Tuesday, 19 August 2014

My number one top feature for an iWatch

September is coming round and with it the announcement of new Apple iPhones. This year there is a real chance we may also get to see the iWatch. If it does appear, I have a single must have which I feel it needs to succeed.

I must want it on looks alone. Forget all the features and added functionality it may bring to my life, but if it does not look gorgeous then you will have hard time winning me over. Recent staff hires and reports seem to be suggesting that Apple is hoping to position the iWatch as a luxury product. All Apple Macs and iPhones Except the 5c) of recent years have oozed quality and precision engineering. But to make that move into luxury they have to go further.

Long ago watches lost their primary purpose as just timepieces. I could spend £0.69 for the cheapest watch on Amazon or £55k for the most expensive, and potentially gaudie example. Amazon is not the place most people buy their luxury watches, and you can spend considerably more. By doing so you are not simply wanting to know the time, you are making a statement about you, what you want to be seen as.

So for Apple to make a luxury watch they do not have to compete with the very high financial end but they do have to compete on statement terms. The watch has to be a proud addition to a wrist, it has to stand for sometime, and the user has to want to broadcast their ownership. Existing smart watches have failed in this aspect. Pebble has a small but loyal following but despite the ability to use custom watch face designs, it has never shouted out "wear me with pride".

LG, Sony, Samsung have all failed to excite the market. They may have great technology and Google Now is a very powerful desirable feature, but some - the original Samsung Gear - had very high numbers of customers returning the products. Some of this will be due to functional problems but I suspect a lot are to do with the diminishing desire to actually own the item.

To excite the buyer in a luxury market Apple has to excell at the visual and tactile details. It has to fell like a perfectly made object, with precision details and exquisite visual clarity. It must not be a chunky item, bulked out by the need for a long battery life, it must be elegant and restrained. More like this concept design by Charlie No of New York
Than this ,

The first is about a precision watch, the second is about a digital device. Now Apple has amazing UX and design skills, and may well create a new visual identity which manages to express the later and make it appear luxury and highly desirable. But to do so is much harder than retaining some of the visual language from existing forms. To appeal to the masses it has to not look like a geek only device. Its visual language should speak of quality, luxury, refinement, elegance, not of utility and Swiss Army Knife capability.

I have no doubt that the functionality will blend seamlessly with my other iOS devices. I expect Apple will provide wireless charging and somehow give it a battery that will last at least 48 hours. I expect it will be priced at an expensive but not outlandish cost of between £150 and £200. New capabilities such as health monitoring, fingerprint security, effective and accurate voice activation will all increase the desirability, but if it does not immediately delight my eyes then my wallet will stay in my pocket.

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