Apple’s Futuristic Accessories


10 September 2013

Wearable tech may very well have a future. And it could be a company like Apple that creates an entirely new category of wearable products whose popularity will reach the level of the iPhone. Of course, this won’t happen anytime soon, but smart watches and other similar goods may become more than just product innovations, but an absolute necessity that sees everyday use. Apple’s representatives seem sure about that, at least.

At the D11 Conference in May, Tim Cook made the unexpected statement that these bright and functional wrist devices will be of great interest to potential consumers. To the audience’s surprise, he didn’t speak about the recently unveiled iPhone 5 production, but highlighted an completely new market segment.

At the conference, the Apple executive was asked whether it was the well-known wearable tech Google Glass that gave him the idea. Remember, this isn’t just a pair of eyeglasses we’re talking about, but also a fashionable accessory and a hands-free telephone with plenty of additional functions. Mr. Cook fired back by saying that if such glasses don’t suit someone, he or she won’t wear them anyway.

This is, of course, debatable. Just consider the massive quantity of eyeglasses brands, and the many, many markets in which they are sold. For example, there’s Luxottica – an Italian conglomerate that promotes approximately ten brands, including Oakley, Persol, and Ray-Ban.

Eyeglasses represent a very fashionable, rich and widespread product category, and it doesn’t matter whether we need to wear them to improve our vision or not in the case of Google Glass. Google did not ignore this fact, and continues to expend its efforts to make its product as fashionable an accessory as possible.

Putting aside the disinterest shown by Mr. Cook for Google Glass, his remarks suggest that he believes a wrist-worn device will be more suitable for larger audiences. Let’s follow that line of reasoning for the time being: that we’d more willingly put on a watch or a bracelet than a pair of glasses, for reasons pertaining to both comfort and style.

Of course, wearable tech for the wrist isn’t a market that’s been completely cornered by Apple. Let’s not forget smart watch products from companies like Samsung. But we can also probably agree that most of people don’t wear watches even as a piece of jewelry, yet almost everyone we know has a smartphone, which they constantly use...perhaps a little too often. So, the reasoning behind smart watches seems to be that the next generation of consumers wants to get as much useful info from their surroundings as possible, as soon as possible, without having to take out their phones.

We’ve tried out a few smart watch devices, such as the Jawbone UP activity tracker, a fitness device equipped with a built-in microprocessor and accelerometer. The device tracks how many steps we take, how long we’re active throughout the day, and even marks periods of light and deep sleep. However, it also needs to be synced with a smartphone application several times a day, and over time, we found it, and other smart watches, to not offer the kind of can’t-live-without-it usability we’ve come to associate with our smartphones.

To become a truly revolutionary product, accelerometers and pedometers aren’t enough. A device must be so simple and so compelling, yet so easy to use and wear that users will want to wear it constantly—perhaps never even taking it off at night. Will we see something like this from Apple, Samsung, or another company in the future? Only time will tell. For now, we’ll be counting off the minutes using our smartphones—not looking at our wrists.