Although today we know the Apple Watch as an exclusive product for iPhone users, apparently there was a time when Apple considered opening its doors to competition. Yes, Apple thought about making the Apple Watch compatible with other Android devices, but why did it never carry out this idea?
The rumors behind this story
The story came to light thanks to a Bloomberg report that revealed details about the project that Apple had in hand. According to the report, Apple engineers studied different possibilities to make the Apple Watch and the native Health app were compatible with Android devices. In theory, this would have expanded the potential market for the Apple Watch to a much wider audience, especially in regions where the iPhone does not enjoy a dominant market share, however it could also have caused some inconveniences and that is why Apple backed out.
Although we do not have an exact date on the Apple Watch timeline in which this project was developed, in this report it is mentioned that the development was “almost complete”, the name assigned to the project was “Project Fennel”. The cancellation of an ambitious project and its magnitude may seem crazy. However, companies of Apple’s stature tend to undertake large projects knowing that they may never come to light. Apparently, in this case the reasons for the cancellation would have been commercial.
On the one hand, Apple is rumored to have raised the issue that this could cause a sense of device value perception that was “less premium” to the Apple Watch. On the other hand, it was considered that the possibility of pairing the Apple Watch with any Android device without the need for an iPhone could make many people leave the ecosystem, opting for cheaper devices in the Android world. So finally Apple decided to keep its ecosystem firmly closed and we will never know if that was a good or bad decision.
Implications for competition
This also raises the question of what the implications of this move could have been on the smartwatch market, especially if it had preceded the acquisition of fitbitthe relaunch of Wear OS 3 and the launch of Pixel Watch in 2022 and 2023.
Had this project come to fruition, it raises a number of intriguing questions. What features would have been available to Android owners? Would there have been a third-party app store or would non-health functionalities have been limited to basic apps like timers, alarms, and weather forecasts?
We might also wonder if this would have been the gateway for Android owners to have access to exclusive Apple services and applications, such as iMessage, Apple Music or Maps. The integration of these applications on Android devices would have opened new possibilities and potentially influenced consumer preferences, whether positively or negatively.
Conclusions about the Fennel Project
So the story of Apple’s attempt to make the Apple Watch compatible with Android shows us once again that even if we think there are impossible integrations, technology companies always consider all available options. Although the cancellation of the project has left us with the intrigue of knowing what it could have been like, we will be attentive to see if new projects of this type are developed.