Monthly Archives: March 2015

Apple Watch Bits: fighting the Phone Zombies

Leave it to Apple to build a fat business solving a problem that it played the most prominent role in creating: the now common tic of relentlessly checking one’s phone.

It’s so rampant in my family (see picture), that at times I call the kids “Phone Zombies” — eliciting the desired protests, and briefly halting the behavior.

phonezombies2

Phone Zombies not being in the moment

I do think this is related to the purpose of Watch. Is Apple trying to drive its products into the few moments of waking life that it doesn’t already serve? Or is it intentionally cannibalizing its own customer connection on the iPhone screen in favor of easier, less disruptive Watch glances and touches? Is the Watch a new category, or is it a more convenient and less socially disruptive accessory of the iPhone? I think it’s more of the latter, even though it will be an incremental, multi-billion dollar business.

It’s always been rude to surreptiously check one’s watch in the middle of a conversation: most often you can’t hide it, and at minimum it signals that one’s not paying full attention. At worst it signals boredom. Watch will not solve this issue. But it might bring the zombies back into a more mindful state.

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The 2nd Watch launch event the other day held few surprises. Most analysts had already dissected the tech, the likely use cases, and especially the pricing. @Gruber in particular got pretty close, and I think convinced a lot of people ahead of time that a $10K+ version was not outlandish in the luxury watch / fashion business.

A few notable bits from the event, and the commentary that followed on the web:

Focusing on style

Most people probably thought it a throw away line, but Tim Cook offered something that I think is the primary driver of much of Apple’s effort around design and fashion:

“Apple Watch is the most personal device we have ever created. It’s not just with you, it’s on you. And since what you wear is an expression of who you are, we’ve designed Apple Watch to appeal to a whole variety of people with different tastes and different preferences.”

Geeks are a tiny minority, and most people don’t like wearing hideous things. That’s even more true of geeks that are women. The Android Wear collective will struggle to break into the mainstream.

Various things about the device

Memory: what’s notable is the total lack of focus on specs. There’s some memory aboard, but it’s limited. Nobody knows exactly how 8GB of memory translates into Watch apps or songs songs stored, and frankly few people care right now. Anybody comparing speeds and feeds of the Watch to Android Wear are entirely missing the point.

Metal: Probably fluffery, but Apple made three videos to explain the superiority of their metals. Jony Ive narrated manufacturing porn. Stainless steel that’s 80% harder than what? My fridge door? Or Rolex’s surgical steel?

Water resistance: it turns out that it’s IPX7 certified..which means you can submerge it in your bathtub for 30 minutes. All those people who were insisting a smartwatch must be shower proof should be ok now.

Battery: if you were expecting Apple to ship a watch that wouldn’t, with normal usage, get you through a day, then, well, no one can help you. It turns out you’ll be fine if you sleep 6 hours or more every night and plug it in during that time (as I do with my iPhone). I don’t sleep with a watch on, but some people do, and so maybe this is a show stopper for them. Also, Apple announced that the battery would be replaceable, pushing off obsolescence just a bit. (I still wonder whether the chip — and even the sensor pack — might be upgradeable).

Weight: depending on the type of metal and case size, the Watch weights cases span 25 to 69 grams, with the aluminum 38mm Sport being the lightest, and Edition the heaviest. I have a stainless steel mechanical watch, and the case weighs roughly 50 grams…just like the Watch in stainless. A Polar exercise watch, including the integrated strap, weighs 56grams.  I’m guessing a little, but I think the Watch Sport will be on the light side for a fitness watch given what it does (if you don’t count the iPhone you need to schlep along). I hope no one is planning on running with a gold watch for other reasons.

Pricing: tons of coverage out there of the various permutations, and no need to go over it in depth here. Suffice it to say that if you want to try the Version 1.0 Watch (which will relentlessly get thinner, lighter and more capable over the next couple of years) then you’re looking at $349. That is what I think I’ll do.

For per capita startups, Seattle no better than Wilmington DE

Ok, so that’s a bit alarmist, but according to a study by The Brookings Institution, that’s a fact.

Apparently, Seattle has only 3x the average US First Fundings per Capita. As a comparison, San Francisco down to Redwood City is nearly 25x. (OK, maybe that’s gerrymandering the results a bit to fit the thesis — should Everett really have been included in the Seattle-area metric?) And then of course there’s the problem of much smaller denominators:

Via Brookings Institution

 

I’ve been impressed with the many efforts to stimulate entrepreneurial activity in Puget Sound (Techstars, AoA, @Geekwire, Madrona Mentors, a host of Super Angels, etc.), and there’s no shortage of discussion of the perceived startup lag vs. Silicon Valley.

I’m not sure what’s more shocking, that SF is 8x+ Seattle, or that we’re so much closer to places like Charleston.

Any press is good press (Pebble knocks-off Watch)

You have to love how scrappy Pebble is in the face of Apple’s Watch deluge.

Via Techradar

If I’m Pebble, I’m probably trying to get across several hard-hitting points relative to Apple:

  • We are more affordable
  • We have excellent battery life
  • We have great integration with the apps that matter to you
  • We are pioneers in the space with true geek cred
  • The delicious self-righteousness you felt about those status-obsessed losers with their Rolexes you’ll be able to feel when you wear your Pebble
  • Sure, we do “fashion” to a point. Beyond this point you are trying too hard.

I think it’s brilliant David v. Goliath marketing.

You (now) know you want it: manufacturing desire

via Easttouchhk instagram

via Easttouchhk instagram

It’s odd to me that there could be such a massive build up about Apple potentially releasing a wearable, the breathless coverage of the launch event itself, and then the title of yesterday’s NYT piece by Brian Chen “Apple’s New Job: Selling a Smartwatch to an Uninterested Public” (emphasis mine).

I think “Uninterested” is a provocative word. I don’t think most people are uninterested. I think they don’t know about the watch, or it’s not in their consideration set yet. They haven’t seen the device in the wild, or had a friend show them a really cool use for it.

I think a better spin (for a journalist looking to have a click worthy article) would be that Apple’s job is now to create the hype far beyond the obsessed digerati. Call me crazy, but they’re pretty good at hyping technology products, and I’ve zero doubt that 30 days post-launch the people they think are their initial adopters will have gotten 10+ impressions each on why it’s the hot personal technology.

Style Magazine

But I’m much more interested in how they are spinning up the Fashion Press to launch this beyond the normal personal technology adoption funnel.

They aren’t just building awareness of a gadget, right now they are pouring a lot of concrete on defining what is fashionable in a intelligent-wrist-object now, and what company is the arbiter of such things.

This seems pretty smart given the raft of competent Android Wear watches coming out.

I’m sorry, but as fundamentally sound as LG or Huawei’s entrants are going to be, it will never be an object of desire.

The tech does matter, but Apple is going to spend a hundreds of millions making sure that looks-conscious people know that Watch is in, and being worn by people who know of such things.

Pretty soon we will have all seen enough fashion photography like that at left to believe that well-dressed people should have computers on their wrists. Even perhaps that they are good looking.