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Apple has finally entered the wearables race, dropping the “i” and going with just “Apple Watch.” The wearables category has been emerging as of late, but with Apple in the race we’re likely to see that growth accelerate significantly. Canalys predicts that total wearable band shipments will exceed 43 million in 2015. With shipments for 2014 already on course to reach 25 million, my view is that this is an underestimation. Many of us may be asking ourselves, “do we really want a smart watch?” I’m not really sure myself. I remember that the iPad release was met with quite a bit of mockery, until the naysayers were silenced by astonishing sales figures in the following years. As iPad brought validation to tablets for a broader market, Apple Watch could do the same for smart bands.
That is not to say, however, that Apple will dominate. When the first iPad was released, formidable competition was almost nonexistent. This time it is different. Pebble, Sony, Samsung and others have already moved in with products that are essentially “just as good.” The introduction of the Apple Watch will not only drive Apple’s sales, but also the sales of its competitors.
If the Apple Watch does bring wearables mainstream, then we arguably have the first entirely new use case since the smartphone. The implications of this are still opaque, but we can draw parallels from the introduction of the smartphone. What could not have existed without smartphone proliferation? Could Uber have existed? Could Instagram have existed? Could Whatapp or Line or WeChat have existed? I think an important component of predicting where wearables can take us is to not limit ourselves by calling it a “Watch.” We need to break down its features to unearth the potential beneath. For smartphones, GPS = Uber, Camera = Instagram, Portable Internet Access = Whatsapp/Line/Wechat. The opportunities in smart bands could involve gestures, heart rate monitoring, new interfaces, or something entirely different. We are just scratching the surface of how wearables could transform our landscape.