With Series 2, Apple Admits Its Smartwatch Isn’t for Everyone

Two years ago, Apple Inc. executives made the case that anyone with an iPhone would be better off also owning the company's new smartwatch.

But as many gadget buyers remain unsure about the usefulness of high-tech timepieces, Apple this week pitched its second-edition watch to a much narrower audience.

Workout and activity tracking capabilities surged to the front and center, taking over the spotlight from messaging features and customizable timefaces. The promotional video for the Watch Series 2 featured almost only athletes: swimmers, tennis and basketball players, cyclists, skateboarders and runners.

The shift in approach reflects some major technical changes. The Apple Watch Series 2 has built-in GPS -- essential to athletes who don't want to lug their phones on runs or bike rides -- and is water resistant for use while swimming and surfing.

But establishing the Watch as a fitness tracker rather than a catch-all smartwatch serves a bigger purpose too, analysts said. Thanks to smartphones and popular devices such as the Fitbit, consumers now understand how devices can track steps and monitor sleep. Emphasizing those features make the Watch a more familiar device than the revolutionary communications tool Apple touted in 2014.

The "ultimate device for a healthy life" is how Apple Senior Vice President Jeff Williams summed up the Watch at a media event Wednesday. Two years ago, Apple called the Watch its "most personal device ever."

Apple showcased games, animated messages and other features on stage this week as well, but health and fitness underlined even some of those presentations.

"You get people into the Watch through the guise of fitness, but then you get people messaging and playing games," said Jitesh Ubrani, research analyst at the data firm IDC.

Though Apple hasn't released sales figures, analysts estimates upward of 12 million Watches have been sold since the original incarnation went on sale...

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