Random thoughts about Apple Watch and the Uncanny Valley

Apple’s first foray into wearables has make me think — first about marketing then about the more subtle effects of computer augmentation.

It’s an iPhone accessory rather than a stand-alone product. That automatically shuts out a large percentage of the market. Including someone like me who is O/S agnostic (Nexus phone, iPad, Mac Mini, Windows gaming laptop … and a legacy iPod). But that’s ok, because I feel no desire.

I just can’t see it as an attractive piece of industrial design like other Apple products. It’s ugly. While I’m on the topic of ugly, I just don’t know about those gold iPads and MacBooks. Seems kind of crass somehow. Just stick to Space Gray and I will be happy.

The very wide band of pricing is different than for other Apple products where the price differentiation is usually based on technical performance rather than materials. The marketing will have to be different (in terms of aspirational positioning) — already seeing that happening with buying space in fashion magazines (cover of Vogue for example).

Then there’s the problem of longevity for a luxury watch. The traditional purchaser of a $17k watch isn’t typically expecting to throw it away next year. No word on how it gets updated.

Marketing such a broad range in terms of variants of a single product is very different for Apple too. Another challenge. The company is superb at marketing so it will be interesting to see exactly how they do it.

So many people have become used to not wearing a watch. That’s a freedom to lose and it seems to me (as far as I can see at the moment) that the value proposition for giving up that bare wrist just isn’t there yet.

Maybe this is a broader issue with wearables that are so obviously worn. Kind of an uncanny valley effect for the augmented individual. I think we will see some push-back in the same way as we did for Google Glass. Any Skyrim fans out there will know what happens when Lydia says “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”…

Which brings me to my final thought. That thing that Tim Cook said yesterday about it being a personal device: “It’s not just with you, it’s on you”. That seems really very creepy to me, like some horror movie scene when someone turns round open mouthed and screams “it’s on you!!”. Right.

First published in Medium on March 10th, 2015

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