Apple Watch Optimism

Despite a recent report of a major decrease in Apple Watch sales this year, I’m still very optimistic about the future of Apple’s wearable. The company introduced new models last month, the Series 1 and Series 2, alongside watchOS 3. And a key feature of the new OS is what I believe to be the real killer app for the Apple Watch.

On Monday, IDC reported that sales of smartwatches in third-quarter 2016 were down 51% from the same quarter in 2015. What has more people concerned, though, is that Apple Watch sales were down 71%. But this shouldn’t be alarming. Remember, the original Apple Watch shipped on April 24, 2015 while the Series 1 and 2 didn’t ship until September 16, 2016.

IDC is comparing Q3 2015 to Q3 2016 — the first full quarter with widespread availability of the original Apple Watch and a quarter that included just two weeks of sales from the Series 1 and Series 2. Products naturally have a large spike of sales at launch that slowly dwindles until they’re either discontinued or replaced by a successor. This is what I’d attribute the 71% sales drop to.

I have no reason to refute IDC’s numbers, but I think they’re painting an inaccurate picture of Apple’s success with the Watch. If Apple sells less Watch’s in the first full quarter after the Series 1 and 2 introduction than they did after the original Watch’s introduction, that’s when you should start to worry. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.

The Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2 are tremendous products and both of them have important roles in Apple’s lineup. The Series 1 serves as a low-cost introductory device — $80 cheaper than the original — that will help Apple increase the size of their customer base. The Series 2 includes GPS, which is a must-have feature for many runners.

But not only is Apple offering much better hardware, they’ve also fixed a lot of the software problems with watchOS 3. Faster app launching, more robust messaging, and Breathe contribute to a better overall experience for Watch owners. And then there’s the device’s new killer app — Activity Sharing.

It may have taken me a month to realize it, but Activity Sharing is the most important new feature in watchOS 3. It compels me to wear my Watch.

Before watchOS 3, I wore my Watch everyday in an effort to close my Activity rings. But it was always just for me. I would launch the Activity app on my iPhone and see all those closed rings — it was neat. But who would even know if I took it easy one day and missed all of my rings?

Activity Sharing is important because it brings accountability to the fitness features. I’m not just filling my rings because it makes the Activity app’s calendar view look neat, I’m filling my rings to keep up with my friends and allow myself a little bit of bragging rights.

Because of Activity Sharing, the first thing I do when I wake up is put on my Watch and the last thing I do for the day is place it on the charger. I don’t want my Watch to miss a single step. That little bit of extra time on my wrist could be the difference maker that puts me ahead of my friends in the Activity app’s Sharing tab.

I also think Activity Sharing has an additional benefit to Apple that might not be immediately apparent. Apple Watch owners now have a really good reason to encourage their friends and family to buy one for themselves. Because once you have a couple of friends to share your Activity with, you want to share with everyone you know.

And again, the new hardware and these compelling software features didn’t launch until about two weeks before the end of Q3. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think the Apple Watch is going to sell incredibly well this holiday season. A 71% sales drop might sound terrifying to Apple Watch enthusiasts, but taken in context, I think there’s still plenty to be optimistic about.