This week saw the official launch of Apple’s new Watch. It won’t be long now until you’ll be seeing people walking along the street staring at their wrists in consternation, rather than into the rectangular glow of their phones. Wearables are the future, and Apple is about to make it happen.
But I’m a little concerned about this.
The keynote address from Tim Cook that released the Watch into the world felt somewhat stale and lacking in excitement. Many of the features had already been announced, and it was only the poorly judged decision to show Christie Turlington Burns parading around her shiny new digital timepiece while visiting a poverty stricken part of Africa, that was new. In fairness Ms Burns was training for a marathon that will raise money to alleviate the poverty and help young women safely deliver their babies, but the juxtaposition of a luxury device whose cost could pay for the medicines sorely lacking in the facilities was an odd one.
And in many ways that’s the problem with the Watch. It’s a confusing device.
On one hand it’s an exciting new territory for Apple, where it is not only competing with the Android Wear devices that launched last year, but also with established watch makers that have status and history which even eclipses that of this Californian upstart. Apple’s weight in the technology world and the widespread popularity of the iPhone also means that the Watch could finally usher in the age of wearables that’s been tantalisingly close for a few years now.
But conversely there was something missing from the launch, and the buzz since then in the media has been focussed around the new super-thin MacBook that was also revealed at the event. Apple’s videos were more obsessed with the metals than the actual usefulness of the product, and the heartbeat thing just looks like the kind of daft feature that Samsung usually cram into their products. Now, before I go any further, let me be clear that I like Smartwatches. I’ve used a couple in the past, and am sporting a Sony Smartwatch 3 while I type this. They are, of course, a luxury product (after all they’re merely a remote display for your phone) but the convenience offered by a simple glance at the wrist is a lot of fun, plus actually useful when you’re out and about, cooking, or otherwise dexterously challenged. Up until now though I’ve always enjoyed them as an idea, but spending up to £200 on one just felt like an ostentatious step too far. After all, that’s a fair chunk of the price of a new phone. Now the Apple Watch has entered the fray and it’s prices are, well, a bit silly.
Although the base Sports models (which features the exact same technology as the more expensive versions) starts at £299, the normal dress Watch is around £500, and the Edition range starts at £8000 and goes up to a frankly ridiculous £13,500. A solid gold, multi-thousand pound watch, that will be out of date in a couple of years? Is that…cool?
I’ve used Macs for years and loved them. There are two iPads in our house at the moment and I can’t see them being replaced by any rival products in the future. I don’t use an iPhone any more, just because they’re too expensive and I prefer the direction Android is going. In short, I like Apple stuff. It’s a little disconcerting then that the Watch, which is the first new product category that has been developed and introduced under Tim Cook’s tenure, feels, well, a very middle-aged product. By that I don’t mean that it arrives heralded by minstrels and adorned with a leather codpiece. Rather that it’s the slightly tacky but thinks it’s cool kind of device that costs too much.
I’m sure it will sell bucket loads, Apple stuff always does, but is this the first chink in the company’s armour to appear in a long time? Is the self-satisfied gloating over it’s cost the sign that Cook and Co have lost touch with the general populace and now only make things for super-models who want to time their jogs? To be fair Apple stuff has always been pricey, but the Macs, iPhones, and even iPads had powerful features that made them useful in their own right. The Watch is a companion device to an iPhone that can pretty much only tell the time when separated from its pocket brain, and only while its battery remains intact.
I really don’t know how to feel about the Watch. Is it innovative or indulgent? A glimpse of the future, or the sign of a company beginning to believe its own hype?
I guess only time will tell.
What do you think about the Apple Watch? Do you want one? Let me know in the comments.