Nerds Wear Glasses
I don’t think the iWatch will look anything like the photo above.
It is widely expected that Apple will launch an “iWatch” in the next one to six months. At the risk of being totally wrong in just a few weeks or months, here are a few bold predictions:
#1) It may not be a watch.
That’s right; I’m less than 50% convinced the “iWatch” will have a traditional watch face with a screen and look like a watch. If it does, I don’t think it will look like a traditional watch. Most screens are power hungry yet watches need to be quite small and thus accommodate minute batteries. Apple also has a tradition of creating more by removing seemingly necessary features. Want to build the best smart phone for typing email? Remove the keyboard. Want to build the best laptop? Remove everything that makes it a “laptop.”
As @monkbent pointed out to me the other day, if the iWatch is focused on gathering sensory data, then it doesn’t need a screen. How functional and wonderful an experience can you provide on a tiny screen anyhow? If the iWatch does include a screen, I don’t think it will function like the screen on an iPhone. The size of a watch screen relative to a fingertip makes for potentially poor interaction dynamics if you think about the Apple iOS UI guidelines for button sizing.
Apple executives are probably watching and laughing as competitors including Motorola and Samsung rush literal iWatches to market based on what they think Apple will do and fear of Apple getting there first. Meanwhile, in reality, Apple’s iWatch is no “watch” at all.
#2) Unlike Android watch initiatives, Apple will not try to make their watch look like a digital Rolex.
Wristwatches are dangerous territory for Apple. Unlike computers, digital music players and tablets, watches are already about as simple as they can get. The watch on my wrist really couldn’t get much less functional: it tells the time yet doesn’t even distinguish between AM and PM! In fact, it doesn’t tell me which month it is or how many days there are in the current month so I have to manually adjust it for any month without 31 days! It doesn’t even have a battery. It relies on the ancient tech of mechanical gears! Yet, I paid a premium for this watch! Weird, right? Yes! It is, in fact, irrational.
Apple understands this subtle insight into the watch market that Google, Motorola and Samsung have missed. The watch market is irrational. Rolex watches are not coveted for their features and functionality. They are status symbols. It can be pretty difficult to compete with irrational status symbols with rational features and functionality. That sounds like a losing battle to me.
#3) It will be cool.
Apple understands cool. Remember the original iPod billboard and TVs ads? Fucking cool. Apple took the incredibly dorky Nomad Jukebox and made it look cool, seem cool and actually cool. With hindsight, it wouldn’t seem difficult to make an “MP3 player” cool, yet it was an incredible coup at the time. Apple made the iPod at a time before a lay person could figure out how to download an MP3 or sync a hardware peripheral with a computer. (I remember being made fun of by a close friend for pre-ordering one of the first iPods.) Complexity is decidedly uncool. Apple removed all that complexity and brought portable digital music to the masses. That’s what made it cool. All of those ads were icing on the cake.
Why go through the effort of trying to be cool? Does Apple have some sort of superiority complex derived from awkward high school years? Possibly, but more likely and quite simply, cool sells (and Google Glass does not).
#3) It will be sporty and fun.
Unlike the Motorola 360 for instance, the iWatch will have branding much closer to Nike+ than an exclusive brand such as Rolex or Louis Vuitton. Once again, Apple does not want to out Rolex Rolex.
Apple will compete by making it sporty. Think: young, athletic people in workout clothes. Think photos of impossibly fit and diverse 20-somethings having just finished a grueling run, yet nonchalantly smiling as if to say “Oh, did I just run a marathon?!”
Wearables: contrasting approaches in positioning
But the sportiness will be more than skin deep. Apple will deliver on this positioning through a host of applications that allows consumers to track fitness and self-improvement and those will be front and center. Apple will make you feel like you just lost 20 pounds and can run a 4:00 mile by putting this thing on.
#4) It will be serious and emotional.
Complementing the iWatch’s sporty and lighter side, we’re likely to get a healthy does of some really serious, nearly tear-jerking positioning. Think: young children freed from cumbersome medical devices roaming in the great outdoors. Think: grandparents living more fulfilling lives with their grandchildren because they spend less time at the doctor’s office. We’ve seen this before. Apple likes to appeal to both sides of the emotional spectrum. In one frame you see some guy climbing a snow-capped mountain with an iPad and in the next you see some impeccably dressed, WASPy looking grandparents FaceTiming with Junior. Once again, it won’t just be positioning because eventually the iWatch will deliver on these promises.
There’s a high likelihood I’ll be totally wrong on most if not all of these prognostications but that’s what makes this fun. It is very likely (read: nearly certain) Apple will surprise us in ways I haven’t contemplated, but I think in almost any configuration the iWatch is unlikely to resemble current digital watch initiatives.