Apple Watch: A Triumph Of Incremental Innovation


Always interested in bold new innovation, I watched with bated breath as the new Apple products were revealed this week – once again I was disappointed that Apple took the super safe, non-innovative route to simply copy their Android competitors and simply release a larger version of more or less the same thing, for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus that is. If you ask me, there is no real new ground broken here – yes, even Apple Pay – which so many people are now lauding as the “insert_payment_solution_here killer” doesn’t really innovate. Android phones have had this capacity for a while. Yes, it is now in an Apple designed product, and the start of an infrastructure is there, but innovation? I’ve been paying for things with my Galaxy S4 for years now. So, when it comes to disruptive innovation for the next iPhone – it falls flat.

Actually, I didn’t expect anything very innovative in the new iPhone – its a straight line progression of a lack of innovation from iPhone v1, on – everything has been incremental, and very slow to change. The only thing that seems to be addressed in 6 is the size – the market is clamoring for bigger phones with better displays. People were leaving Apple in droves to get those better displays, and I’m sure that this will bring them back. It’s not innovation. its a response to market. Not something Steve Jobs would have done. Remember, he was the one who famously said “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. People wanted bigger phones. So Tim Cook gave them to them.

Now on to the Apple Watch. When I first saw the watch I thought – hmm that’s cool. For about ten, fifteen minutes, I too was mesmerized by the design, the magnetic straps, all of that superficial stuff which I thought was cool. And then I took a step back and looked at it again.

The Apple Watch is simply a shrunk down iPhone subset, in almost all ways. It’s like you took an earlier rev of the iPhone, put it in a copier set to shrink, and squared it off a bit. Where are all those amazing designs with the curved screens and all sorts of cool, interesting form factors? Gone. In the Apple Watch design, we simply see a tiny iPhone. In the exact same way we see a large iPhone in the iPad. If you ask me taking something and making it bigger or making it smaller doesn’t make for innovation. You’ve taken the tried and true formula and just re-sized it.

So you say – ok maybe the hardware form factor is not too exciting, What about the dial? What about the button? The original iPod had a dial, as do watches, so this has a dial. The iPhone has a button, so this has a button. It’s not mind-blowing new design, its just an extension of what they have already done. Where is the truly new, ground breaking stuff which hit the market with the first iPhone? Nowhere to be found. Apple is now a very safe player in the space, and they don’t feel that they need to bring any more disruptive innovation to the table.

Let move to the software. Some of the demos did not look too exciting, sure you have a million beautifully designed clock faces. Great. Some of the apps which apply to that are great. But the photo viewing app, as confused jumble of your pictures which you have to zoom into to really see – what the heck it that? Seemed junked in at the last minute, and maybe it was.

Finally, lets go back over my “3 Things The Apple iWatch Must Be” to see if they fulfilled their promises:

  1. Fantastically designed. This one is a tough one – there are those who feel that anything Apple produces is amazing, no questions asked. Its true that this is a really nice and refined design, but I wouldn’t say “fantastically” designed. Maybe well designed. So I give this a half point.
  2. Amazingly useful: This one they got right – its got a full suite of all sorts of sensors, the first real multipurpose wearable. Full point here.
  3. Standalone. Nope. Its not going to replace your iPhone. But like all of the Android Wear, its not meant to. So zero points there.

So is it innovative? I give is 1.5 points out of 3, so partially. That won’t stop droves of loyal Apple fan boys and girls from buying one and adding oh, probably about another $300B to Apple’s valuation. Is this the triumph of incremental innovation?