“My personal guess is Apple will keep it proprietary to the iPhone for at least the first 18-24 months but eventually make it compatible with at least Android in order to help them gain the kind of impact they desire and allow it to be a broader industry game changer,” he writes.
Preposterous? Potentially, but it’s hard to ignore it as a possibility – after all, hasn’t Apple already said it intends supporting Android with Apple Music in Fall? Didn’t the company do really, really well with iPod once it made that product available to Windows users? Does Apple not already dominate the smartwatch space with off the charts customer satisfaction?
Imagine the scenario were Apple to follow this path. Apple Watch apps could be made available via Apple’s very own Android app store, which would be the safest and most secure Android store you can use – albeit only offering apps for the Watch.
Of course, an Apple Android store for Apple Watch isn’t really required. All Apple would really need to do is introduce an SDK Android developers could use to create Apple Watch apps. It could even take a leaf from its competitor’s playbooks and pay some Android developers to introduce the apps we find are essential on the watch on iOS over the next few months.
Some might note that any such plan would require the Watch to be controlled by an Android phone, just as it demands an iPhone right now. This may be true but it doesn’t need to be in future – Apple is just about to give the smartwatch the power to run apps more independently in watchOS 2. As the company improves this capacity to run apps on the watch itself in future the device it is twinned to will become less important.
I’ve said before that Watch is a platform rather than an accessory, and in future I think the device will be liberated from requiring an iPhone and become a completely independent device you can (if you wish) choose to pair with a phone. Doing so will enable you to gain access to additional features not supported natively on the device.
The idea that Watch will develop its own identity isn’t so far-fetched – it already has its own operating system, and that means it can now forge its own development path. Apple’s expectations for the device are far greater than its existence as a mere iPhone accessory. “If you listen to the rhetoric from Tim Cook and Jony Ive, it is actually a piece of well-designed fashion jewelry and should be thought of in that context too,” Bajarin points out.
His argument is that if Apple Watch were made compatible with Android, Apple would stand to gain the lion’s share of the smartwatch market on both platforms – or three, if the device were also made available to Windows users.
However, I’m not entirely convinced Apple needs to do this thing. I imagine in future as the Watch becomes more powerful and more individuated that it will become its own platform. I can easily imagine it hosting its own processor, memory and SIM. When it does, will it need an iPhone? I think it probably will, but only for certain tasks – and enabling those tasks to also work with other platforms isn’t going to hurt Apple’s user loyalty any.
I guess a lot depends on what kind of take up Apple sees when it ships Apple Music for Android. But I like Bajarin’s logic and I do believe that when it comes to Apple under Tim Cook, you can expect the unexpected – particularly as it exploits weakness in the Android industry. Will it happen? I don’t know – but it could.
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