SOS alert to the travel industry! Tap the brakes on your Apple Watch investmentsNews / Technology | OnlineBy Glenn Gruber | April 7, 2015Share This article was originally published on The allure of Shiny Object Syndrome (SOS) is strong. And whether it be "a-loo-minium" or gold, Apple’s Watch is very shiny.We’re at a very interesting time with Apple Watch, about halfway between the launch event and the availability in stores on Friday 24 April.I for one am very intrigued, and would like to get one (if my wife is reading this it would make a great Father’s Day present).But this in-between time is like the witching hour for Watch. We have a sense what it can do, know what apps are going to be ready at launch.And for those companies (99.9995% of all companies) who haven’t built a Watch app yet, they’re wondering whether they need to shift resources to developing a Watch app.When I was at the EyeforTravel Mobile conference to judge the Mobile Innovation awards last week, I had a few discussions of this nature with some key suppliers in the travel sector.So let me distill some of those conversations down:Q: Should we shift resources to develop an Apple Watch app?Outside of fitness apps, the travel sector had the most Watch apps announced at the launch event and on Apple’s site.American Airlines, Starwood, TripAdvisor, Expedia, Uber, OpenTable, CityMapper, Air Canada and Hailo all have announced, and it looks like Qantas plan on it too.So there may be an element of keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ that comes into play in your thinking.Stop thinking like that. It’ll only get you in trouble.The question of whether to build an Apple Watch app has multiple layers. If you can answer these four questions (since Passover is right around the corner) maybe you should build a Watch app: Do you have a good use case? Never build anything without a strong use case or you’re just wasting time and money…two things that are almost never in abundance. Be sure that you’ve thought through the user scenario, not just the identification of the need, but also whether it is reasonable to fulfill that need with the limited screen real estate and methods provided by Watch. American has good use cases (boarding alerts) as does Starwood (keyless entry). Does TripAdvisor? Do you?Will there be enough users to justify an ROI when you ask for budget? We have to put some numbers in perspective. Pebble has sold 1M units in its’ entire existence. According to a report in Recode, all of Android Wear sold just over 700,000 units in 2014. Let’s say that Apple Watch is wildly successful and sells an order of magnitude more in the first year alone. That would put Apple Watch sales at 7 million units. Now let’s compare that to the fact that Apple sold 74 million iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in the 4th quarter of 2014. And they’ll probably sell more than 250 million for the year. So in comparison Watch is almost a rounding error. When you think of your core user and think of the role you expect Watch to play in your business, do these numbers line up with the investment?What’s the current state of your smartphone app? You should be confident that you have your existing house in order before you take up a new platform. Is your smartphone or tablet app where it needs to be? Air Canada has already launched support for Apple Watch in its latest update. But their app is terrible (I could go on for 30 minutes on the Air Canada app…they can’t even get the home screen right). 99 times out of 100 I’d recommend that you invest resources in improving your app experience first before moving on.Did you build your app in Objective C? It’s not a pre-requisite to have a true native app built with xCode and Objective C to build for Apple Watch, but it helps. Some MADPs like Appcelerator and Xamarin have some level of support for WatchKit. But others don’t. As an example, if you’re building in Apache Cordova or PhoneGap it is not possible to run Cordova apps directly on Watch as there is no support for a WebView. So you need to build native WatchKit extensions and apps. So the question is if you are using a cross-platform development environment like Cordova, does your development team have the native skills to build the WatchKit extensions and apps. If not, you may have a problem. Q: Will the introduction of Apple Watch speed up hoteliers’ adoption of keyless entry systems?Certainly, I think that Watch, by the nature of it being on your wrist versus something that you have to pull out of your pocket or fish out of your purse is a better fit for the keyless entry use case than a smartphone.But, if hoteliers are speeding up keyless entry because of the Apple Watch, they need to slow down.As noted above the number of Apple Watches, even in the most optimistic of cases, just doesn’t support an expedited roll-out, especially at $300-$500 per lock (not watch).But there is definitely a trend and strong smartphone use case (iPhones and select Android phones) will probably make the deployments worthwhile.But I’d say that this is a 3-star and up issue. And when it comes to Watch, 4-star and up.And how fast will the keyless entry deployments go? Henry Harteveldt, everyone’s favorite travel analyst, expects keyless entry to be commonplace within five years.That doesn’t seem unreasonable, but I’d say it depends if you tell me what the franchise contract looks like.On their own hoteliers will be reticent to spend $500/room when they rather focus on maintaining the carpets, walls and beds before anything else.But hoteliers like Starwood and Marriottseem to have taken the most aggressive stance, funding the initial rollouts as part of elevating the brand experience (or at least winning the press release).The only hotel that took a definitive position was Hilton who said: “It will take until 2016 for the compatible technology to be installed in the doors of all of the corporation’s 4,200 hotels globally”. Q: Will Apple Watch accelerate Apple Pay adoption? How soon do you expect to see other hoteliers and airlines (i.e. following Marriott and JetBlue) adopting Apple Pay?Though I was glad to see Marriott’s announcement on accepting Apple Pay, it’s a little disappointing that all they focused on with the announcement is removing the need to present a credit card at check in.I’ve said before that Apple Pay is something that airlines and hotels should push aggressively. But I think there’s a lot more benefit for hoteliers than the airlines.For the airlines there are logistical issues of making the Apple Pay experience work well from the window seat (It’s bad enough just to have to sit in the middle seat, let alone people reaching across me more often).Having payment on the Watch versus the phone doesn’t really solve that. And enabling Apple Pay on a watch doesn’t expand or improve the on-board products nor do I think it will materially enhance conversion rates.At the end of the day buying stuff off a trolley cart in an uncomfortable seat is a poor retail experience and I don’t think Apple Pay on a watch fixes that.I think hotels – particularly upscale hotels and resorts – are a different story.There are so many more opportunities for Apple Pay to bump up conversion for ancillary products at hotels (F&B, spa, golf) that it just makes proper sense to do everything you can to remove friction from the transaction and having the ability to pay without digging into your pocket or purse is a real plus.The biggest challenge with encouraging hotels to adopt Apple Pay is whether hotels can get the data into the folio to track guest activity.Right now, that’s not possible.What’s your POV? What are your plans for Apple Watch? Do you have more questions? Ask away in the comments!