Wearables Week in Review

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Week In Review

Apple goes rugged

Apple had its "Far Out" event last week and its smartwatches were a key part of the announcement. The regular upgrade – the Apple Watch Series 8 – was a relatively mundane affair; new hardware included a temperature sensor and crash detection (via additional accelerometers). Slightly more significant is the low power mode which will turn off key features such as the always-on display and automatic workout detection. The result is a claimed extended battery life from 18 hours to 36, which is key.

But the big news was the launch of the Apple Watch Ultra, which comes with a larger screen (49mm) and a more rugged design. The Ultra is aimed very much at high-end Garmin devices, and is scuba dive-capable, with a full featured dive computer (which standard Garmins are not). And with a bigger design, the new watch packs in a larger battery, with Apple claiming a 36 hour life between charges.

The NPD Take:

  • The rugged Ultra model comes with a high price point of $799 (not including any of the customized bands you can also purchase. That may seem very high (the Series 8 starts at $499) but a Garmin Fenix will set you back at least $700 so Apple’s device is in the right ballpark.
  • The Garmin still has some neat features that are missing from Apple’s new Ultra: there’s no solar charging on the Ultra, and while 36 hours of battery life may be good for an Apple Watch, it still falls days short of a Garmin.
  • But having said that, Garmin is certainly going to feel the pressure from Apple’s new watch. Up until now, Garmin has found a comfortable – and safe – niche among the more active users. Expect to see that niche get smaller and smaller among Apple iPhone customers who may now be considering a change, especially as the Ultra provides cellular connectivity; something Garmin has so far steered clear of apart from some minimal implementations.
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