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Apple Watch vs. Google Glass: 5 Reasons Why Apple Watch Wins

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Apple Watch vs. Google Glass: 5 Reasons Why Apple Watch Wins

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Written by Lars Kamp for Crittercism.


There are a lot of opinions floating around as to if the Apple Watch will succeed or disappoint. The last wearable launched with such fanfare was Google Glass, which paved the way for wider awareness about wearables, but ultimately failed as a consumer product.

At Crittercism, we think the Watch has a good shot of becoming a wrist mainstay and not going the way of Glass – and we’ve got five reasons to back up our belief.

1. Apple made sure to have great product positioning.

Google Glass was awkward from the start (the least of which was simply based on the look of the product). Glass launched as a product made by geeks for geeks, a techie totem that lacked the usability and features required for wider consumer adoption. The in-your-face nature of Glass caused strong, even violent reactions across the culture, making it anything but a fashion item.

Apple Watch is positioned differently: a consumer fashion item from the start. It comes in three different models for a total of 38 SKUs, based on different sizes, materials, colors and accessories, catering to people’s desire for individuality and self-expression, compared to Glass’ single SKU.

Launching Glass with a Google Hangout connected to a team of four skydivers was certainly cool, but the audience with those aspirations is likely orders of magnitude smaller than the number of people who can relate to Christy Turlington sharing her personal journey in using Watch while in preparation for a marathon she’s running to raise awareness for her non-profit, Every Mother Counts.

In 2013, Apple also hired an executive with experience in marketing and selling high end fashion: Paul Deneve, the former CEO of Saint Laurent.

 2. They priced the Apple Watch appropriately for the market.

Google launched Glass at a $1,500 price point as part of their explorer program. That’s a single, 4-digit price point in a time when smartphones and tablets cost anywhere between $100 and $1,000.

Compare that to Apple’s pricing matrix for the Watch, which starts at $349 and goes all the way to $17,000. What’s new here, compared to pricing for iPods, iPhone, iPads, Macs, etc, is that Apple is pricing not on functionality, but on materials. As Horace Dediu writes, Apple is “leveraging existing perceptions of value for materials and using them to capture profits for an otherwise purely functional product.”

With this pricing structure and variety of models comes one conclusion: Apple has a Watch for everybody.

3. Apple developed an exquisite, well-rounded ecosystem for the Watch to live in.

Google Glass was developed as an alternative to your smartphone, but didn’t require much in the way of new software.

Apple Watch, on the other hand, is capitalizing on new use cases. Kevin Lynch, who has overseen the development of Watch, announced that there are already more than 50 Beautifully Designed Apple Watch Apps from well-known consumer brands such as Nike, eBay, Citi and American Airlines. In doing this, a wide set of industry verticals are covered, featuring different uses cases such as finding your airport gate (notifications), unlocking hotel doors (NFC), tracking workout distances (GPS), and dictation (Siri).

Some companies are even adjusting the way they provide their products. For example, The New York Times is rolling out one-sentence stories just for Apple Watch. These use cases make sense to the consumer, and they build on the existing App Store economy – which generated $4.8B alone in the December quarter - giving developers a monetary incentive to dedicate time and effort to Watch.

4. They have a solid, on the ground distribution plan already in place.

Google sold Glass through a website, and even with the $1,500 price tag, a potential buyer couldn’t even try on a pair in real life. (And this wasn’t quite like the Warby Parker set up of try a few styles, send ‘em all back).

Apple will of course sell the Watch online, but with their retail stores, Apple stands a much better chance to sell Watch – and they’ve done their homework. Apple hiredAngela Ahrendts from Burberry, and Patrick Pruniaux from luxury watch maker TAG Heuer, to make sure Apple Store visitors will have a the right retail experience when shopping, going as far as providing fashion advice, and emphasizing style over function. In fact, we’re hearing about “magical display tables and demo loops” based on high end selling experiences.

Why does retail matter? Conversion rates between online and retail differ by an order of magnitude. Directionally, you stand a roughly 2% chance of converting a digital / ecommerce visitor to a sale, whereas for brick & mortar retail it’s approximately 20% once a customer has walked into a store.

Consider this quick calculation. For fiscal year 2014, Apple reported 437 retail stores (it’s 447 by now, with another 15 stores due to open by October), hosting 18,000 visitors per store per week. Apple’s fiscal year 2015 ends on September 26 – that’s a full 22 weeks from the launch of Apple Watch. Assuming an average of 450 stores for that period, that means Apple will see a total of 450 * 18,000 * 22 = 178.2M visitors – providing enough opportunity to sell millions of Watches through the end of fiscal 2015 in a well-crafted retail experience.

5. Before development, key strategies were already in place.

We know Tim Cook must have looked closely at Google Glass. It’s safe to assume he learned quite a bit from the shortcomings of Glass and put those lessons to use for the underlying structure of a good strategy:

  • A diagnosis that explains the challenge.

  • A guiding policy to address the challenges.

  • Coherent actions to support the accomplishment of the guiding policies.

  • In 2013, Cook knew very well that the wearables would be the next platform, however he correctly predicted the social issue that “glasses were not a smart move, from a point of view that people would not really want to wear them.” Rather, Cook thought the place to start would be “on the wrist.”

    He also realized that wearables would be more considered a fashion item, requiring a different type of approach of marketing and selling than traditional consumer technology products (big launch, front-loaded advertising, push product into the channel). The guiding policy could be summarized as “build a product with mass appeal that a wide variety of people will want to wear.”

    Apple then took a number of coherent actions, such as forming a dedicated engineering team, hiring new key execs across engineering, marketing, retail and sales with Lynch, Deneve, Ahrendts, Pruniaux, forming an ecosystem of apps ahead of launch, and marketing Watch as a lifestyle & fashion object vs. another gadget.

    6. Bonus Reason! It doesn’t pay to be a first mover.

    In tech, it doesn’t necessarily pay to be the first mover. Apple Watch launches a full two years after Google Glass – an eternity in technology. The two more years are giving the silicon in both iPhone and Apple Watch ~4x the computing power compared to Glass, enabling more powerful experiences.

    Yep. We feel pretty strongly that the Watch is going to work out in Apple’s favor.

    Apple Watch vs Google Glass


    Editor's note: Do you agree? Will you be first in line to get an Apple Watch? Start the discussion below.

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