After spending time with Apple Watch, it became abundantly clear why people will like the device: it's new and cool. A device that can fit into one's life, but still seemingly blend away when not in use, shares many similarities to the iPhone. While coolness may not be enough to use as the conclusion of a 5,000-word product review, and it certainly won't cause the general public to run out to an Apple store and spend $400+ on a watch, it will lead to imagination. Apple Watch's long-term success will depend on the people pre-ordering the device today; the trailblazers who view the Watch's potential with the same eye that saw iPhone's potential in its early years.
Apple Watch's coolness transcends the much more complex and important topic of technology. The Apple Watch needs to become a better device. While this may sound like a stern warning, it is a necessity that simply describes the path of technology, exemplified by the iPhone over the past eight years. Not only did the iPhone become thinner and lighter over the years, but the fundamental way we used the device changed, thanks in part to more powerful components and third-party developers. From a device used to access the internet when we were away from our computer, the iPhone is now our computer.
The same process will occur with Apple Watch. Today, the Apple Watch is a cool device that can show the time when we look at our wrist, track how many steps we walk each day, and send tap messages to friends. As the device gains additional sensors, better battery technology, and revolutionary materials and components, the use cases will expand as developers utilize the device's potential.
Apple Watch will use coolness to sell itself until people find that utility. As developers understand what the Watch is, and more importantly isn't, apps will improve, taking information once destined for the iPhone and repackaging it for the wrist. In many ways this is what early adopters do, buy things that they think are cool and interesting and then spend time tinkering and thinking. Saying a product is for early adopters isn't an insult, even though many have equated the two in recent years.
Watching people of all ages try on and interact with the Apple Watch, the impression I got was that most saw it as an interesting watch. That is to be expected considering the wrist was ruled by the watch for decades and anything destined for the same spot on our bodies will likely be initially compared to a watch. This is one reason why I heard a few complaints about the screen turning off when not pointed at the wearer, or having to charge it each night. Regular watches don't have those "tradeoffs". The same was said about iPhone "drawbacks" such as not having a keyboard and needing to charge it more frequently compared to feature phones. Even though the iPhone was introduced as the best smartphone in the market, in many ways it made for a suboptimal phone. Over time, our demands for a phone changed. The same will occur with what we consider to be Apple Watch negatives, and ultimately, what we want out of a watch.
The bet that Apple is making with Apple Watch is that in an environment of smart glasses, virtual and augmented reality goggles, and other wearable devices, it is the wrist that has a long runway with an immense level of untapped innovation, and more importantly, void of many roadblocks to reach that innovation. Apple knew that consumers wanted to wear and play with something that looked cool, while every other smartwatch maker was too concerned about first answering the utility question. Why else are Apple Watch bands, which have little functionality besides being a fashion accessory, the most talked about Apple Watch feature?
The Apple Watch represents potential. I suspect that is one reason why Apple executives can't hold back a smile whenever Apple Watch comes up in conversation. With an iPhone, although there is still plenty of innovation left, exemplified by Apple's recent $20 million acquisition of LinX, people now understand the iPhone is a computer. The level of excitement or surprise will never be the way it used to be. We now demand our iPhone to take over the world. The Apple Watch possesses similar traits to when we first saw the iPhone. There isn't just a level of excitement around the device, but also intrigue and mystery. We don't know what will happen to Apple Watch in a few years. We are told Apple Watch will never work on its own. We are told it will always be an iPhone accessory and companion. People are buying it today because subconsciously they want to see if those statements are true. We want to know if the Apple Watch is the future. Just like the iPhone, a very good case can be made that the answer is yes and it starts with being cool.
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