Apple is finally suing the lucrative Ironman crowd

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In the seven years since Apple Inc. launched its first Apple Watch, the device has sold over 100 million units, catapulting it to 30% of the global smartwatch market. Yet he’s struggling to capture a small but important niche: endurance sports.

Walk the start of any Ironman triathlon race and you’ll see Garmin products dominating the wrists of the world’s most elite athletes. These are consumers who spend $10,000 on bikes and travel the world to compete on some of the world’s most majestic courses. But they’ve largely snubbed Apple in favor of the first name’s multisport watches for outdoor adventure and navigation.

The new Apple Watch Ultra that the company launched at an event dubbed Far Out might finally change that. At $799, the wearable is the most expensive among models released Wednesday, including the Apple Watch Series 8 up to $499 and the Watch SE for $249. That puts it above most triathlete-favorite Garmin alternatives, but still cheaper than high-end models designed for the ultra-marathon and rugged environments. The device can also act as a dive computer, putting it in competition with the big names in this category, such as Suunto, Cressi and Aqualung.

Pursuing consumers who have expensive hobbies and high brand loyalty is a smart move, and it shows the company is focused on promoting its non-iPhone products, namely Watch and AirPods. Called Wearables, Home and Accessories (WHA), this category is Apple’s only hardware division to have seen consistent growth in each of the past six years. While WHA only accounts for 11% of sales, far less than iPhone’s 53%, revenue for this collection of devices has grown 245% since 2016, compared to 40% for iPhones and 181% for Services. .

Additional income is only half the story. Making the Apple ecosystem more addictive is far more lucrative than simply ensuring customers update their iPhones every year (or two). Headphones are a good example. Having an iPhone is more likely to entice a customer to buy AirPods, and the same is true the other way around – customers are less likely to upgrade to a Samsung or Oppo if they already have AirPods and a Apple Watch.

It also relieves every new iPhone of having a wow factor that keeps fans queuing overnight for the latest accessory. This year’s release, for example, shouldn’t set hearts racing. A better camera, more powerful semiconductors, and always-on displays don’t sound as exciting as past innovations like Touch ID, haptic feedback, or Siri. And it’s good.

Instead, Apple dedicated its launch event to features that the vast majority of consumers will never need and very few will use. These include collision detection on the watch and satellite SOS services on the iPhone. Despite heartbreaking videos of customers recounting their experience with the Apple Watch’s lifesaving features – one girl used it after a plane crash – security is probably not a must-have aspect of consumer electronics.

Yet by gradually expanding the categories of consumers who find a product that perfectly matches their unique needs, Apple is ensuring that its multi-gadget connectivity is what consumers rely on. “This kind of integration is something only Apple can do,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said during the opening of Wednesday’s launch event. And he’s right, which is why Apple will continue to be the brand customers can’t.

More from this writer and others on Bloomberg Opinion:

• The whole world needs a first iPhone: Tim Culpan

• Contact lenses could soon replace our phone screens: Parmy Olson

• Apple and JPMorgan turn to Pay Now Grow Later: Paul J. Davies

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Editorial Board or of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Tim Culpan is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering technology in Asia. Previously, he was a technology reporter for Bloomberg News.

More stories like this are available at bloomberg.com/opinion

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