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The Watch Is On

I’m one of those people who doesn’t wear a watch. Ever. I own a couple — cheap ones — but I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to find out what time it is. These days, there are clocks everywhere.

My watch-wearing days pretty much ended for good when I started carrying a cellphone. Looking at my phone takes about a second or two longer than glancing at my wrist, but it was never enough to compel me that I needed both a phone and a watch. The irony of the fact that people will now buy smart watches so they don’t have to pull out their phones is not lost on me.

So despite all the promise and the “wow” factor of smart watches, this is a product that has no appeal to me. If I were a long-distance driver or road-warrior-type business traveler, I’d probably feel differently, but at 48 I’m pretty set in my ways.

That doesn’t mean I can’t see the appeal of a Pebble Steel or an Apple Watch. I get the fashion aspect. I understand the call of the new and innovative, the early-adopter mentality. I also understand the endless possibilities of health monitoring and the effect it will probably have on one’s well-being.

Most importantly, I understand what a new and innovative product category can do for the retail space. A smart watch would appear to be a perfect crossover product — a marriage of technology and fashion, fitness and function. It can be marketed in many different ways to many different users. Pricing covers every tier, from economy to ultra-luxury.

Practically every analyst agrees the buzz that Apple brings to the relatively young smart-watch market should be a major catalyst for the category. The installed base of loyal iPhone users is massive and if even a relatively low percentage of those users buy an Apple Watch, that’s still a helluva lot of Watch sales.

The real question is whether smart watches as a whole will become a mainstream phenomenon or settle in as a niche market. There are certainly signs pointing to phenomenon — like Pebble almost breaking Kickstarter with its latest offering — but there are other signs that say differently — like the disappointing performance of wearables in general in last year’s Q4 holiday season.

So the jury’s still out, but by the end of next month, when the Apple Watch becomes available, we will have some idea where the category is heading.

In this issue we take a broad view of the category, with a thorough look at the Apple Watch, as well as a roundup of some of the more compelling alternatives recently introduced. See p. 7, 8, 10 and our new Wearables section on p. 31 for everything you need to know.

For the sake of CE retailing, here’s hoping the smart watch is a booming success. Just don’t expect to see one on my wrist anytime soon.

Spring Is In The Air

Here in the Northeast, things are finally starting to thaw and I’m pleased to say that TWICE is warming up to launch our very successful VIP (Very Important Product) Awards program for the third year. This time around we are accepting “early bird” nominations, through April 15, at a discounted rate. The VIP Award winners will be announced in our Aug. 17 issue. And after this winter, August sounds pretty good to me right now. See for details.