Thinking about the Apple Watch

19 February 2015, 04:47

The Apple Watch is nearly upon us. There are probably some sweaty palms over at Cupertino. Launching a new product must be tough but launching an entirely new concept? Wow. The work and stress is unimaginable.

I rarely write opinion here but I thought I’d offer a few thoughts. After all, I’ve been writing about technology professionally since 1996 and I’ve seen a few technologies come and go. (When I first started it was all about “multimedia” — MMX processor extensions! Video CDs!)

The issue with the Apple Watch is, I think, that it shouldn’t be considered in technological terms. What I’d be worrying about if I were at Apple is feature duplication. I already get this if I have my iPhone out while I’m using my iPad — email alerts appear on both, and I sometimes find myself checking Facebook on my phone while responding to an iMessage on my iPad! Or vice versa! It’s actually a little bewildering sometimes.

Both these two devices already duplicate functionality of my MacBook Pro, but that’s OK because the MacBook isn’t portable in the same way. It’s tricky to check my emails while sat on the toilet using a MacBook Pro. With an iPhone it’s easy.

Aha, you say. The Apple Watch is about health. There’s the new features you want, and they’re unique – your iPhone can’t compete! Well, apparently, there’s not so much health stuff, according to recent reports. Future models might tick the boxes, but not V1.0. I’ve no doubt there’ll be a handful of other cool features, some of which may well make the device compelling enough to purchase, but I don’t need a watch telling me I’ve got new mail or messages. I can look at my iPhone without any hassle at all. In fact, it’ll make more sense to do so because I can fully respond then too. Maybe I’d like it if my watch tapped me on the skin haptically to tell me to get my phone out, but I’m not sure I can justify hundreds of dollars to buy that kind of thing.

Add in the hassle of charging every night and – I dunno – but it’s starting to feel like this device could be troublesome.

So here’s my prediction. If the Apple Watch is going to succeed, it’s going to be because it’s primarily a fashion item. Apple already knows this, of course, and are apparently resculpting parts of their stores to better resemble fashion stores. They’re targeting fashion publications and courting fashion writers. If I were an Apple investor that’s what would worry me most – the fact Apple is stepping outside of its core business. While they did this with the iPhone, few people would argue that fashion is doing things wrong, or that things can be done better. It’s just not that kind of industry.

The trouble is that we technology buyers look at features, and cleverness, and how the design matches-up all those things. If there aren’t enough of these Apple may end-up with a situation where the Apple Watch V1.0 is derided in tech circles, but loved in fashion circles.

And that’s a pretty good market, so Apple might be happy – even if fashions do quite literally tend to change in the blink of an eye (perhaps now Apple’s yearly release cycle starts to make more sense).

However, we tech conscious people are at the top of the tech food tree. We start the balls rolling down the hill. We’re early adopters. If mom and pop ask if the Apple Watch is worth getting, we might shake our heads.

I dunno. Apple has insane momentum at the moment. They can force us to like things, something which can really help with a new technology introduction. The iPad was a bizarre idea and only Apple could’ve pulled it off.

I just don’t think the Apple Watch is a slam dunk, especially considering people are waiting for Apple’s first failure post-Jobs. Come back to this page in two years. Let’s talk about it then.

Know better?