Apple’s latest product announcements have been some of the most anticipated in years. And rightly so. The last few Apple outings have largely been phone or OS upgrades, but no new products. This time, though, they delivered the much anticipated Apple Watch. On first viewing, it looks like the device will meet consumer expectations. The design is good, but not outstanding. Although Apple cleverly hired some key people from fashion retail last year, some commentators were not overwhelmed by the design. The watch has plenty of features and the integration into older iPhones could make it attractive to a wide audience. A key feature is the integration of Apple Pay (see below). So rather than having to get a phone (or card) out of your pocket, payments can be made simply putting your wrist against the payment terminal. That kind of frictionless experience could be the killer app for both the Apple Watch and Apple Pay.

Will the smartwatch be as ubiquitous as the smartphone thanks to Apple? Only time will tell. But in spite a number of interesting products from Pebble, Motorola, Samsung and now Apple, there are many people who would rather stick with an analogue watch. Predictions from ABI and Juniper, though pre- Apple Watch, show the potential market to be just a fraction of the smartphone one. It will be interesting to see if Apple can maintain their reputation as a game changer. For user adoption ultimately the big question is battery life (something that Apple rarely mentions). Anyone running iO7 knows you can’t get through the day without charging your phone. Will the Apple Watch improve that by reducing smartphone usage, or will it be just another device to keep charging? If it’s the later then the  Apple Watch could just be an expensive, useless gadget.

From a marketing perspective, brands are likely to see the Apple Watch as a new opportunity. However, there needs to be a word of caution. Apple described their smartwatch as their most personal device to date. That means that brands will have to take care not to alienate Apple Watch users with poorly considered intrusive campaigns.

The other significant announcement from a marketing perspective was the integration of NFC, or contactless payments along with a mobile wallet system called Apple Pay. Although NFC is in many Android phones, it hasn’t gained the traction that many people hoped. NFC in the iPhone has been much anticipated by the industry, hoping that it will drive payments forward. Significantly, Apple Pay is their bespoke payment ecosystem that includes secure online payments, NFC and Passbook. The open APIs are an important step to drive the development of mobile payments. Think of it much like the way that Apple brought developers to the App Store. The challenge though, is that the NFC system is only available in 220,000 outlets largely concentrated near Apple’s California HQ. There is a risk that a lack of retailers will lead to low user adoption.

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Mark Brill

Mark Brill

Mark Brill is senior lecturer in Future Media at Birmingham City University. He is a leading mobile and innovation strategist and has worked with a diverse range of global brands including Chevrolet, Samsung and Louis Vuitton, as well as leading advertising agencies across the WPP and Aegis groups.