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Is Apple Wasting Its Time With the iWatch?


Based on what we've seen thus far from other prominent manufacturers, coupled with tepid sales projections, a smartwatch may not be worth the company's time.

There's no doubt tech companies believe wearable devices are a big part of the future of personal computing. Just ask Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), who's spent untold research and development dollars on Glass, or Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) with its big investment in rival Recon Instruments, the Canadian outfit that brought the world's first Heads-Up Display to market.

Motorola just patented a gaze-tracking and mood-detecting armband, and Nikon (OTCMKTS:NINOY) is rumored to be mulling over a head-mounted camera.

Then, of course, there's the smartwatch. The clever gizmo that plainclothes detective Dick Tracy first showed off in the newspaper comics section nearly 70 years ago has now become a reality. Aside from Kickstarter success story Pebble, Sony's (NYSE:SNE) SmartWatch also made its debut (with a second-generation version coming down the pike), and Samsung's (OTCMKTS:SSNLF) Galaxy Gear watch is currently in critics' hands.

But all along, it's been Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) wrist-worn offering for which everyone is waiting with bated breath -- or at least, since the company filed a patent for a touchscreen wristband. Unfortunately, based on what we've seen thus far from other prominent manufacturers -- coupled with tepid sales projections -- we're left wondering if the iWatch is even worth Apple's time.

As previously mentioned, the reviews for the Galaxy Gear watch are in. And they're not good.

This $300 companion piece for the newly announced Galaxy Note 3 and Note 10.1 tablet -- available on Sprint (NYSE:S) and AT&T (NYSE:T) networks -- is getting ripped for being all style, little substance. "The next big thing is not here," said ABC News. Wired gave it a four out of 10.

Perhaps the harshest comments about the Galaxy Gear watch came from the New York Times, which called it "a human-interface train wreck. All of it. The software design, user guide, English translations, and design consistency...Nobody will buy this watch, and nobody should."

It's not a giant leap to predict that Gear's critical reception may not bode well for Apple. Unless Cupertino has something dramatically different up its sleeve with respect to functionality and features, the iWatch is likely to get skewered just the same.

One particular sticking point from reviewers about Samsung's wearable product came from its limited compatibility with only Samsung-branded devices, and, given Apple's proprietary nature, the iWatch is going to be very iOS-specific.

But the nail in the coffin (or, in this case, crib) for the iWatch could be recent data gathered about its consumer demand. A team of researchers, led by senior analyst Gene Munster at investment firm Piper Jaffray, polled 799 US customers about their likelihood of buying an iWatch with a $350 price tag.

Twelve percent of respondents showed interest. However, assuming most of them wouldn't actually follow through with a purchase when it became available, Munster arrived with a more conservative estimate that put iWatches on the wrists of a mere 2-4% of consumers worldwide. As a revenue booster, Apple would be looking at just a 1% increase in its bottom line.

After more than a few ho-hum entries in its recent product lines, the iWatch simply doesn't seem to be the game changer Apple needs in development right now.

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