Would you rather have an expensive fitness watch that tracks a bevy of health and performance metrics with pin point accuracy, or an expensive all purpose watch that tracks some health metrics but also let’s you communicate with your friends, navigate city streets, pay for groceries, unlock your doors and enter mass transit?
That’s the question a lot of athletes and weekend warriors, who are used to spending hundreds of dollars on narrow purpose sports watches, are going to have to ask over the next few years as multi-purpose smart watches gain in popularity.
When Apple Watch comes out this year it will offer some health metrics, but it won’t have it’s own GPS chip, nor will it be waterproof, essential features for runners and swimmers. But it’s nevertheless possible that Apple Watch will offer enough compelling non-fitness features to tempt the Garmin faithful.
When Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007, Treo and BlackBerry offered far superior mobile email solutions. But mobile Safari could display real web pages, visual voicemail was a breakthrough and there was suddenly no need to carry both a phone and an iPod. The iPhone solved enough pain points of mobile computing that users looked past its then subpar email client.
Similarly, the fitness metrics on the first iteration of Apple Watch won’t be nearly as comprehensive as those on a standard issue Garmin. But Apple Watch may just introduce enough convenience in other areas that athletes will look past that.
Garmin isn't sitting on the sidelines and waiting for Apple so steal its thunder. Some of their 2015 watches will pair with a phone to provide rudimentary notifications. But these notifications won’t allow users to respond or communicate back to the phone - one of the key selling points of notifications on Apple Watch.
Sports watches will continue to sell well for the near term, but I don’t think it will be long before athletes opt to purchase Apple Watch rather than upgrade their Garmins.