The Emperor’s New Clothes – The great Apple Watch launch

Posted on March 25, 2015 by Eleanor McKenzie
Man looking at his watch in busy street

The question is: will Apple be able to pull off another world-conquering move with the launch of its Apple Watch? Or is the concept of a computer you wear on your wrist simply a step too far, even for the company that launched the beloved iPad and iPhone? I’m an Apple fan, although not a worshipper like some I know, but I remain to be persuaded that this so-called ‘watch’ isn’t a case of the Emperor’s new clothes; a ‘smart’ accessory that makes you look like a fool.

What the Apple Watch does

Apple’s sales patter announces it as “the most personal product we’ve ever made,” because you wear it. Getting ever more personal is part of Apple’s strategy. But what do they really mean by “personal”? Is it the fact that this watch knows where you are in the world, or that it can measure what your body is doing?  Or, that you can chat with people on your phone? And, you can pay for things with it, providing you’re able to use Apple Pay! You can carry your plane boarding passes on it as well, and so much more. Did I mention you can watch films?  Although, I’d need a magnifying glass to see them.

One thing I will say in the Apple watch’s favour; it does actually tell the time. And it keeps it to “within 50 milliseconds of the definitive global time.”  To be honest, I don’t need that level of accuracy; I don’t even need this watch’s ability to know that I’ve just landed in New York from London and adjust the time accordingly, because I can still work that out for myself, and quite enjoy doing it. But I’m sure there are people who will love all that!

The cost of a smart watch

Before I say more, let’s look at the cost. Prices start from £299. Not too bad you may think, but you must also have an iPhone or it doesn’t work. That’s an added cost if you don’t have an iPhone. There’s a stainless steel model at $500, but a gold one will be somewhere between $4,000 and $5,000. U.S. jeweller Mervis Diamond is even offering a customised Apple watch made of 18K rose gold decorated with 15.14 carats of diamonds. It’s only $30,150.

It’s not a solution

I’m not the only cynic, who thinks this watch might end up on a ‘white elephant stall’ somewhere. Martin Flavin, creative director at FivebyFive, a UK Top 30 ad agency, doesn’t see the point of it—and he calls himself an “Apple fanboy.”  His article reviewing the Apple watch in The Guardian offers compelling reasons to think twice about buying the ‘iWatch,’ based on its reason for being. Martin points out that the iPod, iPad and iPhone all solved a particular problem: the iPod allowed you to carry all your music around you with in one place; the iPhone was the easiest and most powerful smartphone to use and the iPad was better than a laptop or phone for browsing online content. The Apple watch is just “more personal.” It doesn’t offer any new solutions.

Sales predictions

Yet some industry watchers are already predicting that the Apple Watch will be “the most successful smartwatch ever.” Research already out on the ‘wearables’  market suggest Apple will shift 20 million units in its first year, although others say it will be closer to 8 million. However, let’s bear in mind that the ‘smartwatch’ or ‘smart wearables’ market hardly has any products in it yet, so Apple doesn’t have much competition. Samsung and LG have products in the market and in production, and they haven’t sold massive amounts.

A toy for the techno geeks?

My own experience of smartwatches is confined to a man I spotted at a recent SEO workshop speaking into his watch, but he worked in IT and is therefore a bona fide ‘techno-geek’ and one of my favourite celebrities, Will.i.am, who wears some kind of smartwatch – and is clearly a ‘techno-freak.’ Indeed, not even my Apple-mad brother has mentioned buying an Apple watch, and he’s got everything else they make.

As I’m writing this article The Telegraph has just published Apple Watch: six things that could drive you round the bend. Many of the readers’ comments along the lines of “iFlop” and “iSheep,” reveal a certain tiredness with the hold Apple has over consumers. Although, I am not swopping my Mac for a PC in any form, and I imagine many others would stand with me to defend that. It’s just that with this watch, it feels like Apple is mistaking us for all the people who couldn’t tell the Emperor that he was naked.

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.