The Apple Watch: This Watch Tells Time (& Just Might Save Your Life)
Initially panned by critics, the Apple Watch has become a Swiss Army Knife for personal health data & a lifeline for seniors.
When it first came out, tech pundits panned the Apple Watch as an overpriced gimmick in search of a market. It featured apps that were already available on the iPhone — but with a tiny touchscreen that made them harder to use. Why spend $400 for essentially the same product, but built with a form-factor that’s less user friendly?
Less than a year after its release in 2015, Business Insider was among several tech zines ready to completely write-off the Apple Watch as a failure, saying:
“Apple hasn’t revealed specific sales figures for the Apple Watch since its launch in April….However, analytics firm Slice Intelligence has pulled together some data that claims to give us an idea of what sales have been like over the past few months…..And it doesn’t look good.”
That’s old news: fast-forward a couple of years, and Apple Shipped More Watches Than Switzerland in Q4 2017. Those are good numbers, but in my opinion, even that’s not what makes the Apple Watch a winner.
What Apple is pioneering with the Watch is really a mass-produced biomedical device that just keeps getting better & better at tracking vital health data — and not only does it track data, but analyzes & acts on it, and its bag of tricks keeps getting bigger.
It keeps tabs on exercise, tracks the female menstrual cycle, alerts you of ear-damaging sound levels, has an electrocardiogram that can detect heart arrhythmia, and can tell if the wearer suddenly slips & falls down — and automatically call emergency services if required.
Within the space of four short years, Business Insider had gone from being a critic to praising the device, in “A Texas man says his Apple Watch saved his life by detecting problems with his heartbeat” — which describes how 79 year old Ray Emerson’s Apple Watch alerted him to atrial fibrillation.
The same story quoted cardiac surgeon Jason Zagrodzky as saying, “I would say probably at least once or twice a week someone comes to me solely because their watch said, hey, you’ve got a serious problem”, and went on to discuss how James Prudenciano’s Apple Watch called 911 after he fell off a cliff, suffering 3 fractures in his back while hiking.
The Apple Watch isn’t a failure —it was just ahead of its time. Rather than being an add-on gimmick to complement your iPhone, its evolved into being a personal health management platform that also tells time in the same way Apple transformed the iPhone evolved into a personal communications & data platform that also makes phone calls.
Apple’s Hidden Demographic: Seniors
While Apple is marketing the Watch primarily as a fitness tool for active adults, a key application for this device is for monitoring the health & safety of the 74.9 million Baby Boomers ages 51–69 — and despite Apple’s propensity for showcasing fit, young triathletes during the annual September Event, it’s seniors that may end up as the largest market of buyers over the next decade.
In 10 years the boomers will be between 60 and 80 years old, and they’re going to drive massive demand for wearable health devices to monitor diabetes, heart disease, COPD, stroke risk, etc. They will want devices that can measure, track, predict, and automatically communicate with their doctor and/or call emergency services, because elderly boomers will want to remain independent as long as possible, and will pay for assistive technologies.
It’s obvious that Apple is paying close attention to the elderly demographic with the inclusion of features such as fall-detection, automated 911 dialing, and heart monitoring for atrial fibrillation & cardiac arrythmia — which are product features far more suited to the elderly boomer market than the younger fitness tracking buyer.
Washington Post columnist Geoffrey Fowler recently addressed the Apple Watch’s fit with the senior market in, “The Apple Watch faces its toughest challenge yet: Grandma and Grandpa”, which focused on the abilities of the Apple Watch to help the elderly remain independent:
“You won’t see Apple say ‘senior citizen’ in ads — yet suddenly, grandmothers and abuelas, not to mention opas and yeyes, are thinking about getting one. Adult children looking to keep parents safe are curious, too….What I learned from my elders is that the Apple Watch has lots to offer seniors not deterred by a $400 starting price.”
As the Post article alluded to, Apple isn’t calling out seniors, it’s just positioning the Watch to serve them. This isn’t LifeAlert: it’s better — and more importantly, it’s dignified. This is a fact that obviously hasn’t been lost on Apple, nor on App developers like Yishai Knobel, the HelpAround, co-founder, and CEO HelpAround of who told Lifewire:
“Parents and grandparents really need a way to reach their caregivers when in distress, but are resistant to the idea of wearing a device that screams, ‘I might need help!’” We created Alert for Apple Watch to give our aging population a convenient and accessible way to reach their loved ones in times of need that seamlessly fits in with their everyday lives.”
Four years ago, the critics were ready to dismiss the Apple Watch as a gimmick in search of a market — but Apple proved them wrong, but changing their focus from communications to personal health data, and making the Apple Watch a must-have tool for people with heart & sleep issues, fitness routines, and emergency services needs.
As they say, “This Watch Tells Time”, and in addition to that it’s becoming an invaluable fitness ally & silent guardian of health for people of all ages, as well as being a lifeline to safety for seniors seeking to stay independent in a dignified manner.