So in the midst of all that bleakness, Apple’s timing for its news conference seemed pretty darn spot-on. The company gave us some bright shiny objects to focus on instead. Three new products were launched to rapturous applause from audiences in sunny Cupertino and live-streamers all over the world. The press started chanting that Apple had gotten its groove back, and the whole company town celebrated. (Remember when we had real businesses with real profits and real jobs?)
Of the new goodies introduced, at least two were surprises: Apple Pay, which seems to be a true game-changer, in that the technology could allow Apple, already richer than many nations, to become the new World Bank. Second, not unexpected but still pretty juicy, Apple launched a smartwatch.
The company’s first foray into luxury and wearables, the little horological wonder of chip miniaturization comes with all sorts of bands, customizable options, and faces (11, including a butterfly, and Mickey Mouse, which are not exactly fashion-forward.) To me, it seems ripe for parody.
Of course, the watch won’t be released until some time in 2015, and its look and functionality could be improved by then. Keep in mind that I haven’t seen, held, or used this techno-dynamo -- but being completely uninformed about a subject has never stopped me from having an opinion before.
Sorry, but for starters, the name is as dull and pedestrian as the looks of the thing. Apparently, there were copyright troubles afoot all over the world in calling it an iWatch, especially with Swatch.
Forget the name. The most disappointing part is that the watch is tethered to one of the new iPhone 6 models. (Although that’s obviously a boost for the Apple ecosystem, in that you can’t have a watch without an upgrade on your phone. Dominance! Revenue!) But $349 seems pricey for an add-on. (That’s the starter price, which will go up steeply for options like rose gold.) And it’s yet another device that has to be charged at night! Plus, it looks kind of clunky. (Honey, does this watch make my wrist look fat?)
I know the younger generation won’t associate it with the 1970s design blight of brown polyester leisure suits and chains on hairy-chested men. Or if they do, it might seem even cooler. But the watch looks a lot more like a Casio from the “Saturday Night Fever” days than I would have predicted. Or maybe it’s more like something Bill Gates would have worn while playing late-night card games at Harvard.
Then there’s the idea that notifications will just show up on it, like being informed that a certain Facebook friend just posted a picture. Now you can be annoyed on three different screens simultaneously -- although a vibrating wrist is a new sensation, which could be really good or really bad.
Still, there is a buzzy little breakthrough in communications built in: We will be able to exchange the tap-tap of our beating hearts. Yup, it’s all about the haptics, baby, or as Apple has recoined the term, taptics. (Haptic technology, or haptics, according to Wikipedia, is a tactile feedback technology that recreates the sense of touch by applying vibrations to the user.)
This idea of exchanging heartbeats with someone -- not just visually, but actually feeling them on your own wrist -- is a real imagination-grabber. (Taptic also slightly suggests Tantric, as in Tantric Yoga, the hours-long sex practice Sting always brags about.)
This could be truly romantic. Or it could be a big problem. Imagine if you’re in a conference room setting, and your start feeling love taps on your wrist, and you realize they're coming from the man across the table, who creeps you out. Or that you are a kid at college, wanting to feel independent, and your mom keeps sending you her heartbeats on your wrist device.
I can also imagine some spastic taptic experiences -- because it’s really difficult to hold your phone and get a hand free to manipulate your watch. And presumably the idea is that it’s easier to check than surreptitiously pulling out an actual phone in a meeting. But it would still seem rude to be focused on your wrist. George H.W. Bush lost an election that way -- he kept checking his watch in a debate, as if he didn’t want to be there.
I guess the biggest problem, initially, is that this wildly new technology is housed in the oldest of forms -- unlike such Apple breakthroughs as iPods, iPhones, and iPads, which were wholly new designs. But clocks in various miniaturized forms have obviously existed for thousands of years. In the 19th century, the availability of pocket watches were integral to the growth of the railroad. Then wristwatches came in around the time of World War I, when, according to Wikipedia, “officers in the field began to appreciate that a watch worn on the wrist was more easily accessed than one kept in a pocket.”
And there we have it. Full circle. For the last 10 years or so, many people abandoned their wristwatches for a smartphone in their pocket. So using the new product involves unlearning habits.
It’s interesting that with Apple Watch, the uber-secretive tech monolith has inadvertently brought new meaning to the idea of wearing your heart on your sleeve.
AFTER 25 years service with a company, will they give you a Golden Apple Watch
"Oh, the humanity !"
"...being completely uniformed about a subject has never stopped me from having an opinion before." <--Terrific. Your articles have informed and entertained me from as far back as when you wrote an ad column for AdWeek. Thanks!
You must have had fun with the "spastic taptic" phrase. A good day is when I learn something new, and you made today a good day. Like Snickers, guaranteed to satisfy.
Jeeezzz…now when I strap on this new device (I will buy one whether I need it or not), my life will be completely tied to technology. When I have an iWatch, I will have 4 devices reminding me I have a dentist appointment….yippee! Maybe the next innovation will be a device implanted into the body…yeah that’s it…the iBrain…I will need a new one by then!
I'd respectfully dispute the notion that "iPods, iPhones, and iPads... were wholly new designs" but, like the Apple Watch, were reinterpretations of existing products made in the Apple mold of genius design and user interface to make the user experience simple and rich and engaging.
James Coakley-- you are right, of course, they were reinterpretations of existing products that made them thinner and richer. Good point. My larger point was that the basis of the smart watch has been in use for more than 100 years, and hundreds of years in the form of a pocket watch, so there's some atavistic meaning to the original thing.
I may be wrong but I believe the Apple Watch will be compatible with the entire iPhone 5 series, so at least you won't have to buy the new iPhone 6 to use it.
My husband and i have a wager on the success of this item- i think it will be a hit , he a miss- i love the idea of it- not original, Dick Tracy and Professor Gadget had them- but as a person without pockets, i love the idea and the look- Time (so to speak) will tell-
Ruth-- I think you're on to something. in that people might use it just as a wallet.
As alluded to in your opening - we are wildly fortunate to have such first world problems.
"Oldest of forms," is right, Barbara. As Ruth says, not original. Think always of Dick Tracy's 2-way wrist radio introduced some 80 years ago. Samsung Smart Watch has already used the venerable detective in ad campaign, pleasing Boomers like me immensely.
I completely agree with everything that this article says. If you really think about it apple has a way of taking products that have been on the market for years if not even decades and turning them into something new that people will wait in line to buy. Take the iPod for example I can remember a time when it did not exist and there was only mp3 players out there, but who had one of those. When apple came out with their first mp3 player and called it an “iPod” everyone wanted one, I would expect nothing less from Apples iWatch. If we think about it, it is actually brilliant way to market a product Apple is able to take products that are already know to the public and turn them into something we really want to get, and are willing to spend our money on. I think this strategy allows Apple to focus on marketing what people are going to get in the product instead of what the product actually is because we already know the basic function of the device, its all about the extras. I think Apple was very smart to link their iWatch to the new iPhone 6; this is a brilliant idea and a way to get extra sales. It is forcing people who really want the iWatch to invest in their new iPhone. This is a great way to market a product by attaching them at first. I don’t think that it is going to hurt the sale of the iWatch. We saw that they use the same technique with the iPad when it first came out, it had to be linked with a mac computer and the company saw a spike in the amount of computers their were selling. Overall I think that Apple does a really good job at marketing their products and I don’t think that they are going to have any problems selling their new iWatch to consumers.