Watching Apple

Posted September 26th, 2014 in Opinions

The eagerly anticipated announcement on September 9 by Apple Inc. of a bigger iPhone and, perhaps more excitingly, the Apple Watch illustrated just how much of a cultural phenomena and media circus such technology events have become.

Apple Watch

U2 were employed as the superstar cheerleaders proving, as they so often have in the past, that they can always go one better then any other rock band when it comes to self-promotion (and I used to be a fan).

None of the Tim Cook’s product announcements were a great surprise as Apple try to keep pace with Samsung. Devotees and shareholders would’ve been relieved, and for the first time since the passing of Steve Jobs, actually quite satisfied with news of some new toys.

With Sir Jonathan Ive’s precisely delivered voiceover though I too had to push aside my inherent cynicism for a few short minutes as I was completely sucked into the carefully scripted marketing hyperbole and gadget pornography of the 6 minute Apple Watch promotional video.

As far as product videos go it’s one of the best you’ll see, beautifully put together with sumptuous photography and CGI instantly making the Apple Watch an irresistible object of desire.

I was spellbound for those minutes and even the 2 or 3 that followed as I day-dreamed of casually checking my emails, heart rate, boarding pass for a flight to somewhere exotic amongst other things all simply by looking at my wrist.

Sadly the dream didn’t last. I looked at my arm and realised I haven’t worn a watch in over 2 years.

Ellen DeGeneres summed up my realisation perfectly:

A further few minutes later and the dream turned nightmare as I imagined an even more freakish Charlie Brooker-esque world as hordes of zombie like beings stagger down dark streets, appearing to be perpetually telling the time, completely absorbed by their glowing wrists.

Super factories in China employing tens of thousands of people to keep up with demand as all the natural resources of the world are depleted to produce its premium components.

Those thoughts probably confirm that I’m no longer the target market for this particular Apple product but I wonder who is. Is Apple still ‘cool’? The partnership with U2 would suggest not.

From a user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) perspective there were however some flickers of excitement after the mist of my technology fuelled dystopian vision had cleared.

The actuater that can simulate a tapping sensation or vibrate from the underside of the watch as well as the face that not only responds to touch but also the pressure that is applied heralds the 3rd dimension of responsive design. Imagining a multi-sensory user experience where interactions and their corresponding reactions are delivered through direct contact with the users skin will add, as Jonathan Ive puts it, a ‘nuanced complexity’ to the way we interact with these and future wearable devices.

So, it wasn’t all bad in the end when it came to Apple’s yearly product mega-launch. My industry is profoundly effected by the actions of Silicon Valley’s one-time rebel and with this latest offering things are set to be shaken up for good and bad once again. I just hope we don’t forget to interact with the real world as yet another piece of technology vies for our finite attention.