At its press event on Tuesday, Apple presented new wearables and iPads. Forrester VP and Principal Analyst Julie Ask and VP and Principal Analyst Thomas Husson both share perspective on Apple’s latest developments.

From VP and Principal Analyst Julie Ask:

The following are takeaways from today’s event on the Apple Watch:

  • Apple is working hard to move beyond its core base of affluent, healthy athletes. The combination of lower price points, healthcare measurements, family programs, features that appeal to children and workouts for beginners will help them attract a broader audience.
  • Adding the ability to measure blood oxygen checks another box for Apple in marketing its Watch as a healthcare device. Apple’s accurately portrays its primary role in healthcare today as one of notifying consumers when they have an acute situation (e.g., imminent heart attack). In Forrester’s research with primary care providers and cardiologists, it hasn’t found many doctors ready to use it as a diagnostic tool except in limited scenarios (e.g., episodic situations that are hard to replicate in an office visit). Apple – like all other healthcare device manufacturers – will need the healthcare system in the United States to change along a host of dimensions including reimbursement, how providers deliver care, etc.  – before the Watch is a mass market healthcare device integrated into diagnostic-, compliance or trial scenarios.
  • Apple’s use of context gathered from sensors to create convenient, personalized experiences on the Watch continues to amaze me. These are all of the little things the Watch does whether it is lighting up when one raises a wrist or prompting users to start a workout when it detects a specific type of movement. For situations more difficult to intuit such as school hours or a profession, Apple allows users to create profiles with settings for the Watch face or usage. Apple crushes it when it comes to knowing its customers and creating highly intuitive experiences just for them (one customer at a time) while maintaining privacy. 

Apple claims the status of the number one selling watch in the world. The question: where do they go next? Here’s a few things I think they are working on:

  • Generate better insights. Better insights will depend on the combination of more first party data, aggregate data from its customer population and smart use of artificial intelligence. Machines – not humans – will create insights at scale to really move the needle on improving healthcare.
  • Drive broader adoption with even lower price points or subsidies from the healthcare ecosystem. If Apple (or its competitors) is going to change the trajectory of healthcare in the United States, smartwatch ownership must be as prevalent if not more so than smartphones. Forrester Consumer Technographic data shows that ownership of smartwatches is predominantly among health, affluent athletes. On one hand, this limits the training data available to Apple at scale. On the other, it doesn’t put watches into the hands of those who need the most care.
  • Continue to provide seamless services experiences across all of the devices in its ecosystem. Apple probably isn’t a leader as measured by number of users (hard to top Android or cross-platform services) across any one of its services including cloud storage, TV, Music, Games, Pay, etc. (Apple doesn’t release subscriber numbers for services.) Appel has three strengths though – 1) high quality services and 2) a customer base that skews affluent 3) seamless operability or use of services across each of its hardware platforms – Watch included. If a consumer wants easy or convenient (and privacy), Apple’s services are an easy choice.

From VP and Principal Analyst Thomas Husson:

Apple One will become a key pillar of Apple’s successful service strategy. By bundling many of its subscription services with an aggressive pricing, Apple is likely to reinforce loyalty and stickiness to its ecosystem.

Thanks to the launch of two new Apple Watches, Apple will broaden the reach of its wearable products and will stay way ahead Samsung and other competitors thanks to its unique ecosystem of services and partners. The affordable Apple Watch SE coupled with the new Family Setup functionality is a smart way to acquire new users and to demonstrate the fact that the Apple Watch is increasingly a standalone device, even if part of its broader ecosystem. While including a new health sensor with blood oxygen tracking, Apple is right to reinforce the positioning of its new Apple Watch Series 6 Watch as a fitness and not a medical device. Its longer-term value will come from the many strategic partnerships Apple has stroke with universities and research institutes.

With this launch Apple demonstrated once again that it excels at creating experiences that are relevant in the daily lives of its customers. The Apple Watch is also a great catalyst to pivot its strategy to services while continuing to innovate with a new product category that did not exist several years ago.

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