Apple Watch: Useless Beauty, Brilliant Engineering - InformationWeek
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Apple Watch: Useless Beauty, Brilliant Engineering

Apple's entry into the wearable market both disappoints and delights. But the Apple watch will breathe life into the entire wearable industry.

Wearable Tech: 5 Healthcare Wins
Wearable Tech: 5 Healthcare Wins
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After Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday introduced Apple Watch, the smartwatch the company plans to ship early next year, he invited the band U2 onstage to play a song from the album Apple bought from the band and plans to give to iTunes users for free on Wednesday.

Elvis Costello, singing "All This Useless Beauty," would have been a more appropriate choice.

The Apple Watch, beautiful though it may be in comparison to other smartwatches on the market, is useless in the sense that it isn't even a stand-alone product; it's an iPhone accessory. It needs to be paired with an iPhone for GPS data and WiFi connectivity. It needs to be paired with an iPhone because otherwise it might cannibalize iPhone sales, as the iPhone has done to the iPod.

It's useless in the sense that it's largely redundant. Your iPhone can already tell time and can present a far more useable view of mobile apps. If you already have a watch, chances are it will last far longer on a battery charge than Apple's version.

Apple Watch is useless in the sense that it's a Rube Goldberg machine. It adds unnecessary layers of complication to communication and time-telling for the sake of bundling so many functions into a wrist-mounted computer. Its UI breakthrough is the scroll wheel, a concept that dates back to the beginnings of mechanical gears. Siri evidently lacks the intelligence to handle interaction without help from a knob. At least a smartphone requires only one hand to operate; the Apple Watch requires a wrist and an opposing hand.

[At least one analyst firm has a positive opinion on Apple's prospects. Read Apple To Dominate Wearables Through 2016: Forrester.]

Nonetheless, Apple Watch is a brilliant piece of engineering. While it may lack a reason for being, it appears to be a triumph of fashion and entertainment. It's likely to appeal to Apple customers, many of whom can afford the unnecessary expense of the Apple Watch. About a third of Apple's US sales last year were to Americans with income exceeding $100,000, according to research firm NPD, which put Apple's share of that segment at 65%.

"It's the most personal product we've ever made," said Cook. Really, it's the most social.

Starting at $349, Apple Watch should prove popular with well-heeled young people, a group likely to be delighted with the social interaction enabled by the product: the ability to send heartbeats to one another via the device's haptic sensor, to transmit doodles, and to reply to email via menu options or voice input rather than typed text.

Through the power of Apple's brand and marketing, Apple Watch should also spur interest in activity tracking among those who haven't warmed to the idea of counting footsteps, calories, and crunches. And the prospect of better health monitoring through healthcare industry apps could be enough to entice older customers to trade in their Timex watches.

The Apple Watch should excite businesses, which will be able to deploy pleasingly streamlined authentication and payment services that work in conjunction with the device (and iPhone 6). Companies will add value to the device over time with capabilities like paying for items using Apple Pay and boarding a plane using a Passbook boarding pass.

Expect the Apple Watch to breathe life into the entire wearable industry, which will have to innovate in areas where Apple has not or to come up with something better.

The Apple Watch isn't so much a revolutionary product as a devolutionary one: It marks the migration of technical functions into the objects and activities of everyday life. It marks an even greater emphasis on design as a differentiator. Apple Watch won't be a runaway hit like the iPhone or iPad; but it will help Apple expand the focus of the technology industry beyond mobile devices and the desktop.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/16/2014 | 7:27:12 AM
Re: and they said the ipad was useless too
What I found interesting from the article is that the watch manufacturer wasn't looking to build a watch that acts like a smart phone.  They were regretting that they didn't consider the biometric sensors, motion sensors and the communication with smart phones.    A traditional watch face with always on sensors controlled by a smart phone seems like something you would get more of the older generations to wear.  If they can monitor their pulse, blood pressure, etc without having to fiddle with a tiny screen I think it would be an easy sell for those that need to do that monitoring.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2014 | 10:26:15 AM
Re: and they said the ipad was useless too
My girlfriend is a fitness fanatic and she has the FitBit. She uses it to its fullest extent and loves it. To use the iwatch's fitness features you also have to buy the iphone. So even buying the base iphone plus the iwatch is a significant expense and i am not sure you get as much for your money as you would from a device that is geated towards fitness only.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2014 | 10:17:49 AM
Re: That's Apple for you, always a step behind
Well said. Apple makes products that are high quality, designed well and look really nice. In their marketing for the new items, I noticed now that they talk about the quality of the materials in order to distinguish themselves from Android products. For example on the iwatch, the metals used are forged a special way to make them higher quality. Last time i heard that was from Rolex when they spoke about how they have their own refineries to forge the gold and platinum used in their premium watches.

A Rolex that lasts generations and is handmade I can understand, an iwatch that will be obsolete in a year and can be used to monitor fitness is another thing.

Apple is also touting a new sapphire crystal for their screens which is nice and again found on premium watches. How much of the price premium that represents is hard to say but let's be honest, all these Apple products go away after a short period of time.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2014 | 10:16:17 AM
Re: and they said the ipad was useless too
@SaneIT. that is a good point.  Switch watchers manufactures didn't see this wave of watches coming. I would be very interested to see the type of watches they release.   The iwatch continues to be target for a niche audience, I think kind of like google glass.  I wonder whether people really need a smart watch. May be computer manufactures and throwing too many devices at people and they don't even know what to do with them.
tjgkg
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tjgkg,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2014 | 10:04:16 AM
Re: and they said the ipad was useless too
To me the iPad is great and i use it quite a bit. It is great as a travel companion allowing you to view videos, television content, listen to music, play games and Skype home. It is a better platform to do these things as opposed to the ipod touch or the smartphone.  And it is more convenient to do these things than waiting for a laptop to boot.  I really like it.

The watch however is just a fad. I cannot see paying that kind of money for something that can be done with the smartphone you already have. And it cannot do anything unless you have a smartphone! And getting it in 18k gold is really bougie! But people will buy it because it is the latest fad. Not sure what kind of market it will produce and for how long. And maybe some innovative apps will come out to justify it but I am not counting on it.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/15/2014 | 7:19:39 AM
Re: and they said the ipad was useless too
@PedroGonzales.  I think you are in the same frame of mind that most of the market is in.  They don't see the need for an anything watch so they won't give it a second thought.    I think what we're going to see is the early adopters driving how the smart or not so smart watches mature.  I saw an article by a Swiss watch manufacturer saying they feel like they missed the boat and they will be playing catch up to make watches that interact with smart phones.  They might not have digital faces but the sensors in the iWatch are appealing to a wide enough market that even traditional watch makers are looking at them.
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
9/12/2014 | 2:19:42 PM
Re: and they said the ipad was useless too
You are right. Macs' fan base without a doubt will get the Iwatch.  I'm still unsure whether it will entice non Mac users to make their transition to mac products since the Iwatch is depended on the Iphone.  Personally, I already have too many electronic devices, I don't plan get another one to my list unless I really need one.    
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/12/2014 | 7:15:30 AM
Re: and they said the ipad was useless too
That is true but the base is much larger now and big enough to prop up a borderline product until all the kinks are worked out.  Apple really does have a image that they can do no wrong in their fan base's eyes.  The recent celebrity nude photo leak has been talked about as an iCloud security issue yet here people are ready to hand over responsibility for their bank accounts.  I think the biggest hurdle the Apple watch has is not it's functionality though, I think it is the price since you can't get it for free or partially subsidized with your cellular contract.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/11/2014 | 7:14:55 PM
Re: As of today, I don't have to have one
If Apple really wants its watches to sell for a premium, it might try a limited production run, at least for the gold ones. Part of luxury branding is scarcity.
jastroff
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jastroff,
User Rank: Ninja
9/11/2014 | 8:04:43 AM
Re: and they said the ipad was useless too
that's what happend with the MAC way back in '83. a new fan base back then, but people who couldn't deal with a PC or afford one, the MAC was it. Busineses aside, it was mostly consumer

 

>> One thing the Apple watch has going for it is the fan base that will suffer through a product not quite getting it right for the first couple generations.
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