All Commentary
Monday, April 27, 2015

Don’t Buy an Apple Watch

Value is, always and everywhere, a personal and subjective matter

Now that the world has spent a few days with the Apple Watch, you might have seen a thing or two about it on social media. If you consider yourself to be an intelligent, rational person, you might think those thousands of poor saps who parted with hundreds of dollars (at least) to beta test the latest half-baked iDevice are either weak-willed or are now rushing to return the “most personal device yet” to the nearest Apple Store.

The fact is, like the similarly ridiculed iPhone and iPad before, scantily few buyers will return their Apple Watches — not because they’re lazy or have piles of disposable income, but because it is actually valuable to them.

In other words, those who bought the $350 Apple Watch Sport —like I did — value the plastic-strapped aluminum Watch more than $350. And those who now wear a $17,000 rose gold Apple Watch Edition value that purchase more than the $17,000 they charged to their platinum American Express cards.

Just as there’s no accounting for taste, there’s no accounting for value. Value is in every case subjective, defined exclusively by the individual. It is, fundamentally, in the eye of the beholder.

I could have done plenty of other things with the $350 I sent to Apple. I could have saved it, made an extra car payment, donated it to charity, or bought nearly three shares of Apple, Inc. You probably have some other ideas. But at the time and place of my decision, the Apple Watch Sport was a more valuable use of that cash than any other alternative I considered.

That is not to say I considered the entire universe of possible choices, or that I won’t later regret having bought my Apple Watch.

But I made that choice because I believed it to be the best for me. I enjoy playing with gadgets. I’m interested in the fitness tracking functionalities. I appreciate the high attention to detail in hardware and software design. I’m not big on jewelry, but I find a watch to be useful.

Apple sparks the most hostile criticism of any mass market company because many among the tech savvy don’t understand the true meaning of value. More troubling is the utter contempt they seem to have for decision sets beyond straight tech specs.

Anti-Apple elitism is a particularly annoying and dangerous bit of anti-market bias. It’s annoying because it’s unyielding and dangerous because it supposes objective criteria for assessing economic value. If you can’t respect that someone would want to buy something you wouldn’t, it’s more likely you would also approve of government attempts to prohibit dangerous, immoral, or “wasteful” choices.

If you don’t want an Apple Watch, don’t buy an Apple Watch. But admit that your subjective value is not universal truth.

  • Richard N. Lorenc is Chief Growth Officer of Iron Light, an award-winning strategic marketing firm specializing in helping purpose-driven brands change the world. He served at FEE from April 2013-November 2021, most recently as FEE's Executive Vice President.