I spent several days in Lyon, France recently. It was during this vacation that I was fully convinced that Ben Thompson was correct about the future of the Apple Watch.
Lyon is a flat city, unlike my home town, and it has a very effective bicycle rental service. For a fee of 1.5 Euros I can pick up a bike in any of hundreds of locations and drop it off again in a different location. As long as I don’t use the bike for more than 30 consecutive minutes, there are no extra charges above the flat daily rate. This was our preferred way get around the city.
There were a couple of annoyances, however. Everyday, I’d go to the machine next to the parked bikes and get a daily ticket. The process involved switching the instructions from French to English, choosing to buy a new ticket, enter my credit card details, choose a pin code, repeat the pin code, scroll through the terms of service, agree to the terms of service, and finally print the ticket. All of this on a crappy touch screen, sometimes with people waiting in line behind me.
Taking out a bike was only a little less annoying. I’d once again switch to English, choose to access the service, manually enter the 12 digits printed on my daily ticket, enter my pin number, choose to take out a bike immediately, and enter the number of the bike I want.
Returning a bike was painless but not unstressful. All I had to do was attach the bike to the machine, and a double beep would signal that the system recognized it. If, however, I wanted a receipt so that I could verify that I met the 30 minute window, or at the end of the day for assurances, I’d once again have to access the machine and nearly repeat the process for taking out a bike.
Now, let’s compare to a future 5 years from now, when the system supports the Apple Watch.
To pay for the system, I’d register in advance on my iPhone – using Apple Pay for a one-tap replacement to entering my credit card details.
To take out a bike, I’d simply walk up to the bike I want, press a button on the Apple Watch, and start pedaling.
To return a bike, I’d return it, as already happens today, except I’ll automatically get a receipt with all the details on the watch.
Now, just replace this bike rental service with hundreds of other services.