I’m a pretty big Apple fan. It wasn’t even by choice. I originally bought a MacBook Pro in 2010 just to have a laptop dedicated to DJing and producing music (since it seemed to be the industry standard), and thought I’d continue to use my Dell for my daily tasks. A few months later, I had unwittingly switched all of my computer activities to the Macbook, leaving my Dell to desolately collect dust on the coffee table. What can I say, the Mac was just so much more useful…and elegant!
That’s what I see Apple as.
The company that dual-wields quality and design to make products that are elegantly useful.
This is why I am completely baffled by the release of the Apple Watch. I’m even more surprised that its globally selling as quickly as their cooked, with demand so high that production can’t keep up. The Apple Watch is, undoubtably, an elegant watch. But it doesn’t add any useful value to your life, other than social status.
Now, I could just start listing bullet points of why the Apple Watch is not useful. Maybe it’ll be a fantastic listicle. But it won’t get the point across. The main point is to illustrate that tools have useful purpose, and the Apple Watch lacks that. So, let’s dive into the history of why wristwatches became popular to see if Apple’s newest product is pretty useful, or perhaps, just pretty.
The history of the wristwatch is a story of utility.
Prior to 1900s, wristwatches were sold as bracelets, mostly for women. A gentleman only carried a pocket watch, tucked into a pocket of his waistcoat. He would never even dream of wearing a wristwatch, because everyone knew such a small watch couldn’t keep track of time accurately, and, of course, it was effeminate. However, this all began to change in WWI, where wristwatches became a must on battlefields:
Pocket watches were clumsy to carry and thus difficult to operate while in combat. Therefore, soldiers fitted them into primitive “cupped” leather straps so they could be worn on the wrist, thereby freeing up their hands during battle[…]
Wristwatches were no longer considered a novelty but were now a wartime necessity[sic]
After WWI, public perception quickly changed globally, and the demand of durable, accurate wristwatches exploded amongst men. Because, who could say that the watches our war-heroes donned were feminine? Consequently, fashion gave way to utility, and all genders and ages began enjoying the simplicity of looking at your wrist to tell the time.
Rise of cellphones and smartphones
Alas, with the rise of cellphones a century later, the wristwatch’s reign was short lived. Much like pocket watches, cellphones demoted the wristwatch from a tool into an accessory. It is more of a status symbol now than a device to tell time. After all, in a world which smart phones do everything from telling the time to acting as a compass, why would you need a wristwatch?
This transition to smartphones made sense. A smartphone is essentially a Swiss Army knife that never stops adding handy tools to its arsenal, while maintaining ease of use. They had a reason to be carried around.
So, does the Apple Watch have a good reason to be carried around?
In terms of pure functionality, the Apple Watch is amazing. A good portion of a smartphone’s power is in there, allowing you to text, call, access the internet, pay with a touch, and it even contains sensors to track your health.
The drawback is with its precondition: The Apple Watch isn’t able to make calls or use Web-based apps without being connected to an iPhone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Why the iPhone-sync requirement is a complete deal-breaker
Let’s say I’m at a store. The Apple Watch and iPhone both have Apple Pay installed, so I can pay at the cash register with just one touch of either device. The Apple Watch, being on my wrist, is clearly the more convenient option. However, the Apple Pay, like most features on the Apple Watch, will only work if I have my synced iPhone with me… what?
That’s like requiring a pocket watch in your pocket for your wristwatch to work.
You’re carrying two tools that can do the same thing. This prerequisite renders the Apple Watch as a redundant existence, much like the modern wristwatch.
We need to remember that our tools exist for a reason: to fulfill a necessity.
Until the Apple Watch becomes a standalone device, it does not fulfill a necessity. It’s a $399~$12,000 bling-bling to represent social status, no different from any traditional high-end wristwatch; elegant, but not useful.
I'm on Twitter @shoinwolfe if you ever want to talk.