TECH

Is Ap­ple’s new watch too clever for its own good?

Emirates Man - - CONTENTS - BY MIKE PRIEST

Ap­ple has spent a lot of time (and money) strate­gi­cally re­brand­ing it­self as a luxury fash­ion house ahead of the launch of its first wear­able this month. We’ve seen a 12-page spread on the Ap­ple Watch within the pages of Vogue, a con­sid­er­able re­tail store makeover to ac­com­mo­date higher ticket items, and an ex­haus­tive 10,000-plus word pro­file in The New Yorker of its se­nior vice pres­i­dent of de­sign, Jonathan Ive, in which he waxes philo­soph­i­cal from the back­seat of his Bent­ley Mul­sanne, no less. Funny then, that for a prod­uct that’s be­ing po­si­tioned so ve­he­mently as a fash­ion ac­ces­sory – with its as­tro­nom­i­cal price tag and rose gold fin­ish on the high­est-end model – the Ap­ple Watch still comes across as a wrist-strapped in­box.

This was ev­i­dent none more so than at last month’s press con­fer­ence, where we learnt (not un­ex­pect­edly) that the de­vice is func­tion­ally use­less when not paired with an iPhone. The more press­ing is­sue be­ing that once you do pair it, it can es­sen­tially only do iPhone things, rel­e­gat­ing it far more to the realm of ex­pen­sive smart­phone ac­ces­sory than the fash­ion revo­lu­tion it’s be­ing touted as. Granted, this isn’t a prob­lem ex­clu­sive to Ap­ple – An­droid Wear de­vices have been strug­gling to find their killer app that will send sales fig­ures sky­rock­et­ing. But none of the Google-en­gine smart watches have placed their bets so squarely in the camp of the Omegas and Tis­sots of this world as Ap­ple have.

Fash­ion is first about grab­bing at­ten­tion, and fore­most about hold­ing it – fix­ing a mo­ment in time as we re­flect on the shape and colour of an ar­ti­cle of cloth­ing or ac­ces­sory. A per­pet­u­ally buzzing stream of your Twit­ter men­tions is the po­lar op­po­site of this, no mat­ter how stylish that slab of sap­phire glass looks on your wrist. And therein lies the fun­da­men­tal prob­lem. The Ap­ple Watch needs to be less hec­tic; some­thing more akin to an ob­ject of art and less of a tiny, pes­ter­ing com­puter.

Jux­ta­pose that with the an­nounce­ment of a new 12in Mac­book at the same event. It was a gor­geously de­signed net­book com­peti­tor on which lit­tle time was wasted ex­plain­ing what it is or does. Ap­ple didn’t need to. You sim­ply take one look at its edge-to-edge key­board and pre­mium dis­play and you in­stinc­tively want one. The oblig­a­tory hy­per­bole-filled promo videos fo­cused on its look and feel, and like all good fash­ion ac­ces­sories, when you see one in the wild tucked un­der some­one’s arm, it will com­mand your at­ten­tion. This level of lust is what Ap­ple was clearly striv­ing for with its time­piece, but stum­bled out of the gate amid a quag­mire of no­ti­fi­ca­tions and fit­ness track­ing stats. Of course, we won’t know for sure if the move will pay off un­til the sales fig­ures start com­ing in, but it cer­tainly is telling that Cu­per­tino is po­si­tion­ing its first fash­ion ac­ces­sory as a com­puter, while its lat­est com­puter has all the hall­marks of a highly de­sir­able fash­ion ac­ces­sory.

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