- Hollis Johnson
- Apple has used the “Pro” name for its Mac products, iPads, and more recently the iPhone and iPad. Now, it may be time for it to make an Apple Watch Pro as well.
- Some of the newer features to have debuted on the Apple Watch in recent years, while innovative, target specific use cases and may not be worth the premium price for shoppers that just want to see notifications on their wrist or measure activity.
- With this in mind, it may make sense for Apple to launch a “Pro” version of the Apple Watch, much like it’s done for the iPhone, AirPods, and its other popular products.
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It’s no secret that Apple’s product lineup has grown larger, more diverse, and increasingly complex in recent years. It now sells four different types of iPhones and iPads, offers three different buying options for AirPods, and sells the Apple Watch in five different flavors.
Apple distinguishes many of its products from one another by branding certain versions as “Pro” models, which are typically more expensive and come with a few extra features that are missing from the regular version. For the iPhone, it’s an extra telephoto camera and more contrast-friendly OLED screen that separates the iPhone 11 Pro from the iPhone 11, for instance. For AirPods, it’s active noise cancellation and multiple ear tips.
Apple has used the “Pro” name for its MacBook, Mac, and iPad gadgets for years, but only brought this branding to the iPhone and AirPods in 2019. That makes the Apple Watch one of the few Apple products without a “Pro” option.
And perhaps it’s time for that to change. Here’s why:
Newer Apple Watch features push the category forward, but aren’t as necessary to the overall experience compared to older upgrades.
- Business Insider/Lisa Eadicicco
The Apple Watch has steadily grown to become one of the company’s most important products, helping skyrocket the Cupertino-based tech giant to become the market leader in wearable technology. The company has unveiled a new model every September since 2014, when the first version made its public debut before launching in spring 2015.
Early versions brought crucial upgrades that boosted the value proposition of owning a smartwatch in the first place, like better performance and support for cellular connectivity. But while more recent models offer impressive technologies that have turned the Apple Watch into a more comprehensive health monitoring device, such features aren’t necessarily critical to the overall Apple Watch experience. That’s especially true considering several of the Apple Watch’s most important new features are pushed through software updates and don’t depend on the latest hardware.
The second generation Apple Watch, for instance, included several meaningful improvements over the first, such as water resistance and the inclusion of integrated GPS – two features that were substantial in establishing the Apple Watch as a viable fitness tracker that could compete with offerings from companies like Garmin and Fitbit. And the Apple Watch Series 3 that launched in 2017 brought cellular connectivity to the device, a capability that made the watch significantly more independent of your iPhone.
But as the smartwatch market has matured, the Apple Watch’s progression has started to feel different. Some new features feel minor, like the Series 5’s compass, while others are significant but only immediately useful under specific circumstances for targeted use cases.
Take the Apple Watch Series 4, for example, which was released in 2018 and started at $400. That release marked a milestone for the Apple Watch since it introduced more sophisticated health-oriented features that made it more than just a fitness tracker. The Series 4 was the first model capable of capturing an electrocardiogram, making it possible to use the watch to detect atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat. It also comes with a feature that offers the option to dial emergency services straight from the watch when it understands that the wearer has taken a hard fall.
Both capabilities are undoubtedly useful for those who need them. But potential buyers who just want an Apple Watch for viewing notifications on their wrist and measuring steps and activity would probably be happy to pay less for an Apple Watch with a standard heart-rate monitor. Apple could easily launch a “Pro” model that includes these more specialized features alongside a standard version with simpler capabilities.
A similar statement could be made about the $400 Series 5, which has many of the same features as the Series 4 but with an always-on display and a compass. The former enables the screen to show the time and other information even when the display isn’t activated, while the latter allows for more precise location tracking.
Again, while these additions are appreciated and certainly make Apple’s smartwatch better, I’m still able to get the biggest benefits the Apple Watch has to offer without them. I don’t need these features to see if I’ve closed my Activity Rings for the day, or to view the text message I received while my phone has been tucked away in my bag. I don’t need them to see the latest headlines from Apple News on my wrist.
And apparently I’m not alone in how I use my Apple Watch. When it comes to smartwatch functions that wearers use daily, notifications and text alerts, activity tracking, and news updates topped the list, according to a 2017 survey from market research firm NPD Group.
That’s not to say features like ECG monitoring, fall detection, and always-on display technology aren’t useful and innovative. They are, but the experience of using an Apple Watch wouldn’t necessarily be hampered without them either. Some may argue that the same can be said for the earlier versions of the Apple Watch, but some of those advancements – like cellular connectivity support – at least helped answer the question as to why you may want to purchase a smartwatch in the first place.
The Apple Watch Series 3 presents the best case yet for a standard and “Pro” Apple Watch.
- Hollis Johnson
Perhaps the Apple Watch Series 3 is the biggest case to be made that there’s an audience for a lower-cost Apple Watch that doesn’t have all of the bells and whistles of the latest model.
The Series 3, which Apple still sells alongside the Series 5 for $200, offers similar performance when it comes to running apps and can handle almost any task the Series 5 can – except for taking an ECG, measuring a hard fall, and showing information on the watch’s screen even when the display is turned off. Other important new features, like the ability to download apps to the watch straight from your wrist without turning to your iPhone and monitoring activity trends over time, also launched on the Series 3 through software updates.
Apple doesn’t break out specific sales figures for the Apple Watch, so it’s difficult to tell exactly how well the Apple Watch Series 3 is currently selling alongside the Series 5. But the International Data Corporation did cite the Series 3 as a driver of Apple’s growth in the wearables space in the third quarter of 2019, saying that the price reduction it implemented following the Series 5’s launch helped to boost Apple’s leadership position in the industry.
It’s possible that the wearables market is starting to reach a turning point much like the smartphone industry, even though it’s not as mature as the mobile phone space. That’s to say that smartwatches have seemingly become so advanced that it’s become more difficult to differentiate newer models from the last.
One way some tech companies have addressed this in the smartphone market has been by launching cheaper versions of their flagship phones that offer many of the same features at a lower price. This has seemingly worked for Apple with the iPhone so far; the cheaper iPhone 11, and more premium 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, made up 20% of Apple’s third quarter sales, says Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.
It could be time, then, for Apple to position its smartwatch lineup the same way by dividing them into Pro and standard versions.