If Apple made an iWatch, I'd buy one, you'd buy one... We'd all buy one...

If Apple made an iWatch, I'd buy one, you'd buy one... We'd all buy one...

Summary: The idea of the iWatch seems unappealing to people I've spoken to on Twitter. But that's not how Apple works. If they did an iWatch, you'd buy one. You know you would...

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TOPICS: Smartphones
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512px-Rolex-Submariner
The advantage to a geek of a watch like this Rolex is that it has an automatic movement, meaning that in the event of an EMP blast in the vicinity, you can still tell the time. An Apple iWatch is likely to be more sensitive to such things.

Every day, another rumour about upcoming Apple products. This time (no pun) it's the "iWatch" -- potentially a more deliberate foray into wearable computing than just slapping a iPad Nano on your wrist.

But Twitter is very down on the idea -- I've yet to find anyone who's said they'll even consider buying one. What there's missing though is a appreciation of Apple's ability to behave more like a fashion label than a technology company. If they do bring out an iWatch, I'll buy one, you'll buy one -- in fact, we'll all buy one. Because as a society, that's how our deal with Apple works.

Fashion

The conversations that I've observed and partaken in on Twitter about an iWatch tend to focus on the fact that no one wears watches anymore.

For what it's worth, I actually don't think an iWatch is going to happen. Wearable computing is something that technologists want to happen, but I've yet to be convinced. I also think that in Apple's labs there are probably a bazillion weird products that never see the light of day.

Read: I hope the Apple watch is more than a dumb terminal

I think there are two things directly wrong with the iWatch proposition. The first thing is that the people who look after Apple's brand are not going to want you to stop looking at your iPhone and start looking at your iWatch. Remember that over the past dozen or so years Apple behaves more Louis Vuitton and Prada than Microsoft or Samsung. Apple very much wants you to see them using their products. Imagine you are on public transport going to work. What Apple wants is for you to be sitting there with your white earbuds in (so that everyone knows you're listening to music on an iDevice), and if you want to check you email they want you to pull out your iPhone use it, smile and obviously enjoy it. The iWatch breaks that model. You'd be sitting there on the train, smooth up the cuff of your jacket/coat, and glance at the watch. You'd get the information that you need, but Apple would not get the brand recognition that they need.

This is just one possible problem with the iWatch. The other problem is that whatever you can think of, or whatever I can think of, is going to be way too pedestrian and obvious to Apple. The whole point of the way that Apple innovates products is that it does stuff that ordinary people cannot think of. As technologists we think about a wearable smartwatch and we think of something like Pebble. If Apple does a watch, it will be absolutely nothing like that. By definition, because I am an ordinary person like you, there's no point in me musing about what an iWatch might actually be.

Walkmans

A really good book on Apple's behaviour is Digital Wars by Charles Arthur. What I also like about is that it's full of "oh, I didn't realise that!" moments. (The story within the book is also told in a genuinely gripping way, and that makes it a great read.) A pertinent "Oh!" moment that I learnt from his book is that I thought the iPod was something that just "happened" within Apple -- i.e. although the idea of portable music was obvious actually making the iPod and the iTunes ecosystem was a far colder and more calculated move than this. Jobs and his team intentionally looked for a market area that could be exploited, but importantly one that was poorly served by the market, yet had the capacity to power a global trend through application of marketing more often seen from fashion companies than technology companies.

This basic operation is what Apple does. They do not "throw their hat into the ring" with others, what they always do is make a new ring, put their hat in first, and then extract as much money as possible. The tactic of avoiding going toe-to-toe with competitors means they have to -- aha -- "think different".

What made the iPod work was not that it was a particularly innovative idea, but that Jobs and Apple were able to take a fashion that had died out, reinvent it, own it, and then profit from it. When I was a kid everyone had Walkmans. I remember being at school and spending most of what we called "playtime", but which I understand in the US is called "recess", comparing Walkmans. I had a pretty rubbish Walkman, and I still remember being trounced on a daily basis in an endless game of Walkman Top Trumps by friends who had auto-reverse, Dolby B and C, a metal tape selector switch and so on. If I wanted to play the other side of a cassette, I had to take it out and turn it over.

And then one day, Walkmans were gone -- their demise seemingly tied to the shift from the cassette tape to the CD. CD Walkmans offered a different utility to their tape-based forebears, and this seemed to kill off the fashion. But the psychological attraction of the Walkman -- being able to be out in a public space but actually enveloped in your own private aural landscape -- still worked. Apple managed to make the Walkman fashionable again, with straplines of "10,000 songs in your pocket" and the silhouetted dancers in their famous ads. In those ads the iPod unit itself is shown, but more important is the white earbuds. This was the hook -- the global trend that Apple built was that everyone wanted the practical ability to listen to their music when they were out and about, but that everyone wanted to be seen with those earbuds.

Conclusion

If you were a company Samsung, it's relatively easy to imagine that you could create a wearable computing product like a watch and make it successful within one geographic/demographic market cross-section.

If Apple were to make an iWatch, I suspect it will probably be quite a basic idea, but done in a way that will create a global trend. Not being the sort of product development and marketing genius that works in the upper echelons of Apple's management I have no idea what that could be.

But if anyone can make us all go back to wearing watches, it'll be Apple, just like they made us all wear Walkmans again.

What do you think? Post a comment, or talk to me on Twitter: @mbrit.

Image credit: Wikimedia

Topic: Smartphones

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151 comments
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  • Apple Watch

    You know what I wear a watch it tells the time, now if it was an Apple watch I likely would have to use ITunes to set it and buy an app to tell the time, Apple sheep of course will buy one but if Apple released a polished turd then they would likely buy that too and tell everyone who would listen how you had never crapped as easily until you'd ICrapped.
    chuckchuckling
    • so true

      I despise trends so I have never nor will ever buy anything with a "I" in front of it
      gordongr
      • People could care less about iWatch

        Funny to see iAppologists think it's still 2007 that people would buy into any hype Apple throws out there. Apple's mojo is gone, and that's why they come out with such lame iWatch product.
        LBiege
      • Pocket Watch or Wristwatch?

        You are all assuming it's a wristwatch which would NEVER fly. Never has, probably never will.

        Some day we will all carry a small mobile device with massive computing capabilities. Smartphones are getting close.

        The device will have wireless I/O and easily communicate with your home keyboard and display, payment card terminals, and etc.

        The technological limitations preventing such a product today is battery, generator, and RF technology. Until there is a miniature battery capable of sustaining RF transmission it is not going to happen. By generator I mean power sources such as mechanical, atomic, thermal, and photo voltaic converters.

        A wristwatch would be just too stupid, even if the technology were available today.

        Fashion, not Apple, will dictate what is acceptable for wearing visible technology. If you think wearing a Walkman was fashionable, you are in the minority. Same goes for wearing a Bluetooth cellular ear piece or any wearable technology.

        Displays built in to eye glasses will not fly until the technology makes its way in to contact lenses. It may, some day, not in my lifetime. Not saying anyone will buy it.

        Apple, global fashion trend? Pigs will fly first.
        Patrickgood1
        • Somebody email patrick's post to the fool, Matt Baxter-Reynolds

          Matt should be fired, his ineptness is should not be condoned.
          Spaztic888
      • Same here...

        especially since this has been done already. For all those crapple fans, search for GSM watch, cell watch and/or watch phone. It amazes me still how things have been done but when apple decides to remake it, its suppose to be some New and innovative product.

        Get Real Apple Fan Boys!
        Free Webapps
        • iWatch potential

          I consider myself to be ahead of the curve when it comes to tech and computers.
          I disagree with the author that we ever stopped carrying walkmans, we just evolved to using different music players. I went from tape walkmans, to minidisc, to the first mp3 phone, the Siemens SL45. When the iPod came out, I thought it was superfluous. I already had a device that played music and doubles as a phone while being much lighter and smaller than an ipod. It had an MMC card slot and I managed to get a 1gb card to work with it. It even ran java apps that I could write! I consider the SL45 to be the first true smartphone and the iPods didn't appeal to me with their bulk, weight or their non replaceable battery.
          I got my first ipod, 3rd gen 20gb, when someone gave me their faulty one. The only fault was the battery needed replacing as it no longer held charge. Learned to fix them and ended up doing hundreds of ipod repairs as a job.
          No need to tell you that I developed a massive hate for itunes thanks to the ipod.
          I don't wear watches very often, but the funny thing is I do collect a few watches!
          I would wear an iwatch if it told me the time, had an alarm, stop watch, countdown timer, told me the time in 2 other zones plus one other thing: if it could be a USB drive with a capacity in the region of 250gb and have the ability to connect as a wifi drive. I would also need it to be waterproof and last a week without a recharge when not used as a wifi drive. wireless charging would be awesome, kinetic/solar charging would be great, but the ability to charge by plugging into a USB port without any cables is mandatory.
          I would be willing to pay $250 for an iwatch like this.
          If, while plugged in to power, it could host a USB drive and serve it as a wifi drive, i'd be happy to go up to $300.
          warboat
      • Lets have a hater contest.

        How many pedantic comments can we come up with that include the lower case-letter "i" in front of it. Remember, don't worry about the maturity level of the comment or whether you think it makes you look like a pedantic teen fanboy. Adding the lower-case letter "i" will make you appear very clever. Trust me.

        The OP kicked it off with iCrapped. pretty clever but i've seen it in even single other comment made by an Apple hating Fanboy on every Apple related article ever written. So I am going to have to up esotericism with "iTurd."
        Who's next?
        Tigertank
    • Collection of myths

      No not like that at all

      You don't need iTunes to set up an iOS device. You don't even need a computer.

      Sheep? Sheep who spout garbage to the followers of the Windows or the android religion maybe!

      The people buying iOS devices are largely not previous Apple buyers. The simple number of purchasers against the previous user base shows the iOS market is growing and is much larger than the Mac user base.

      Your whole argument just doesn't hold up.

      Now is the iWatch (or whatever) a good idea? That depends on how they do it.

      The idea of a watch somehow related to your phone is not new - in fact Sony did an android watch recently.

      The idea of a watch as part of your mobile device is even older than Sony's.

      A friend of mine suggested that a watch should be part of the mobile phone back in the late 80's. I have been waiting for that to happen since then - and not spreading his good idea around.

      Unfortunately for him he apparently forgot he said it. I mentioned it to him recently and he had no idea.

      Now remember the iPhone - and how that was going to be a total failure according to the wisdom of the posters on ZDNet?

      Remember the iPad and how it was going to fail according to the posters on ZDNet?

      Now since hundreds of millions have bought these devices you idiots have to say 'sheeple' - well it's stupid and it's untrue and you are wasting your breath cause the 100's of millions of non-sheeple are going to buy stuff that works no matter how much you spread lies on here.

      So based on past experience then Apple may very well get it right and produce a useful device. On the other hand (or wrist?) Apple has made the occasional mistake and produced some unsuccessful products before, and now Jobs is gone the internal dynamics are different so who knows?
      richardw66
      • Spoken like a true apple junkie

        Just because Apple fans are basically cult followers, it doesn't mean those who use other platforms or devices are similarly afflicted.

        Obviously your head is in the (apple) clouds when you say you don't "need" itunes or even a computer for i-devices. Even WITH a computer, unless you're willing to use elaborate workarounds, you can't even do something as simple as adding a music file to a ipod without installing Apple's junky software.

        Our family has several mp3 players, all of which can be managed easily in various ways without having to install any proprietary garbage. I can simply drag and drop music or video files to them or from them, just by plugging them in to the computer. Or, if I want to, can certainly use WMP or virtually any other music management program to do it for me. But a relative brings over his ipod and would like to add some music files from his CD, no can do, because I'm not about to install itune garbage on my computers, and evne the supposed workarounds all result in them either not working or having to install itunes or the drivers from a hacked file just to be able to perform a simple task.

        But deny it all you want, as you will, because denial is the first step to making sure you're a true addict. Sure, an iwatch will just function fine without any need for being tethered to your fearless leader at Apple.
        garyleroy@...
        • Meanwhile, Apple haters such as you

          are being ignored by the masses and Apple is laughing all the way to the bank. Any business exists to make money for its owners. Apple is doing that despite naysayers like you.
          arminw
          • what an idiot

            so your happy that apple is laughing all the way to the bank
            Ryan Mams
          • and who owns Apple?

            the shareholders.
            how much money has Apple paid them in dividends over the last few years?
            about $5 per share in total.
            yes sir, around $5 for every $500 share over the last couple of years.
            Apple clearly does not exist to make money for its owners.
            And the owners are sheeps who are not willing to spill the board.
            has all the recipe of a religious cult.
            warboat
        • cult

          ((( "Just because Apple fans are basically cult followers..." )))

          If a cult has a half-billion followers, it's not a cult.
          buddhistMonkey
          • cult

            Ok, what do you call them? Sheep? I can live with that ;)
            Spaztic888
          • No - it's Scientology

            (nt)
            fairportfan
      • you are full of it..

        everyone that I now that has an iPhone needs to set up an iTunes account to use it, iPad same thing.
        Romas27
        • And a Google Account for Android

          and a Zune Account for Windows Phone - so your point is?
          ScanBack
          • windows phone

            Not true, just drag and drop... At least in windows phone 8.. As i stream all my music only used a couple times... Everything else is in the cloud... Just have to sign in with my live id
            tom.simeone
        • This confirms that you have no idea of apple products

          An Itunes account is free, it protect your Iphone and any other apple product ( if stolen ) you can backup all your devices and if you lose them you can reload everything you had on your device on the new one. You have to pay only what you buy but you can get free applications too.
          GTHenry