MBLM’s one-year study: the Apple Watch polarizes users

MBLM, a “brand intimacy agency focused on strategy, design, creative and technology,” says its one-year study shows that the Apple Watch is polarizing users.

“Our research with the Apple Watch has resulted in rich, often contradictory data, with users ranging from fanatics to naysayers, with many confounded in the middle,” stated Mario Natarelli, MBLM’s managing partner. “Unfortunately, the Apple Watch does not measure up for most people. For the device, which Apple claimed to be its most intimate, to be successful, we believe Apple needs to reach deeper and form stronger bonds with its users.”

Dependence on an iPhone was one of the biggest gripes MBLM heard consistently from the panel. Users say the watch’s dependence on the phone is frustrating and ultimately limits how they use their watch. Additionally, with the phone nearby and behaviors more ingrained, they are more likely to default to using it versus the watch.

Most Apple Watch users in the MBLM survey have settled on very narrow and limited use of the features and functions of the smartwatch. However, the usage did vary broadly, suggesting the watch is able to find a diverse range of comfort zones with users.

Most of the panel have not heard from Apple regarding their watches. MBLM questions whether Apple missed an opportunity to engage more with early adopters providing tips, news and more apps. Although few hold it against Apple, MBLM believes that the brand may need to be more invested as people generally are becoming more gadget fatigued.

None of the users expressed concern about health and fitness data being monitored and stored on their devices. Interestingly, earlier in the year, the panel was also not concerned about financial information being available on the watch via Apple Pay.

For athletic and sports-minded consumers, the watch’s capabilities are insufficient. MBLM believes that because this is a core function of the watch, Apple should do more to provide sophisticated tools. Ironically, the features and information Apple does provide doesn’t resonate or get referenced by users often, perhaps due to ease of use or the quality of the data.

No one on the MBLM panel said that they would definitely purchase the next version of the Apple Watch. Most feel that the updates will not be significant and the cost will not be worth it; however, some did mention that they might consider it if there is a trade-in program. Of course, the second generation Apple Watch will almost certainly address many of these issues.

The ethnography study was a year-long examination Apple Watch users aged 13 to 65 years. Overall, findings comprise approximately 1,750 open-ended responses and 50 hours of video footage.