This post is over a year old, and likely doesn’t reflect my current thinking or mindset.
Tim Cook’s legacy on Apple is going to be him making the company known as a high fashion brand.
The Apple Watch is the first mixing of fashion and tech that hasn’t been a mess. The Apple watch has great ui, fashionable hardware, and a large user base of customers willing to buy it. This is something that Android OEMs have never been able to achieve. They’ve never shipped products that sell widely, are fashionable, and have great user experiences. It’s always been a pick two out of three, or less.
The Apple Watch is rounded metal, most likely aluminum, and the biggest selling point hardware wise is the absolute plethora of styles in which you can wear it. They have sophisticated gold and real leather strap styles, sports styles which look to be out of fitbit or nikes playbook, and all sorts of styles in between. The UI is an interesting bubble based concept with different hierarchical levels literally being nothing more than how far you are zoomed in on a particular element. The custom font Apple is using seems to be similar to the one used in the camera app on iOS, and I am especially fond of the small caps variant. There is no reported battery life, no news is likely bad news as Tim Cook did say “when you charge it overnight” during the keynote indicating that at the very least you’ll only get a days usage out of it which is on par with other watches.
I personally dislike the crown and think that it was added mainly because Apple wanted it to be more welcoming to people who are familiar with existing timepieces. As a millennial today was the first time I’ve ever seen a crown. Luckily you can navigate around the UI without having to use it much. There is a second button, used to quickly bring up your favorite contacts, where you can easily send messages to them.
The Apple Watch also is in two sizes, which is something that I very much liked. Currently watches are too large for anyone with a small wrist, and for some medium sized wrist folks still too big. Having sizes is great and every other watch maker really should do that.
I’ll admit at first I was bullish on the Apple Watch and thought that it was ugly, but for a generation one product, it looks alright. I still do not like the rectangle shape for a watch, nor do I care for super polished metal that does not have any hard edges. But this is a matter of taste because well, fashion.
On Fashion and Nerds
I want to talk about “being fashionable” for a minute. The definition i’m using for fashionable is “characteristic of, influenced by, or representing a current popular trend or style.” Current trends and style are in this case cultural aspects of our society. In order to be fashionable then, the item must hold cultural relevance and follow current trends. I hope this seems obvious, but most nerds tend to disregard fashion as something unimportant, most recently John Carmack1 wearing cargo pants and a regular t-shirt while on stage at a Samsung press briefing being a really good example of this. This isn’t to say there are nerds who think fashion is important, after all i’m here, but a good amount of Apple, Beats, and other high markup product dismissal seems to stem from a general lack of care for fashion. It’s ignorant to think that fashion isn’t important at all. While you may not particularly care to dress following any generally agreed upon rule, most people appreciate and like being fashionable.
The biggest immediate difference from a 200$ Chromebook to a 999$ Macbook Air are the materials being used right? The Macbook Air is the more luxurious, more high end, and more fashionable laptop. For a while in tech there’s been this idea that design isn’t fashion and fashion isn’t design 2. I believe that may have been true to start, but as devices get smaller and start to always be on us, fashion is extremely important to the product. People already do this with the iPhone cases. Most iPhone cases are some design that the person thinks suits them and their taste. The case is a fashion statement.
The Apple Watch surprised me because of how much it did. This is a first gen Apple with a brand new OS in a brand new category shipping with a SDK and the ability to have more than notification stuff running on the device. The amount of features Apple is shipping this with is crazy. But, I’m not sure a watch needs features like being able to browse you twitter feed or take calls from the device (note not answer, but actually use it as a microphone). It seems a bit Samsung-ish as to where it appears that they threw the kitchen sink with this device, but i’m going to wait until they start shipping to make a final judgement. I just cannot help but feel like Android Wear has a bit more cohesion and focus to the vision, which is to make you use your phone less when out and about. The Apple Watch seems to be auxiliary to your phone by replacing it for certain tasks, while the Moto 360 is made so you use the all of your devices less by not having rich UI to play around in. I’m not sure which approach wins but the differences in thinking surprised me.
Speaking of Android Wear, please have context in mind when you compare the Apple watch to it. Speaking market wise, the Apple Watch has no competition besides the pebble. Android Wear does not run on iOS, so therefore iOS users are not going to buy a Wear device. Ditto for Apple Watch with Android users. Comparing the Apple Watch to the Moto 360 and making a case for what’ll sell more is stupid because to switch from one watch to another people will literally need to switch phones. We can discuss UI differences or design thought process all we want but the comparison discussion has limits before it becomes useless. Android Wear devices compete marketwise with Android Wear devices and Apple has a nice monopoly on their own wearable market.
The Apple Watch is great for iOS users, but does nothing to win over people who use Android Wear. And that’s the point. These devices are nothing but auxiliary to your phone and that’s also the point. However Apple Watch is a great piece of fashion whereas the Moto 360 and Asus Zen Watch are the closest thing Android Wear has to being fashionable, but because of limited styles and sizes they do not quite meet the bar of being fashionable.
The Apple Watch is going to do what the iPod did but not in the way that we all expected. The Apple Watch is going to make tech companies realize that fashion is as important as user experience.