The Apple Watch is the single most successful watch globally, with a 55% market share. In 2020, Apple Watch sales beat the entire Swiss watch industry, which points to its spectacular success. Apple sold an astounding 31 million units while all the Swiss brands combined sold only 21 million.
This is especially interesting given that the Apple Watch did not immediately see success. It hardly had any takers when it was initially launched in 2015. What changed in half a decade to make it a must-have wearable? Let’s find out by looking at a brief history of Apple Watch models.
Evolution of the Apple Watch
The Apple Watch was the first new product line launched by Tim Cook. When he finally unveiled it in April 2015, it ushered in a new era for the tech behemoth as it stepped into the then-fledgling smartwatch/wearables market.
The purpose of the Apple Watch was to help free people from their iPhones while still giving them a way to stay connected to the important stuff they need in this digital age. It was poised to be a device that couldn’t be used for hours at a time like smartphones are.
Instead, it would filter out the noise and only serve you essential information. This was a revolutionary step forward because Apple had till then spent three decades pioneering devices aimed at holding our attention for as long as possible.
Therefore, right from the outset, the Apple Watch was conceptualized as a device that would help us stay connected in less invasive ways than our smartphones do. Since then, each iteration has increased the focus on improving health and wellness. Let’s look at the changes over the years:
2015: Apple Watch Series 1 – A game-changer
The Apple Watch broke away from the company’s usual practice of offering a narrow range of product options. Instead, the first Apple Watch had three very different variants: Sport, Watch, and Edition.
Although the aluminum $349 Sport performed precisely the same functions as the premium $17,000 Edition made of 18-carat gold, they were very different products targeted at distinct users.
Apple took cues from the watch industry to offer personalization and options for a wide range of tastes and budgets. Thus, it offered different sizes, materials, bands, and internal customization through watch faces and complications.
Fun fact: If you’ve ever wondered why the widgets on the Apple Watch are called “complications,” it’s a term used in high-end watchmaking that refers to the functions a watch performs beyond telling the hour and minute.
All three variants came in both 38mm and 42mm sizes with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capabilities. Features included a digital crown, digital touch, force touch, multi-touch, and a side button. It also had a heart rate sensor and was, of course, designed to integrate with iOS.
The other features were either Apple-specific, such as Siri, FaceTime, etc. or specially designed for functionality. The latter included an email reader (Read Mail), a GPS-directed travel buddy (Transit), and health and fitness trackers.
However, these features could consume the watch’s battery pretty quickly, which defeated the purpose. Although it was possible to set the Apple Watch to basic watch mode when charging, it interrupted your fitness tracking, disrupting the user experience.
Another issue with the Apple Watch that prevails to date is its dependence on maintaining a reliable connection with the paired iPhone. This led to the assumption that the watch was an unnecessary extra device if you had to carry your iPhone around with you anyway.
2016: Apple Watch Series 2 – Hello, GPS!
The 2016 version of the Apple Watch came with some key improvements. Perhaps the most important was the addition of GPS, which means you could use it for navigation even when you didn’t have your iPhone with you.
While the fitness tracking features remained the same, the second-generation Apple Watch was also water-resistant up to 50 meters, so you could wear it while swimming. It also had a brighter display and a faster processor. Unfortunately, the short battery life prevailed.
2017: Apple Watch Series 3 – Third time’s a charm
2017 was the year that Apple Watch finally took off in popularity and cemented its place as more than just an iPhone add-on. The Series 3 is the oldest Apple Watch (still in production in 2021 and available at various price points).
It was a considerable step forward from the Series 2 with the faster Apple S3 processor, updated Bluetooth connectivity, more RAM, and a Siri that can speak (like on the iPhone), not just respond to commands.
Moreover, it comes in two models, one with GPS and cellular, and one with GPS. Both have a barometric altimeter to provide even greater navigation capabilities. The cellular version can also make phone calls if the watch is on the same phone plan as an iPhone.
2018: Apple Watch Series 4 – Winning hearts
September 2018 gave us the Apple Watch Series 4 in various styles with different materials, straps, and sizes. For instance, you could get a 40mm gray aluminum case with a matching strap or opt for something bigger and brighter with a 44mm gold case and pink strap.
In addition to the customizable exterior, you would get a powerful 64-bit Dual-Core processor chip on the inside. This significantly upped the speed and smoothness of the watchOS, making it capable of running more sophisticated apps. This improved functionality furthered Apple Watch’s position as a necessary device rather than just a superfluous accessory.
Other improvements in the Apple Watch 4 included better Bluetooth, enhanced movement and location meters (including a gyroscope, accelerometer, and altimeter), and more advanced health and fitness tracking. It introduced fall detection, a potentially life-saving function for older adults.
The highlight was the heart-monitoring tech that included electrocardiogram testing, known as ECG. Typically, such electrocardiograms are done in hospitals with the use of a ten pad electrical node. The Apple Watch achieves it using a single-lead node, offering critical health data.
This ECG app has also been supported, albeit not endorsed by the American Heart Association because it can potentially speed up the diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions and forewarn cardiac emergencies.
2019: Apple Watch Series 5 – Always-on display
The highlight of the Apple Watch Series 5 was its always-on display. It didn’t have any other significant changes. The always-on display allowed you to flaunt the watch face and complications you customized. Although the battery life was an issue, it could be conserved because the display would automatically tune down to an ambient setting when you weren’t looking at it.
Available in two sizes, 40 mm and 44 mm, ceramic and titanium cases were nee additions to the aluminum and stainless steel options.
2020: Apple Watch Series 6 – Health takes center stage
Currently, the latest Apple Watch, Series 6, is the ultimate smartwatch for a healthy life. It’s available in stainless steel, titanium, and 100% recycled aluminum with an always-on retina display. It’s water-resistant up to 165 feet and also includes a blood oxygen monitor.
Apple Watch SE – Pocket-friendly
The Apple Watch SE, launched alongside the Apple Watch Series 6, boasted similar features at an affordable price. It’s equipped with an S5 chipset, whereas the Series 6 comes with the latest S6 chipset.
Apart from this, it misses out on the always-on display, ECG, and blood oxygen monitor. But this does not stop it from being one of the best wearables you can get, especially for fitness tracking. Further, the single-loop silicon or braided yarn bands add a contemporary look.
You don’t need it, but you want it!
Apple Watch’s success over the past six years has quashed all doubts about its inherent utility. But it’s fair to say that it’s not a piece of tech that anyone necessarily needs. However, like other Apple products, it lures you in with the superior experience it offers.
Most, if not all, tech lovers and Apple users covet this product for the way it enhances your lifestyle while reducing your dependence on your iPhone when out and about.
One of the most beloved features is the haptic touch which uses gentle taps and vibrations on your wrist to keep you informed about everything from incoming calls and messages to reminders, health alerts, and more.
Moreover, aesthetics have a lot to do with the appeal. Even back in 2015, the Apple Watch was miles ahead of similar wearables. Further, the interchangeable watch band system plus internal customization make it a truly personal device.
What’s more? There have been several instances when the Apple Watch has saved people’s lives.
How Apple Watch saved people’s lives?
For instance, in March 2021, William Rogers of Somersworth, New Hampshire, was saved from drowning when he dialed 911 from his Apple Watch after falling through the ice.
Similarly, in February 2021, 58-year-old Bob March credited his Apple Watch for saving his life when it showed erratic heart readings with highs as much as 127 beats per minute (BPM) and resting below 60 BPM. He was diagnosed with arrhythmia, a heart condition that required him to undergo surgery. The timely diagnosis thanks to the Apple Watch helped fend off Bob’s risk of cardiac arrest or stroke.
What’s next for the Apple Watch?
Apple did not invent the smartwatch, yet it has become synonymous with the device in six short years. That goes to show how game-changing the Apple Watch has been.
Although the first generation did not see instant success, it paved the way for the current iteration, which is faster, slimmer, brighter, and of course, smarter. Moreover, the watch is Apple’s contribution to healthcare, considering how it has helped save multiple lives.
It’s expected that the upcoming Apple Watch 7 will probably see more health features, particularly related to mental health. For instance, it may warn you if you’re about to have a panic attack. For more information, check out our post on upcoming Apple products.
So, while there’s plenty of competition in the sector, the Apple Watch stands in a league of its own thanks to deep integration with iOS and features that are difficult to beat. Little is known about what the next Apple Watch might bring, but it’s sure to lead the way when it comes to helping you take charge of your health, fitness, and overall life right from your wrist.
The watch has become a value-added extension of your primary device that strikes the sweet balance between keeping you connected while helping you focus on what’s most important. This is bound to keep attracting iPhone users as the watch gets even more sophisticated in the years to come.
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