First, I’d have to dispute the premise of the question. If you’re directly comparing it to the demand for the iPhone, then of course it looks like the Apple Watch isn’t a success. Last year the iPhone 6S sold 13 million units in its first weekend compared to the 12m units that the Apple Watch sold in its entire first year, but you’re comparing a very established product line with not only a new product line but also an unproven category.
The Apple Watch actually sold twice as many units in its first year as the iPhone did when it launched in 2007. The question is what’s going to happen in Year 2 – can it replicate the astonishing upwards climb of the iPhone, where it was almost doubling the units sold every year? – but based on the figures we’ve seen so far it’s certainly not been a flop.
Anyway, I don’t think Apple have ever said they expected as many people to buy the Watch as the iPhone. What you really need to do is compare it to other devices in its category. It’s been critically very well received, particularly the Series 2, this year’s iteration, and it’s the bestselling smart watch. If you say, “Well, I don’t know many people who are wearing smart watches,” then you also have to consider that it’s second only to Rolex in total watch sales. So Apple has, as they’ve done throughout their history, managed to jump from industry to industry.
At the moment the smart watch isn’t necessarily a must-have piece of equipment but there’s huge potential there. Wearables like the Apple Watch are going to become much more central to our lives, and increasingly you won’t have to have your iPhone with you to get a large amount of usage from it. A wearable is going to be more about ubiquitous computing, tracking things in the background and alerting you to, for example, metrics related to your health. It’s something Apple’s been very forward-looking on, and criticising it at this stage is a little like going back and reading people criticising the original Macintoshes in 1984, saying it’s got promise but it’s underpowered. We need to see it play out before we can know how significant it’s going to be.