Apple’s Watch: What’s In It For Africa?

Apple’s Watch: What’s In It For Africa?

ENTERPRISE54 – After so much media frenzy and feverish anticipation, Apple, during the late hours of Tuesday, finally announced its latest product, the Apple Watch (interestingly not iWatch), alongside the iPhone 6 and 6 plus. It came as a bit of a shocker as the media-savvy company kept a tight-lip about unveiling the product until

ENTERPRISE54 – After so much media frenzy and feverish anticipation, Apple, during the late hours of Tuesday, finally announced its latest product, the Apple Watch (interestingly not iWatch), alongside the iPhone 6 and 6 plus. It came as a bit of a shocker as the media-savvy company kept a tight-lip about unveiling the product until yesterday and taking the global tech industry by surprise.

This time around, Timothy D. Cook, not Steve P. Jobs, was the man on the show.

tim cook apple unveil

Tim Cook at the Apple Watch announcement

The smartwatch announcement makes the first major product announcement Apple has had since its 2010 iPad launch. Apple is late into this growing wearable technology category though, as Samsung, Sony and Pebble already dominate but chief executive Tim Cook says

“For us, it’s never been about being first. It’s been about being the best.”

The Apple Watch, a product of the marriage of fashion accessory and technology, is basically a digital watch that syncs with current iPhone models, comes with health and fitness monitoring apps and has a music player, calendar and map; from my observation, it’s more of lifestyle, less of productivity.

Unfortunately, the American iPhone maker’s products are usually made without Africa in mind. On the other hand, its arch enemy, and another smartwatch maker, Samsung, has studied, parleyed and dominates the African market. Probably another instructive evidence of Asia’s stronger friendliness with Africa, necessitating President Obama’s hosting of 200 African business leaders to heal economic ties.

Samsung’s management has not considered its Samsung Gear 2 Watch too exquisite for sub-Saharan Africa’s technology-hungry 400m emerging middle class consumer base. It launched campaigns for the product in major African markets like Nigeria and last year, the smart guys at Samsung also flew Okezie Loy, Editor of TechLoy, one of Nigeria’s leading tech blogs to the product launch of its Gear 2 smartwatch in Berlin to rev up publicity for the product.

Unboxing the Gear

Unboxing the Gear

Apple has disclosed its latest product wouldn’t be hitting stores until January 2015 and at a whopping price of, wait for it, *drum roll*, $350 (at the least)! That’s N56,900, Ksh31,000 or 3,836 South African rand for a piece of innovative design that doesn’t really do anything new! That’s way beyond the budget of most eager, Apple-loving consumers around here.

It’s classic Apple style. Targeting high-end users. According to a 2012 World Bank research, Apple shares of the African market were at a disappointing 1% whereas brands with fairer price points had (and still have) much larger controls.

mobile market share in Africa

For now, the selling point of Apple’s wearable are its health and fitness tools it enables. Nike and a few other brands already provide Africa’s aspirational middle class with cheaper fitness electronic wristbands and timepieces ranging between $99-200 per piece. Tim Cook and his team would have to come up with more serving apps, aside health and fitness, probably productivity, to entice the increasing African market.

Talking about apps, New York Times reports the iPhone maker has disclosed plans to make its tool kit public for software geeks to build apps for its watch. According to the news, “many” companies, including BMW, W hotels and Pinterest already have apps on the device. I think this presents an opportunity for African software coders to develop something suitable, get their apps in Apple Store and establish presence on the global tech scene. By the way, Kenya’s Chemasoft was recently announced the winner of Evernote’s African Innovation Award and would be pitching in California for the golden opportunity to feature its app on Evernote’s app center and sell to a worldwide audience. An excited Chris Traganos, Evernote’s Director of Developer Relations said: “We are excited to show the Evernote community Chamasoft’s financial tools for community-based savings. We look forward to working closely with all teams and supporting them as we promote African startups in the Evernote App Center to a worldwide audience.” So, good luck guys!

For all African fans of the legendary U2 band, this is awesome news. As a way to celebrate its latest launch, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced that every iTunes customer would receive a free copy of U2’s latest album Songs of Our Innocence.

“This makes it the largest album launch, ever,” Tim Cook said on stage with the four-man band standing aside.

The guys at Samsung might be smiling sheepishly now.

“You guys at Apple have imitated our $5million JayZ Magna Carta deal,” I imagine, Boo Keun-Yoon, must be thinking.

It’s a good one for the band leader Bono, who is no stranger to Africa. He’s been championing several causes on the continent to end poverty and promote agriculture. He currently runs the ONE campaign.

On a final note, the line between fashion, technology and music, has blurred…

 

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Adegoke Oyeniyi
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