Apple Watch and iPhone 6 own CES 2015 without being there

Apple has dominated the first month of 2015, typically its quietest season since dropping out of Macworld Expo, without so much as saying a word. Thousands of its competitors huddled at CES to show off their vision for the upcoming wearable computing era, but all the external comparisons ended up being to the Apple Watch, and none of them were favorable. And even as Apple’s smartphone competitors spent millions on exhibits, the iPhone 6 is cleaning house in the sales department. Now Apple must be careful not to throw off its strong start to the year once it does speak.

For the better part of two years, Apple offered standard-issue new products like the iPhone 5S while promising consumers and investors that more was coming in the pipeline. Finally, the company fired its first major salvo in the form of the iPhone 6 in September, which took the cohesive and user friendly iOS experience and transplanted it to the kind of larger screen device that scores of consumers had been begging for. Accordingly, the iPhone is atop the sales charts and Apple is scooping up smartphone marketshare even as competitors like Samsung and Xiaomi eat at each other’s margins.

But one key part of the iPhone 6 success is that it was introduced alongside the Apple Watch, the first piece of wearable computing technology to capture the public’s interest. Google Glass was a flop. The existing smart watches to this point have been niche products. Apple has taken the rare step of showing off the Watch in advance, partly because it needed developers on board early, and partly because it wanted to give consumers a reason to buy the iPhone 6 in the mean time, knowing the two are made for each other.

And so Apple, by skipping CES as per usual and staying quietly hunkered down and not saying a word, has dominated the first two weeks of 2015. That gets harder when it has to actually ship the Apple Watch in the springtime, and critics will harp on any real or perceived imperfections. And Apple also has to deal with the fact that the iPhone 6 will soon be entering the back half of its twelve month cycle even as competitors like the Galaxy get revved, and the slew of Watch copycats which will have to be dealt with. But for not having said a word or fired a shot, Apple’s new year is off to a remarkably strong start.