Apple Watch Proves Useful in Business Among Growing Doubts

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Capital One recently bought hundreds of Apple Watches for its employees, the financial services company told Business Insider. Apple CFO Luca Maestri mentioned the purchase during the company’s quarterly results call with Wall Street analysts on Tuesday, when he noted that Capital One was “empowering their associates with Mac and Apple Watch and over 40 native iOS applications now running on nearly 30,000 iPhones and iPads.”

The Apple Watches have been doled out to workers in the Capital One Cafe business, which is a hybrid of a coffee shop and bank where customers can grab coffee while exploring banking options and financial plans. The Watches come with phone functionality and are mainly used by employees to communicate with each other without leaving the customer’s side. They aren’t allowed to take the devices home with them, and are for at-work use only. For example, Capital One employees use the Apple Watch to request help, order coffee, set up appointments, and send each other motivational texts.

“Before using the watches, the ambassador would either stand in line with the customer, hand the customer a free coffee card, or leave the customer’s side to order the coffee,” a Capital One spokesperson said to Business Insider. You can catch a glimpse of the Apple Watch in Capital One action in this promotional video highlighting the partnership between the companies (the Watch makes a cameo at 2:28).

Clearly, Capital One has been an exemplary customer in Apple’s growing enterprise-oriented business. Beyond tailoring and deploying the Apple Watch for a new retail environment, Capital One has purchased 30,000 Macs for its 40,000 associates. Moreover, its digital teams have been working to develop dozens of native, custom iOS apps for its business units, as part of the company’s push to become a leading digital bank.

Lingering Doubts About the Apple Watch

But questions still remain as to the Apple Watch’s prospects. When Apple posted its results for the second quarter of fiscal 2017 earlier this week, it didn’t release sales figures for the Apple Watch as usual. Apple CEO Tim Cook did tell analysts on the call that the company’s wearables business– which includes the Apple Watch, Beats products, AirPods– generates annual revenues on par with a Fortune 500 company and that sales of the Apple Watch have nearly doubled year over year in 6 of 10 key markets. During the past quarter, revenue in the division rose 31% to $2.9 billion, marking the first increase in a year. Again, however, Apple doesn’t release exact sales numbers for its wearables, and lumps them all together under “Other Products”, so it’s hard to judge just how well its watches are doing in the market.

Part of the reason Cook emphasized how well its smartwatches are doing was to dispel talk that the wearables market is wasting away, especially in the wake of news that Google Maps, Amazon, and eBay all quietly ditched support for their Apple Watch apps weeks ago. Given how few people noticed, it’s possible that lack of user enthusiasm led these companies to discontinue support for their watchOS apps. While they were vague as to the reasons for their departure, both Google Maps and Amazon did express to The Verge however that they would be willing to return to the watchOS platform in the future.

“There are a number of reasons we don’t think this is the right solution for our customers at this time,” an Amazon spokesperson told the tech news outlet. “We are always trying new things and look forward to experimenting with wearable solutions in the future.” However, Google was a more explicit to The Verge that it plans to return. “We removed Apple Watch support from our latest iOS release, but expect to support it again in the future.”

In order to drum up confidence, Cook told analysts during the call that wasn’t surprised that Apple’s competition was leaving the market given that smartwatch engineering is tough, and that the Apple Watch hasn’t been out for very long (it’s just over two years old now). He also affirmed that Apple had no plans to leave the business anytime soon: “We are very committed. It’s already a big business, over time it will be larger.”

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