September 9th was a big day – not only was it my Study Card day, but it was the day of the keynote. Numerous articles have been written on the Apple Watch, Apple Pay, the new iPhones, and what they mean. Here’s my two cents, points I feel like have not been addressed in enough detail (although, to be fair, I have been catching up with Twitter and my Instapaper queue is endless):
Names, Branding and Marketing
iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
iPhone-naming has been all over the place, inconsistent and illogical: iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3G S, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, and now iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus (all (non-)capitalizations are intended) – quite frankly, a mess.
Apart from the weird naming issues they consistently run into every year, I wonder if they ditch the 4“ size next year – I appreciate the 4.7”, I seriously considered the 5.5“, but as much sense as the decision to go big makes, I know as many who felt almost uncomfortable with the 4”, who can’t fit anything bigger in their pockets. As funny as this tweet is, I would pose it as an honest question: Is Android going to go small now?
Also, what will next year’s models sizes be? What will be the 5c-price equivalent, if any? Are they finally going to move away from numbering iPhones? Or can’t they because they need the differentation for the cheaper models? Is this even an issue worth addressing, since it seems to be working out fine? Too soon to tell, but it’ll be an interesting 2015, for sure.
A lot of talk had been going on in the tech-world regarding Apple’s entering a new era with iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite, their acquiring Beats, the stock split etc. But nothing has made it as obvious as the naming of the two first previously non-existing products of this era: Apple Pay and the Apple Watch. No more “i,” this is all about the now. And it makes sense in all kinds of ways:
- Apple entering the fashion space with the watch makes branding all the more important. The “i” served them well in bringing easy (and then first and foremost pocket-sized) computing to the masses – but the Watch is a product of a different scale. The iWatch would have been a smartwatch, an accessory for your iPhone, a product for technology-geeks who like their Pebbles and Fitbits. The Apple Watch is a watch, and a good one at that, it is your watch, a device more personalized than any other, one that can be your Fitbit, your Pebble and your Rolex, either or all of them. Apple will own the wrist.
- Payments, similarly, are a serious matter. This is not your fun iWallet to pay your Apple Store purchases with. Apple Pay will be the Montblanc wallet you were always too cheap too afford. Apple will own digital, mobile payments.
- And lastly, this is the new era. Notably, this is the first product released without any Jobs-ian influence – it is the next stage, it is Tim Cook’s and Jony Ive’s baby, and it deserves a brand change because it is different from its predecessors. It's the first product to deserve a One More Thing.
As impressive as Apple Pay is as an achievement in the industry, the Watch is the more questionable product. Ben Thompson posed the correct question in his post-event-thoughts article: Why? What does this thing do that we should buy it?
The first apps for the Apple watch are going to feel very 2008. "What's this for? What are we supposed to code? What's useful?"— Benedict Evans (@BenedictEvans) September 10, 2014
The Digital Crown seems so obvious now, I feel stupid for not thinking about that.— Federico Viticci (@viticci) September 10, 2014
When they showed the video of this beautiful piece of fashionable technology, the crown cought my attention right away – and I knew that was it. I instantly understood, and I felt at least as stupid as Federico for not having thought of it. Some people have lamented they dislike the design – but I do. I approve of each and every Apple Watch I’ve seen; not all of them are for me, but I would find one in each style that suits me and that I would wear every day. The fashionable, personalized aspect is incredibly interesting, especially seeing as this is a piece of technology. How often do you replace your expensive watch vs. your 18K gold Apple Watch? A problem to address once we know more about the tech specs, but I love this device, especially for it's at the intersection of fashion and technology!
But that cannot be the only reason for the existence of Apple Watch. Fashion is great, but the mission is a different one. Apple wants to own the wrist, and I bet they have bigger plans than looking nice. Yes, some of the apps may seem a little weird today – this is a 1.0 after all. And maybe Ben’s fear isn’t too far off, and Apple really doesn’t quite know what problem exactly their Watch solves. But I see this as the first iteration of what will in three to ten years be the new “digital hub” in our lives. I doubt that we will sync our computers with our Watch (or vice versa, for that matter), or that the Watch will be our main storage device – but the personalized Watch, the one that is truly your device, that you will wear everywhere at all times, through which you can be identified when you pay something (Apple Pay), which can adjust all kinds of devices when you enter a room (HomeKit), which will tell you about your fitness (HealthKit) – oh, and by the way, send your wife a little heart(beat) to let her know you’re thinking of her. This isn’t a device that seems necessary today. But how necessary did your phone seem to you at the beginning of the century? This is a device for the future that needed to be established, and the future I see is awesome.
For those questioning the necessity or use of Apple Pay – digital payments have been “the way of the future” for decades. Of course taking out one’s credit card is not the biggest hastle in the world, but that’s missing the point. Apple is going to own and profit from digital payments like no other; we will have easier lives in return. And in combination with the Watch, I see a bright future ahead. ↩
I have always considered Apple's marketing copy weird in this way: Not referring to "the Apple Watch," but rather speaking of just "Apple Watch," makes their products sound so superhero-y. But maybe that's just the non-native speaker in me. ↩