If you follow tech you’ve probably had a hard time not noticing that the world is presently overflowing with rumors that Apple is working on some kind of smart watch that will probably be called the iWatch because why not. The watch reportedly will feature a curved glass screen, and would probably have FaceTime and Siri so that users get to spend the maximum amount of time talking to their wrists while in public.
Following the New York Times piece that kicked off this madness, there has also been quite a lot of blowback and people suggesting that they’re not interested in such a device and would never buy one (I would count myself among them). And many have also pointed out that Apple is just experimenting with a curved-glass watch — the company likely experiments with a lot of products that never see the light of day.
With that said, I know at least one place where the iWatch could potentially make an awful lot of money: China.
I don’t think that China’s hip, tech-savvy youth would be any more interested in an iWatch than techies are in any other country, but the country’s bureaucrats and businessmen would have a field day with it. Remember “Watch Brother”? Watches are the favorite fashion accessory of corrupt officials nationwide, and an Apple watch — if it’s expensive enough — shows off your money and your “hip” tech attitude like nothing else.
As we’ve said before on this site when writing about iPhones, China’s luxury shoppers like tech products that can double as status symbols, which means people need to be able to see them. That’s one reason iDevices sell better than Apple laptops in China; you can’t really take out your MacBook on the subway. An iWatch, then, is the ultimate Apple status symbol: it’s constantly on display for the public to see, unlike a phone which often hides in your pocket. And just imagine the kind of attention you’ll get when you start talking to your wrist — saying very important-sounding things, of course — in public.
I’m being a bit flip, but there is truth to this. Many of China’s luxury buyers like showing off their wealth, and it’s hard to imagine a tech device that would be more publicly visible than a smart watch. Moreover, even Apple releases that Chinese web users claim not to be interested in (like the iPhone 4S) seem to sell extremely well. The idea of an iWatch may be uncreative and a bit ugly, but I have no doubt that such a device would still sell well in China. And since we know China is hugely important to Apple’s future, it isn’t out of the question that Apple really would be considering releasing such a device.
To be clear, I don’t expect to see an iWatch anytime soon. I think what an iWatch might generate in revenue would be offset in what Apple lost in “cool” factor and brand perception. But just for the record, if Apple really is headed in that direction, expect it to do well in the Middle Kingdom.