Magic Realism: Will Apple Watch Drive Adoption of Wearable Tech?


Now that we’ve seen what the Apple Watch can do, we can start to envision how wearables could fit into our lives—and determine if we want to buy one or not. In the broader context, it feels like we’ve reached a turning point in wearable technology.

As part of the Apple Watch launch story, CEO Tim Cook talked about Dick Tracy’s Two-Way Radio Wrist Watch. When I was young, I knew about the Dick Tracy watch, which looked like a little TV on his wrist and allowed him to stay in vital contact with his operatives.

We had walkie-talkies and watches—but the idea of wearing something so small and integrated with my body was not only intoxicating—it was magical.[more]

This attitude is aligned with Apple’s brand. At the time of the iPad’s launch, Steve Jobs proclaimed, “iPad is our most advanced technology in a magical and revolutionary device at an unbelievable price.”

And Apple devices do feel a bit magical. We delighted in the iPad’s minimal design, cool features and software tricks. We played with Siri to see if it worked. And we marveled at the sharpness of the screen.

The Apple Watch is on-brand, in that sense. I wonder, however, about the less-sexy smartwatch brands on the market. Do they deliver magic? Or are they more functional?

Some, like Kickstarter phenom Pebble, have the indie cred, but they lack the trust factor Apple has built. Pebble feels more functional as a brand—cheerful and optimistic, but grounded and realistic.

Samsung, Motorola and other large companies offer beautiful watches, but they work with Android, not iOS. They compete with each other on points of differentiation, and this turns into a feature comparison for the most part—just like the smartphone conversation.

As an Android user, I love the choices, but there’s no atmosphere of magical possibility when I can get Android on hundreds of phones.

And there is a whole world of wearable tech beyond watches, such as clothing and shoes. But so far, it hasn’t been good news—consumers just don’t seem interested.

Who else can inspire us to anticipate magical solutions besides Apple? Can the Apple Watch float the whole market by providing the cultural stamp of approval?

Think back to the Sony Betamax. Sony showed videotaping could be done, but VHS won that battle—a more functional but lower-quality experience. However, Sony gave credibility to the VCR and changed how we watch television today, even if it missed digital music despite having an advantage with the Walkman. We still expect groundbreaking innovation from Sony, and the brand still commands a premium.

It will be interesting to observe the Apple Watch story unfold. It will be even more interesting to see if we’ll all have smartwatches in five years, or if other, less-intrusive wearables gain the boost of credibility and magic that Apple provides.

—Bob is a writer and works with world-changing brands every day. Follow him on Twitter: @bobbyob and on Instagram: @bobbyobnyc


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