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Will the Apple Watch Ultra turn Garmin into the next Nokia?

I had a funny feeling while watching yesterday’s announcement of the Apple Watch Ultra: I have seen this show before. It wasn’t until Garmin watch fans on Reddit and Twitter started lampooning Apple that it hit me… it’s Nokia again.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I’ve been a longtime Garmin watch fan. Many of my friends and family have bought svelte Apple Watches. It’s a great smartwatch but I wanted a great outdoor adventure and fitness watch to pair with my iPhone. That’s why I wear big hulking Garmin watches like the Fenix ​​and Epics series despite their clumsy software interfaces. I used them to obsessively track and measure my performance in various activities, including kitesurfing, trail running, golfing, weight training and mountain biking.

Will the Apple Watch Ultra turn Garmin into the

Steve Jobs pointed out the market leaders during the launch of the iPhone in 2007.

When Apple launched the iPhone in 2007, Nokia and its fans were derided for still clinging to their overwrought Symbian OS, tiny keyboards, and resistive touchscreens made of plastic. Nokia devices like the N95 outperform the iPhone in spec sheets, but not in terms of usability. Apple’s slow-roll approach of adding new features year after year eventually allowed the company to match the flagship specs offered by Nokia, BlackBerry, Motorola and Palm as each company hemorrhaged market share and revenue. The situation only accelerated with the maturation of Google’s Android OS, which surpassed Symbian by 2011. Nokia’s phone division was sold to Microsoft in 2014 and unloaded for parts in 2016.

1662634717 163 Will the Apple Watch Ultra turn Garmin into the

Garmin has a range of watches that sell for $1,500 and up at every price point.

I’m thinking about this scenario as the Apple Watch Ultra was unveiled at a price point below the $1,000 mark that many expected, and a month after Samsung announced the $449.99 Galaxy Watch 5 Pro running Google’s improved Wear OS 3. (Ironically, Wear OS is infused with Tizen DNA derived from Nokia’s own Memo and Meego OSes.)

Apple already dominates the smartwatch market for devices priced under $500. Garmin dominates the segment above, with premium outdoor watches priced from $699 to more than $1,500. According to Counterpoint Research, the device ranks fifth in terms of shipments but third in terms of revenue due to its high average selling price. This is in contrast to the iPhone, which dominates the premium end of the smartphone market. Apple is clearly hungry for a bigger slice of the premium smartwatch pie with its increasingly lucrative profit margins.

Apple has tried to sell expensive watches before with the horribly misleading Watch Edition series, which tried to use valuables to inflate the price. This time it’s selling more valuable features and functionality to a new audience of hardcore athletes. By pricing the first generation of the Ultra at $799, Apple has a lot of ceiling to release new Ultra editions in the coming years that differ in features and capabilities. I’d instantly pay more to have Apple’s new Emergency SOS satellite messaging on my wrist, along with cellular data, so I can leave my phone (or Garmin inreach) while out on remote trails or kitesurfing on the West Sahara coast. Garmin, for example, sells a range of watches at every possible price point that sometimes differ slightly in capabilities.

Will the Apple Watch Ultra turn Garmin into the

Garmin’s high-end watches like the Epics 2 have OLED displays, Multi-frequency GPS, And touchscreens with built-in topographical maps include trail names and ski slopes.
Photo by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

Without a doubt, the Apple Watch Ultra falls short in spec comparisons with similarly priced devices sold by Garmin, Corros and others. The battery is the most striking example: 36, or even 60 hours, enabled by a future low-power update, is weak in the category of measuring batteries in weeks. It also lacks features like built-in topographical maps needed for trails or support for Bluetooth power meters and cadence sensors used by cyclists. Apple’s sports features and analytics also pale in comparison to the depth and variety offered by the competition.

But Apple has an excellent app ecosystem to offset some of the odds, and it already makes the best smartwatch for iPhone owners interested in casual fitness and health. Now offers the same features — plus better mics, louder speaker and siren — for serious outdoor athletes, some of whom will no doubt be swayed by the Ultra’s appeal as a good-enough multisport watch (with eSim for cellular data!). It is a great smartwatch with a silky-smooth interface. We’ll have to wait for the reviews to see how good (or bad) it really is.

I can already say this: Garmin’s biggest weak spot is usability. Its high-end watches have tons of features and capabilities that are at times obscured by complex software that feels like operating a scientific calculator. While Apple excels at user interfaces, Garmin does not, as does Nokia, which fought in vain to adopt Symbian as a response to the iPhone and Android. And given enough time, Apple’s watches could catch up to the specs and features available on Garmin’s flagship watches.

But in the short term, the added attention Apple brings to the rugged outdoor smartwatch space could benefit Garmin — its stock jumped more than three percent yesterday. But if Nokia taught us anything, it’s this: Once Apple chooses to enter your house (and Google has its house in order) you better fight like hell or prepare to move on. Let’s see how Garmin responds.

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