After years of speculation, Apple has finally unveiled its entry into the wearables market. While the Apple Watch does not bring a great deal of new functionality to the market that hasn’t already been available from rivals, it does bring Apple into the wearables market. Given the power and reach of the company and the strength of its brand this cannot be underestimated. Apple has a long history of making existing technologies appeal to a far wider audience and going on to make its offering synonymous with the wider market. Given health and fitness tracking capabilities in the new device, what will be the impact on the existing market?
With the launch of HealthBook in March this year and the ability for the watch to monitor heart rate and activity, there is no doubt that the device competes as a health and fitness monitor. When it comes to the physical parameters measured by the watch the device starts to look more like an also ran. Samsung’s Gear smartwatch has heart rate monitoring capabilities and was launched at the start of the year, Motorola’s 360 has the same capability and is set to start shipping ahead of the early 2015 date set for the Apple watch. A host of other smart watches have the ability to track activity and/or connect to wearables that enable heart rate.
What remains to be seen is how Apple will collect, present and leverage the data that its smartwatch customers bring to it.
For wearable sports and fitness products that have thrived on that relationship such as Nike+, MisFit , FitBit and others, Apple's entry into the market is clearly a major event and they will need to establish how much they want to compete and how much they want to extend on Apple's offerings.
A key factor now will be how Apple intends to control and present the data its watch users collect. The watch, unlike many of the wearable health and fitness devices out there, is tied to iOS only. Integration with Apple Healthbook is clearly part of a wider play to leverage the data the watch collects. Data management, presentation and access is the long term play in the wearable health and fitness market. Now Apple is competing with wearable device companies, rival players will be some tough decisions to make regarding sharing their device data with Apple and its platforms. Further out it will be about how Apple leverages all the data it collects.
The new watch brings Apple into health and fitness wearables which is a major step in the development of the market, rivals and partners alike will have to develop their own responses but it shouldn’t just be hardware players that should be concerned.