Will Apple Watch Ultra make Garmin the next Nokia?

Looking at the Apple Watch Ultra released yesterday, I have an interesting feeling: I’ve seen this show before. It didn’t blow my mind until Garmin watch fans on Reddit and Twitter started mocking Apple…it’s Nokia again.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I’m a big fan of Garmin watches. Most of my friends and family have bought the slim Apple Watch. This is a great smartwatch, but I want a great outdoor adventure and fitness watch to go with my iPhone. That’s why I’ve been wearing bulky Garmin watches like the Fenix ​​and Epix lines, despite their clunky software interfaces. I use them to track and measure my performance in a variety of activities, including kitesurfing, trail running, golfing, weight training, and mountain biking.

Steve Jobs named the market leader when he launched the iPhone in 2007.

When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, it was mocked by Nokia, and its fans still cling to their overused Symbian operating system, tiny keyboard and resistive touchscreen made of plastic. Devices like the Nokia N95 outperform the iPhone on the spec sheet, but not when it comes to usability. As Nokia, BlackBerry, Motorola and Palm continued to lose market share and revenue, Apple’s slow approach to adding new features year after year finally allowed the company to catch up with the flagship specs offered by Nokia, BlackBerry, Motorola and Palm. This will only accelerate as Google’s Android operating system matures, surpassing Symbian by 2011. Nokia’s phone division was sold to Microsoft in 2014 and then offloaded in 2016.

Garmin has a dizzying array of watches, each priced at $1,500 or more.

I’m considering this situation as the Apple Watch Ultra debuted at a price well below the $1,000 mark many expected, and just a month after Samsung announced the $449.99 Galaxy Watch 5 Pro running Google’s vastly improved Wear OS 3. (Ironically, Wear OS is infused with Tizen DNA that evolved from Nokia’s own Maemo and MeeGo operating systems.)

Apple already dominates the smartwatch market with sub-$500 devices. Garmin dominates the segment with premium outdoor watches ranging from $699 to over $1,500. According to Counterpoint Research, despite ranking fifth in device shipments, its higher average selling price is the reason for the third-place ranking in revenue. This is the exact opposite of the iPhone, which dominates the premium smartphone market. Apple is clearly eager for a piece of the higher-margin premium smartwatch market.

Apple has previously attempted to sell expensive watches with its heavily misleading Watch Edition line, which attempts to use precious materials to drive up prices. This time, it’s selling more valuable features and functionality to a new audience of hardcore athletes. By pricing the first-gen Ultra at $799, Apple has a big cap on rolling out new Ultra versions over the next few years that differ in features and functionality. In addition to cellular data, I’d pay more to have Apple’s new emergency SOS satellite info on my wrist so I can leave my phone (or Garmin InReach) on the backcountry trails or kitesurfing the Western Sahara coast behind. Garmin, for example, sells a dizzying array of watches at every possible price point, sometimes with only slightly different functions.

High-end watches like Garmin’s Epix 2 have OLED displays, multi-frequency GPS, And a touchscreen with a built-in topographic map that includes trail names and even ski areas.
Photography: Thomas Ricker / The Verge

There’s no question that the Apple Watch Ultra falls short in terms of specs compared to similarly priced devices sold by Garmin, Coros, and others. The battery is the most obvious example: future low-power updates enable 36 or even 60 hours, which is weak in the category where battery is measured in weeks. Out of the box, it also lacks built-in topographic maps such as those needed for trails, or support for the Bluetooth power meters and cadence sensors that cyclists use. Apple’s motion features and analytics also pale in comparison to the depth and variety offered by the competition.

But by contrast, Apple has an excellent app ecosystem to offset some of the inequalities, and it already offers the best smartwatches for iPhone users interested in casual fitness and wellness. Now, it brings these same features to serious outdoorsmen—plus a better microphone, louder speaker, and siren—and no doubt some of them will be seen as good enough by the Ultra The allure of a multisport watch on your phone (cellular data with eSim!) is also a great smartwatch, with a silky-smooth interface. We’ll have to wait for reviews to see just how good (or how bad) it is.

I can say this though: Garmin’s biggest weakness is usability. Its high-end watches pack a plethora of features and functions overshadowed by sophisticated software that sometimes feels like operating a scientific calculator. Apple is good at user interface, Garmin is not, just as Nokia’s efforts to adapt Symbian to iPhone and Android were as futile. Given enough time, Apple’s watch will catch up to the specs and features of Garmin’s flagship watch.

In the short term, however, Apple’s additional focus on the rugged outdoor smartwatch space could benefit Garmin — its shares rose more than 3% yesterday. But if Nokia has taught us anything, it’s this: Once Apple chooses to enter your home (and Google keeps it in order), you’re better off fighting like hell or getting ready to move on. Let’s see how Garmin chooses to respond.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.