We are now in the ‘post-event critique’ phase of the Apple launch, with every element of the launch event and launch plans being analysed and critiqued. Herewith my unsolicited views on the event and the reactions thus far:
The big screen: about a year late
Steve Jobs is said to have made the ‘7-inch tablets are DOA’ comment. He has also reportedly mocked large screen phones. On the other hand, officially Apple has not mocked big screen phones in a negative way but have only made reference to not sacrificing user experience. That was the explanation for iPhone 5. However, it is Apple fans (like yours truly) and Apple bloggers who mocked large screen phones, its loyalists and the reason behind their popularity. With iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple claims to have taken its time to get the user experience right and hence the delay. Apple was late to market with large screen phones by at least a year. I liked the way they nonchalantly announced the larger screen phones without pausing to give a reason.
The Apple Watch: it is a great start, will be huge
I must admit that the Apple Watch did not ‘wow’ me at first sight. But neither did iOS 7. What is being witnessed is again a repeat of the past. During the launch of iOS 7, there were a bunch of jokes & barbs about its design. Remember, the ‘Jony Ive designs things’ Tumblr blogs? Over time, I have begun to like iOS 7 and find some of the iOS 7 aligned mobile apps to be gorgeous. Even when transitioning from OS 9 to OS X Aqua, my initial reactions to the new design were not all positive. The same will happen With Apple Watch. I was hoping that the form factor and the approach will be different from Gear and Moto 360. One was expecting something unseen – remember rumours about iRing? That was not to be – it is a watch. The design of the watch itself and the UI evoked mixed feelings in me. However, the images of the Apple Watch on Apple’s website have already begun enticing – the visuals look gorgeous, especially those of the premium end ones.
‘No reason for buying Apple Watch’ argument
The human mind loves reference points. Horse power as measurement in a car was a reference point. A common icon for email is an envelope. Such reference points make it easy for consumers to accept what’s new. During the launch of the iPhone, Steve Jobs set reference points to the iPhone: A wide-screen iPod, a phone, a breakthrough internet communicator. Did Apple give a strong enough reference point to the Apple Watch so that people know what it is, what it can replace and how to put it to use. Tim Cook said (thought not as dramatically as Steve Jobs) that it was a ‘a precise timepiece, a new, intimate way to communicate, a comprehensive health and fitness device’.
The first and last reasons are obvious. My view is that the ‘intimate way to communicate’ bit is not immediately apparent and can only be experienced by using the product. Sure, Apple demonstrated those emojis and heartbeats. But such things are best experienced in person. My guess is that Apple will give a lot of emphasis to retail experience with the watch, allowing for people to try out the features live. The other big thing about the Apple Watch is the ability to personalise. 3 different editions, tonnes of strap and face options followed by hundreds of ways to personalise the display makes it an attractive proposition.
Apple Watch is trying to marry fashion and jewellery – especially the high end gold plated editions are aimed at attracting the ‘watch-as-jewellery’ segment. In such categories (bordering on luxury), craving is the only reason needed for purchase. Remember all the efforts made by Titan in India to educate consumers to own more than one watch? A lot of us take multiple ownership of watches for granted now. The purchase decisions were made on how a watch looks and what it goes with – a fashion driven approach. Ditto with shoes, handbags, clothes – a lot of buy more than one driven by purely irrational reasons. With Apple Watch, Apple may need to give just a hint of a rational reason for the buyer to come into the category and then get her hooked. The health tracker may be that hint, the rational reason. But I have no doubt that ultimately multiple purchases of the watch will be driven by the emotional brain with ‘fashion & jewellery’ playing a role.
The Digital Crown: a masterstroke
Another example of Apple thinking through an elegant solution is the digital crown. Absolutely loved the idea. It is a natural act for those familiar with the traditional watch and is a cool interpretation of pinch & zoom for those used to touch interfaces.
The ‘Apple’ prefix
Is it an attempt to get a closer association between the company brand and the products? Will we see the iPhone being renamed Apple Phone? Either way, it is an interesting move.
Apple Pay: the real game changer, the real Apple magic
This is the real game changer. Yes, NFC has been around in other devices but the way the entire process is implemented is the clincher.
Post Steve Jobs era is here
Lastly, it is absolutely clear that this is a new Apple, with Tim Cook firmly in charge. He has stayed true to Steve Jobs’ advice about ‘not worrying what Steve would do’. I think Tim Cook has taken decisions with the brand’s interest in mind and this is just the beginning. The more I hear him speak through his interviews and articles, the more I admire & respect him.
I am sure it will be a blowout quarter again this Oct-Dec, led by iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Next year will be even more interesting with Apple Watch launch and the effects of Apple Pay in full view. And then there will be announcements on the iPad & Mac front. Maybe even a TV. Interesting times ahead with more commentary and criticism.