along, I’ll flip up from the bottom of the watchface and turn on cellular in Control Center. Simple. I gain tons of battery power and I lose nothing.
  • Turn off Raise to Wake – This will be a controversial choice. I know we all want Apple to figure out how to leave the watchface on in some way, but for me the sheer number of “wakes” that the watch does compared to the actual number of times I look at it is staggering. A very, very gentle tap turns the watchface on.

By doing these two things I seem to be getting far, far better battery life than all of the reviewers thus far. And, I haven’t really lost anything in the meantime.

I’m seeing some reviews for the Apple Watch Series 3 that complain about the watch apps, such as Uber or Lyft, still relying on the iPhone app. Remember, no developers have had this watch yet. Give them 90 days and they’ll all use cellular.

Pre-Apple Watch chat (audio)

Listen to me ramble on about the Apple Watch for a few minutes.

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WatchDots

WatchDots:

Personalize the look of your Apple Watch™ Sport with WatchDots™. Available in a variety of colors, WatchDots™ are precision cut, durable and thin. This is how the Apple Watch™ Sport should look.

Personally, I have no issue with the red dot on the Series 3. We’ll see what I think once I have one in my hands.

Serenity Caldwell on Apple Watch Series 3 “LTE issues”

Serenity Caldwell:

In any case, no, this isn’t a problem with the watch’s Cellular service. It’s an existing issue that’s just suddenly become extremely relevant.

Glad to see that it is very likely going to be solved in short order. My bet is that there are a few people at Apple that are going to pull a few all-nighters to get an update to us by next week. We’ll see if I’m right.

That being said, my iPhones have all had a similar problem. If Wifi signal is weak, or is fully connected but there is no connection to the Internet through that network, then it does a terrible job switching to LTE. Perhaps this is more a bug in how Apple handles this on all of their devices. Maybe now it will get some attention.

John Gruber on Apple Watch Series 3

John Gruber:

Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular networking completely alleviates this anxiety. It is not a replacement for a phone, and is not supposed to be. But it lets you leave your phone at home when you go for a run, or in your locker while you’re at the gym, or in your hotel while you go to the beach, and not worry in the least that you’re out of touch.

I can’t remember a time I’ve been so excited to not have my phone.

Reviews are beginning to trickle in – both in text and on YouTube – and I’ve been paying close attention. The Apple Watch clearly isn’t for everyone. And cellular is for even less people. But overall, people love the watch.

Eliza has had a Series 0* since they day they came out. She wears it nearly every day, it is her only watch at this point, and she’s using it more and more as the software gets better. So Apple is definitely iterating in the proper direction. It reminds me so much of the original iPhone (even the way it is aging) I can’t even describe it.

I’ve never used an Apple Watch** but I’m excited to try one. I’ll be sure to let you know how necessary the device is once I’ve had it for a month or two.

John also mentions that he’d like to see a camera and an always-on display in an upcoming version of the Apple Watch. If there was one more feature that I could request of the Apple Watch it would be the always-on display. Perhaps a forward-facing camera for Facetime makes a lot of sense but I do not think I’d ever expect the Apple Watch to have a camera you’d take vacation photos with. Unless, of course, you’re a spy – then obviously you need the camera in the watch to take photos of Top Secret documents.

* Believe it or not, the Series 3 is actually Apple’s fourth iteration of the Apple Watch hardware. It is likely very confusing to people that don’t pay close attention to these things. The current offerings are Apple Watch Series 1, Series 3, and Series 3 with cellular. It sounds as if Series 1 is very old compared to the 3 but in reality it is only about a year old. Apple hasn’t been doing very well with names lately.

** Obviously I’ve toyed with Eliza’s. In fact, recently I’ve been putting it through its paces in the evenings learning the menus and options in preparation for when I get my Series 3. They’ve made the watch very customizable.

_DavidSmith on the Apple Watch Series 3

_DavidSmith:

While I’ll have to live with it for a few weeks to see if it really pans out, imagining a future where my iPhone is no longer a ‘must carry’ device is remarkable.

This is why I’m ordering one. As I said I would.

Wishes for Apple’s Fall Media Event

On Tuesday Apple is holding its Fall Media Event. Thanks to a rogue Apple employee, who I can only imagine is packing their personal affects as I type this, the rumor mill has been working overtime and it appears as though we “know” just about every detail one could imagine prior to this event short of Eddy Cue’s untucked shirt color.

Based on those findings it appears that most of the things I am wishing for won’t come to fruition. Fortunately, most of my wishes have to do with how Apple will market their products and less to do with the hardware itself.

However, rumors are just rumors and, no matter how well sourced things may be, all sorts of details can be inaccurate, vague or completely wrong.

So here are my wishes for Tuesday’s event.

  • The new iPhones should be called the iPhone, iPhone Plus, and iPhone Pro. Based on the iOS 11 GM leaks it appears as though I won’t get this wish – but I feel like the number-based naming is long-in-the-tooth and doesn’t fit other products that Apple sells like the iPad, MacBook, or iMac. “IPHONE X” is a terrible name.
  • The new Apple Watch with LTE should be slightly thinner. I’ve long thought the Apple Watch is slightly too thick. Though it appears the shape and size are going to be exactly the same as the previous editions of the Apple Watch.
  • Touch ID should be included in the Power Button on the side. I’m all for getting rid of the Home Button but Touch ID is far too nice to see it gone forever.
  • A new Apple TV with better remote, 4K support, and Amazon Prime Video app.
  • I’ve already described the iPhone SE I’d like to see released though this likely won’t happen until springtime.
  • And lastly, I’d like a presentation about Apple Park. It doesn’t seem like they will have enough time for much more than a short tribute to Steve Jobs in this new theater named after him – but it would be nice to have an official presentation about the new campus.

As an aside: I wonder if anyone has thought of the possibility that the iOS 11 GM leak was done on purpose by Apple for some reason? That they are making sure to set expectation regarding the Home Button and Touch ID being gone?

I’m excited for Tuesday.

Oh, and I already have a post I plan to publish on the day iOS 11 is released. So watch for that.

WWDC 2017 wish list

It has been an exciting year for developers so far. Facebook is making the camera a platform, Microsoft is making cloud computation happen with two clicks of a mouse, and Google is doing everything that everyone else is doing plus a billion more things.

WWDC is next week. So what are my wishes? Since I use Apple products far more than Facebook, Microsoft, or Google products, I tend to want more specific things from WWDC.

Here is my list, in no particular order:

  • Shared iCloud Photo Libraries. There are a few ways that Apple could do this. The simplest, in my opinion, is for me to allow access to my iCloud Photo Library to anyone in my iCloud Family Plan. All photos taken from all family members in the same library. Perhaps somehow filtered by device or person. That’s it.
  • iCloud data Family sharing. I buy 1TB for me and 50GB for Eliza. I’d like to purchase 1 set of storage for both of us and be able to share the space allotment. Not only to save the $1 per month but also to combine the accounts.
  • An all-new Mac App Store. The app store app on macOS feels incredibly dated and fragile. It doesn’t seem to work nearly as well as its iOS counterpart. This part of the OS should be rock solid and perform very well. But there are little idiosyncrasies (like how the progress bars look weird when downloading, or how the fonts look…).
  • App Store demos. If Schiller is serious about bolstering the App Stores I think it is time to bring true demos to both App Stores. I don’t have a silver bullet model (7 days, 14 days, 30 days, etc.) but I do believe this is achievable and would be a boon for app developers.
  • App slimming. Apple announced something about this a few WWDCs ago I think. And I believe it is on the developers of the apps to make their apps as small as possible. However, I think Apple can lend a hand to the most popular apps (Facebook, Uber, Twitter, Messenger, SnapChat, Instagram, etc.) and ask that they somehow combine frameworks or resources in order to shrink their apps considerably. Just think, every megabyte Apple can help slim from those apps would be hundreds of terabytes of data usage saved.
  • More Camera app filters. I use the Camera app a lot. Even with the numerous camera apps available (which I’ve likely bought dozens of and installed even more of over the last decade of having an iPhone) I usually gravitate to the camera that I can swipe to from my Lock Screen. Once and a while I’ll use a filter. Either in editing or even in shooting. Its fun. I’d like to see more added. Like, 50 more with me being able to select my top 12 somehow.
  • Apple Prime. Amazon Prime comes with a slew of things; music, movies, photo storage, free shipping, etc. etc. I’d like a one-payment Apple bundle that would give me iCloud space, iCloud Photo Library, Apple Music, Apple TV (or whatever their TV service will be if it ever happens), etc. Some “prime” membership per year that I can be all-in on Apple stuff.
  • Rename iCloud Photo Library? Perhaps it should just be called Apple Photos. If every app simply had an iCloud switch that allowed you to store / sync its data with iCloud we wouldn’t need separate names for things. The apps simply can have an iCloud feature.
  • Apple Watch Series 3. I’ve said since the beginning that the first Apple Watch I’d buy would likely be the Series 3. (Actually, I begged Apple not to make a watch at all. But, since they did, the first one I’d likely buy might be the next version.) My wish list for series 3 would be slimmer (less tall), no phone needed at all for it to function (network-connected with no additional plan), much, much faster, and easier to update/install apps. Essentially, a stand-alone device rather than an iPhone accessory.
  • Apple Photos improvements. Only a few of my wishes from May 2016 have been addressed. I would like to see Apple Photos get substantially better this year. However, Apple seems to improve things much slower than they used to. (Remember the iPad 1 to iPad 2 jump? I wish we saw more of that speed from Apple)
  • More iOS Extensions. Perhaps Apple’s purchase of Workflow won’t bear fruit so quickly, but I’d like a lot more Extensions in iOS. I often find myself limited in what I can do with a file on iOS. I think it should be much more powerful to send files from app-to-app or to a service or run a routine on it, etc. I think we’ll see that in future iOS releases.
  • Siri. I’ve nearly given up on Siri. My WWDC 2016 wish list still has Siri items on it that haven’t been addressed. Still, if Siri was 5% better I’d take it.
  • Apple Maps accuracy updates. Apple Maps has improved a lot since its debut. Its design is far better than it was and its feature set has grown too. But, for me, its accuracy is still terrible. Google Maps gets me to the correct location every single time. I can’t remember when it hasn’t. Apple Maps routinely gives me the wrong location when I ask Siri for directions somewhere. Somewhere around 75% of the time. Three out of four. This is not an exaggeration. So, I do not use it. With each update to iOS I give it another try. Then I go back to Google Maps. I don’t think Apple Maps needs any new design, or any new features, it just needs to be accurate. Side note: I was in Philadelphia with Eliza recently and we relied on Google Maps for all transportation. It was excellent at getting us around via Uber, walking, and driving. It was perfect the entire time.

I’ll stay away from any hardware wishes as I don’t have any needs currently. I’m all set on the hardware front. Our iPhones, iPads, MacBook Pro, and iMac are all just fine the way they currently are. And, I don’t need an Apple Home (if they release one) because I have enough terrible Siri devices laying around the house.

Year one of the Apple Watch

In January I wrote:

The Apple Watch could be called a flop if it sold so poorly and customer demand or interest was so low that Apple totally shelved the project. But they haven’t. I’m willing to bet they made a lot of money on the Watch so far (far more than any of their competitors in the same space). And I’m willing to bet that in 2016-2017 Apple will double down on the Watch and make some incredible improvements to every piece of it.

Today Apple releases their quarterly earnings statement and while they won’t directly comment on the number of Watches sold — or how those numbers breakdown between the different styles of watch — analysts have backed into a figure that settles in around $6 billion dollars.

Flop? From now on I am classifying anyone willing to write the word flop into a headline about the Apple Watch as a clickbait artist, scammer, or moron. You’ve been warned. No matter how you frame it; a product earning $6 billion dollars (and I’d say it is likely that even with brand-new tooling to create these devices, and the R&D done that led up to it that the Watch was still profitable year 1) in its first year is not a flop. Of course people are making comparisons to Apple’s competitors in the smartwatch space and even in the traditional watch space (which I do not feel is a fair comparison). However, Apple smashed all of them in the revenue numbers game; see: Fitbit (by 3x), Rolex.

How much better could it possibly have done?

John Gruber takes a slightly more reasoned tone:

Apple Watch can’t be neatly summarized with a one-word description like “hit” or “flop”. It has some serious, deep flaws, but it has sold well — especially considering those flaws. And the people who own one tend to really like it.

I can agree with John — that the Apple Watch isn’t a runaway hit. And I don’t mean just sales. There are some design issues with the Watch and it certainly feels like a version 1. As did the iPhone.

Me, again, in a different post in January:

My wife has an Apple Watch. I’d call her a “light user” of the Watch. She wears it every day but mainly uses it for glancing at text messages. There are a myriad of other uses but, just like the original iPhone, they are a bit too slow to be fully useful yet. You can use them but you don’t very often because they are too slow.

Speed, is an issue on the Watch. But this is going to improve by several factors with each iteration.

Here is Gizmodo’s Casey Chan on something he doesn’t like about the Apple Watch; buttons:

First, I still don’t know what the buttons do. This is ridiculous (and probably very stupid on my part) because, well, there are only two buttons, the digital crown and the side button. Most of the times, pressing the digital crown acts like an iPhone home button. But sometimes it’s a back button (like when you’re in the Favorites contact screen). It gets more confusing because you can scroll through a list with the crown but you can never select, you have to tap the screen for that to work. Most of these things you eventually figure out, but these little inconsistencies just add to the frustration of using it.

I’ve only used the Apple Watch very sparingly as I don’t own one of my own. But I can agree. I’ve never been as confused using any Apple product as I was using the Watch the first time. I remember using the Mac for the first time and every single thing I wanted to accomplish turned out to be far easier than I thought it would be. The Watch needs to get to this point too. And if Apple sticks with it — and I think they will — then I think they will improve on it.

Even with these two main issues the customer satisfaction numbers are very high. Higher than first-gen iPhone or iPad. And, anecdotally, I’ve never talked to an Apple Watch owner that didn’t like theirs.

Rumors aside I’m sure the next Apple Watch will be faster, lighter, thinner, and hopefully a bit easier to grok. If they can do that, they’ll turn the Apple Watch into a massive hit by any comparison.

Is the Apple Watch a flop?

Fred Wilson going over his predictions from last year:

The Apple Watch was a flop. This is the one I took the most heat on. So I feel a bit vindicated on this point.

No sources cited here. I have read many “the Apple Watch is a flop” pieces but none of them have convinced me of that using any data. Anecdotally, I suppose, you could look around you and count how many people you know with an Apple Watch and determine that it isn’t an overwhelming runaway hit. However, based on the shipping expectations for the Watch early on I would say it met or exceeded Apple’s own expectations for the launch. I’m also willing to bet there were a lot of Watches as presents this season.

The Apple Watch could be called a flop if it sold so poorly and customer demand or interest was so low that Apple totally shelved the project. But they haven’t. I’m willing to bet they made a lot of money on the Watch so far (far more than any of their competitors in the same space). And I’m willing to bet that in 2016-2017 Apple will double down on the Watch and make some incredible improvements to every piece of it.

My take; again, comparing it to the original iPhone. When I paid $1,200 in cash for Eliza and I to get an original iPhone many people thought I was crazy. For many months I only knew a handful of people with an iPhone. Everyone saw the iPhone and immediately wanted one but none of them wanted the first version or to pay a premium for that first version. However, here we are 8 years later and the iPhone business itself is still larger than all of Microsoft. So my take is that the launch of the Apple Watch may have only just met the expectations of Apple but didn’t meet the expectations of the press (not surprisingly).

Someone like Fred Wilson, who invests in both short term and longterm businesses and obviously does very well at doing that, should know better than to call a product a flop before having any official data.

The Apple Watch is the original iPhone

I really liked this comparison by Michael D. Shear for the New York Times and I think it is spot on.

My wife has an Apple Watch. I’d call her a “light user” of the Watch. She wears it every day but mainly uses it for glancing at text messages. There are a myriad of other uses but, just like the original iPhone, they are a bit too slow to be fully useful yet. You can use them but you don’t very often because they are too slow.

I remember the “I can’t believe I can do this even though it is slow” feeling of the latter half of 2007 with the original iPhone. When I test my wife’s Watch that is exactly how it feels. I’m amazed that I can check Dark Sky from my wrist but I’d never choose to use it on my Watch over my phone. It is way too slow. Even while kayaking I think I’d still pull out my phone. It is that slow.

Shear’s advice is the same as my own and the same advice I’ve been giving myself when I ask whether or not I should buy myself an Apple Watch:

I’m tempted to say “no” for most people. Most of what it does, your phone already does better. And the Apple Watch, even with recent sales, is pricier than competing smartwatches that do similar things. By that logic, you should wait until next year, when Apple’s relentless drive to innovate will have improved the watch’s hardware and software. Or wait until 2019, when the fifth generation of the device has unimagined new features.

I will buy an Apple Watch when they are at least 5x faster than they are now (probably two iterations) and a bit slimmer.