If you earn $23,500/year, the Apple Watch pays for itself.

Apple Pay? More like Apple Pays For Itself! Amiright?

Okay you can stop reading now.

Or you can continue and learn how I’ve actually calculated that number using science (i.e. estimation + numerology.)

The numbers

SERIOUSLY THOUGH, I watched Apple’s livestream on Monday where they revealed slightly more detail about “the watch”, a.k.a. the Apple Watch, a.k.a. a beautifully manufactured, very elegant looking and shiny gizmo that costs a minimum of $349 and in my expert opinion doesn’t do very much.

The Pretty

Okay sure it does stuff. It lets you send scribbles of trollfaces to your friends and then use Siri to text them an audio recording of your voice to let them know you’ve scribbled them a trollface. And then you can scan your watch to pass through security at the airport, saving you the several seconds that you’ll then need to spend removing your watch to go through the body scanner.

It struck me that almost everything one can currently do with the Apple Watch, one can already do with the iPhone that you must carry at all times if you want your watch to work. Now looking at what a device can currently do or currently costs is a bad way to predict the future. But it’s a pretty good way to predict the present. And at present, the Watch mostly just saves you from having to pull out your phone.

So I was left wondering “exactly how valuable is that?” Well…turns out it’s more valuable than I expected.

People actually spend rather a lot of time pulling out their phones. By some estimation, we do it 150 times per day on average, which tallies up to ~76 hours per year we spend simply removing our phones from our pockets and putting them back in. The Apple Watch offers to give us some of that time back. Not all of it (since many notifications still need the phone to fully address). But some of it.

And how much is that time worth? That depends on how much your individual time is worth but by my estimation, it’s about ~$500/year if you earn a typical Slicing Valley salary. So if we assume that watch has a 3 year replacement cycle (i.e. more like a Macbook than an iPhone), the watch will pay for itself about 4 times over in time it saves the people who might be reading this post. And the minimum you can make before the economic argument disappears is…$23,500. Below that, the hourly value of your time isn’t enough to buy an (entry-level) Apple Watch even if you could cash in every minute you saved.

And there, of course, is the rub(…ber watch band!) This calculation is based on a lot of (plausible) assumptions about how intensively people use their phones and on one big (much less plausible) assumption that the right way to value “time saved” is in comparison to an hourly wage. With something like the Apple Watch, the time saved will come in many, many scattered five-second increments. Most people, whether salaried or hourly, don’t actually have the ability to convert free time into money by simply working more. And those who do will mostly not be able to convert 720 five-second intervals into a full hour of productive work.

Or maybe they will, as soon as someone invents a Mechanical Turk app for the Watch that lets us monetize our milliseconds. Guess we’ll have to watch and see.

Don’t believe my numbers? Have a look at my calculations!

Glance at me over on twitter @rogueleaderr for more mumblings.