Views about what Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s yet-to-be-seen iWatch vary quite widely depending on who you ask. Some believe it will be just a niche product that won’t sell all that well, while others think it will play a bigger role in the bigger Apple story. But no matter which end of the spectrum people are on, they all tend to agree that the iWatch will have some big-time health applications.
A job for the iWatch
In a report dated July 1, 2014, UBS analysts Steven Milunovich and Peter Christiansen said that Apple has such a slim product line that it can’t afford to turn out products that aren’t a success. It must get things right the very first time, so it tends to wait a bit rather than being the first to bring something to market. The analysts said Apple just “waits for the technology to mature.”
They also noted that Apple tends to focus on products that are designed for a specific job. The company begins by identifying a specific job consumers would “‘hire’ a product” for and then look for an “elegant” solution. They think health tracking, especially offering encouragement for wellness rather than treatment for a disease, would be a good job for the rumored iWatch.
iWatch for voice messaging
The UBS team suggests that voice messaging might be another potential job for the iWatch. Apple showed off voice messaging capabilities for iMessage in iOS 8 at its Worldwide Developers’ Conference (WWDC) last month. Currently with iOS 7, users can dictate messages, although they are both sent and received as text messages. However, with iOS 8, users press a new microphone button to record a message and then swipe the screen to send it.
The UBS analysts said Apple CEO Tim Cook found that smartphone users in China walk down the street speaking into their phones to send voice messages instead of text messages. They believe that putting this capability into the iWatch is a good idea because it is much easier to send a voice message through a device that’s strapped onto the wrist rather than through a smartphone that the user must pull out of their pocket. In addition, Apple could be trying to gain more traction in China. Winning China would essentially be like hitting the jackpot for Apple.
How many iWatches can Apple sell?
Milunovich and Christiansen point out that buying a smart watch involves a different sort of decision than upgrading or even switching to a smartphone. They say phones have basically become a necessity because “everyone has one.” However, buying a wearable device like the iWatch is a choice of whether not to buy it rather than simply which brand to buy.
The UBS analysts have set conservative estimates for the iWatch. They expect the unit ramp to be similar to that of the iPad, at 21 million units in the 2015 fiscal year and 36 million units the following year. They’re projecting an average selling price of $300.
They note that some analysts are expecting 40 million to 45 million units in the first year alone, predicting that 10% to 15% of iPhone users buy the iWatch. They see this as being possible “if Apple gets the product right.” However, they also say that one bit of good news for the device is that those who are considering buying the iWatch might not be very price sensitive.
The UBS team continues to rate Apple as a Buy with a$100 per share price target.