Gone are the days of the first Mac.
No more crusades against Microsoft Windows or against the (initial) ugliness of the Android UI or complexity of Blackberry’s hardware keyboards. Now it’s about fashion. Apple is competing against Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Rolex and the likes, but it’s aiming at a larger market. One that can only be reached by a new kind of company as only Apple can be today: a fashion-tech company.
The Apple Watch attracted many critiques from the press because it does not offer any killer app. To some tech journalists it hasn’t reinvented the category of smartwatches as everyone was expecting. They wrote that it’s the prettiest smartwatch around but that they’re not going to buy it. Sharing your heart beat with friends or checking the moon phases when you look at the time were mostly classified as useless gimmicks.
“ Those gimmicks will wear off in less than a week with consumers. ”
I am missing something here.
People, and here I mean your fiancée, your sister, your best friend. The ones who are not as tech savvy or as into tech as you are. They do buy things because they are beautiful, and fashionable.
Of course I am giving away the “useful” component of the game here, which clearly pushes people to buy products. But for the category of smartwatches usefulness has already been defined by its parent: “the watch”. Smartwatches are supposed to be the evolution of watches, and clearly their main functionality it’s telling you what’s the time.
Same with the iPhone: it was already perceived as useful by people when it was first launched and the App Store did not exist. It was “a phone, an Internet communication device and an iPod” in one device. Now the iPhone and smartphones in general have become so much more. They’re the best communication devices on Earth and they’ve evolved into the real personal computer that you always care around with you thanks to apps and sensors.
So where does the smartwatch category stand?
As many wrote, it is all about fashion, but usefulness is important and Apple knows that. Like with the iPhone, Apple is leading the way by adapting some of its built-in apps with a version for its watch but it does not need to find the killer app. In fact it has already partnered with well established companies and startups to develop interesting apps — e.g. Starwood Hotels lets you enter your hotel room waving your Apple Watch at the door...another gimmick?
Well, Apple is also helping lead the way in showing new kind of apps that can be thought exclusively for such a device, and sometimes these require a leap of faith in trusting that people will use them, e.g. sharing your heartbeat or tapping our wrist to communicate. These are not gimmicks in my opinion. And even if they are, at a minimum, they’re something that people will be able to show off for a little while to other people convincing them that the device is gorgeous, innovative and fun to use. People want fun.
Apple has made a genius move by differentiating the Apple Watch with so many different watch bands and just 3 different bodies — which are also available in a smaller and larger size. It really seems like there are 2 million different combinations and in one of the ads that they made, it really seems like there are a lot of different Apple Watches. This is the feeling you have when you go to the Rolex website or a Swarowski or Tiffani shop for example. That is: you feel one main theme or style, but there are infinite variations for you to choose from to accomodate your taste.
You then wear a brand which fits your style. That’s fashion.
Finally there is the trick of actually displaying the Apple Watch in the ads with different software watch faces, together with the super-fashion-like move of creating 3 collections to drive customers towards a choice without confusing them too much with the variety of watches which one can compose.
Thanks to this the Apple Watch is positioned as a fashion device which is going to rival with smartphones usefulness and personalization. The market is clearly ripe and pointing at that with so many different smartphone bodies, colors, shapes, sizes and covers.
Watch bands resembles a lot smartphone covers, except that they are essential to a watch. Apple started offering official covers only recently, but just pause a minute to imagine the jump that they made from the iPhone first generation. It was available in only one “color” and had no official cover. Compare it to today’s iPhone 5C, 5S and 6 and 6plus and their official covers. Don’t forget the iPad too.
Not letting you a choice was clearly a remembrance of simplification that came straight from the return of Steve Jobs at Apple. He famously had to save Apple from the complexity of its pre-jobsian return product lines, which was impacting on both production costs and customer confusion.
Steve’s mission was simplification in order to gain focus. Although now it’s a different story. The market has decided that smartphones and in general personal computing devices needs to be personalized. People want that because we’re dealing with devices we bring around every day. We get easily bored with buying something that is identical for everybody.
Smartwatches are the clear money-making pot that other tech companies are trying to reach, but what Apple understood compared to others is that it’s all about fashion. And it was able to execute on that thanks to its recent high level hires from Yves Saint Loren and Burberry to accomplish the vision.
Apple’s customer target is people and not exclusively geeks or technologists who desire a Pebble Watch or a Samsung Gear. I mean they are too, but they’re not the main target. Apple’s customers belongs to a much broader range now.
“There are 200 million people with either an iPhone 5, 5C or 5S.”
— Tim Cook stated at the Apple Watch presentation.
Every time I hear Apple’s metrics I have difficulties understanding how big these numbers really are. Apple might as well go into jewellery and clothes, maybe shoes next. It tried already in the 80s-90s but it was not the right time and the right company.
Apple has successfully transitioned to the first fashion-tech company.
See the crazy thing here? It’s not competing with Google or Microsoft any longer but with Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Rolex, Swarowski, Tiffani and the like. It’s not any longer a crusade against cumbersome technology in which geeks and technorati were supporting Apple in the fight against an evil operating system. It hasn’t been for a while now.
Instead this is a battle against boring fashion. They want to show how technology can bring usefulness and fun into everyday lives, with style. They do not need to find the killer app because the thriving ecosystem of developers will, developing new experiences on a solid platform as chiefly Apple knows how to provide.
Apple targets now the people, not exclusively the tech savvy ones. It invited horologists and fashion press to the presentation of the Apple Watch for a precise reason.
It’s not just for you, it’s for them.