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The role of the Apple Watch in the post-smartphone era

One week after the keynote , we already know that one of the company’s big bets, the iPhone 6, has been a success: more than four million reservations in just 24 hours, a figure that becomes a resounding “yes” from users who expected an iPhone with the features of the new one.

Apple doesn’t seem to be in a bad way either with iOS 8, which will be publicly downloadable tomorrow, a renewal of the previous version but with deep changes even of mentality : the opening of certain parts of the operating system to developers is something unusual that was also demanded from Cupertino’s.

The role of the Apple Watch in the post-smartphone eraThe role of the Apple Watch in the post-smartphone era

The conclusion is that these launches form a perfect set of what was asked of the company: novelties and an update on the company’s roots, without losing its own identity. They are the most evident sign that the iron walls that once seemed impossible have been overcome. And there was still a “One more thing…”

The war started in our pockets

Can you imagine what the Apple Watch will be like in five years?

Apple Watch: could become the hallmark of the new Apple. The first post-Steve Jobs product , started to be developed three years ago – in Cook’s own words – and raised from scratch as a new category with new possibilities . They sold it as Apple’s most personal device and they are absolutely right: the revolution that goes with the Apple Watch is that the company starts thinking about “wearables”, and that means evolving very fast: can you imagine what the Apple Watch will be like in five years, and the things the company will learn along the way?

And we’re really at a point that’s familiar to me. Jobs threw away a lot of projects when he came back to Apple in 1997 ( by the way, today precisely September 16th 17 years ago of that day ) and some of them, like Newton, he cornered them in a drawer with some sticker that would surely have written “Not yet”. Jobs was not interested in mobile devices , not because he did not believe in them, but because he understood that they did nothing extraordinarily better than a computer with the available technology.

Steve Jobs wasn’t interested in mobile devices until his technology did nothing extraordinarily better than desktop computers

And the iPod arrived. Music escaped from our Macs in 2001 into our pockets, although with some Stockholm syndrome due to iTunes. It was the first steps of the Mac dependency , but we already saw how the string separating both worlds was tightening every day.

In the process of creating a new tablet , Apple engineers realized that they had to learn a lot before they could handle that 9.7″ screen, but they could handle a 3.5″ one. That day the iPhone was born, the first smart device that started the computer with even more tasks, something that the iPad would eventually finish in 2010.

The iPod, iPhone and iPad have been the most prolific source of new ideas in Apple’s history: it not only put the company in context, but also consumers and their new needs. The technology they developed in those years was to become more personal because it was no longer about using devices to access our digital life from them, but about carrying it in your pocket anywhere.

2007 as reference

When Apple introduced the iPhone to the world in January 2007, the technology existed, but no one combined it the way Cupertino’s expertise did: hardware and software, a perfect alignment and a product approach from scratch, very similar to what the Apple Watch has right now.

However, we are not in the wilderness of the intelligent devices of that time: the competition wants to take advantage of the novelty pull and has been pulling out clocks for years trying to dig in the right place. And some, they are getting closer. Apple’s goal is to touch metal at the first attempt with its shovel, because a false decision would ruin a whole new category .

And as a new product, it’s very complicated. Apple’s first success is knowing how to orient the clock as a cross for techies and fashionistas : and that’s really complicated. Technologists love the simplicity of form and the focus on content, not container. Fashion lovers will prioritize their physical appearance because they work with shapes.

Technology and fashion must meet in a smart watch, and it’s complicated because both parties are looking for different things

For us as technologists, an “all screen” flat bracelet as seen in some rumours would have been perfect ( because of its novelty talking about technology ). For fashion lovers, that would be just another freak with no taste. What was needed was a balanced body that knew how to please both worlds, that had a combinable look and that showed a good screen with which to display technology . The different models and combinations, as well as a perfectly adapted screen, have managed to embrace both worlds.

Personally, the first impression I got was that it was too thick and the design even a bit retro ( reminded me of the original iPhone ). Maybe because of the sensors on the back or the construction in general, we’ll have to see how it looks and the day to day use when it’s available. No doubt as a fashion piece it hits the bull’s-eye.

The competition, with bets like Motorola’s with the Moto 360 and its measured discretion, I find interesting, although the digital crown of the Apple Watch and the much better materials are a plus for Cupertino’s , especially when we talk about a design element like a watch should be. Here we are no longer talking about figures, or operating systems, but about tastes.

The challenges

Apple should take advantage of the combination of hardware and software to surprise with the battery in the Apple Watch

Apple’s bet with the new clock consists precisely in taking advantage of everything they have learned : although we still don’t know how long the battery lasts, it is a key point within this type of product. In my opinion, the company should take advantage of the fact that it has a closed hardware and a software that should control and contain it to the maximum, in order to maximize to the second the time without charging the device . It is also unrealistic to think that we will go more than two days without connecting it: we will get used to it, just like we get used to charging our smartphones every day instead of every week.

One of the points I wish they had taken a little advantage of the company, is independence from the iPhone . In the first version they have been very prudent in developing a combined idea, but in future it would be logical to see the Apple Watch become more and more separated from our pockets. That would be really smart ( and it is something that happens to almost all models on the market ).

We don’t know much about its operating system either, just as we didn’t know it with the original iPhone, which Steve Jobs even called “Mac OS X” on the day of its introduction. The interface has won the war of first impressions and the digital crown seems to me to be a good choice for a device of that size, but there is a lot to see about the operating system and its possibilities. Is it comfortable? Is it fast? Is it useful to wear it in a “dress up”?

The future

With the Apple Watch , Apple enters fully into the revolution of what could be called ” was post-Smartphone “, small ( or not so small ) devices that still better customize certain tasks of smartphones. It is not a question of devices replacing others, but of devices that take care of certain tasks . If Apple has created an iOS for optimal and useful “wearability”, the future may certainly be surprising , moving the iPhone from being a control center , to a companion. Just as desktop computers were at the time.

The post-smartphone era is not about devices that replace others, but rather complement each other. Just as computers and smartphones and tablets have been in the post-PC era

Could CarPlay be considered a “wearable”? In my opinion, it is a step further. This is not a strict device using a dedicated operating system, as in this case, it is an extension of the iOS itself on a second screen. However, it is certainly on its way, and it is not hard to think that the future will also tend to break this umbilical cord with the iPhone, which can already be considered the new “desktop computer” of the present time.

If we look ahead we can only foresee very interesting months : there are still many new features to see and it is possible that Apple will convene another keynote for the end of October where it will update the Mac world, Apple TV and finally launch the final version of Yosemite. With all this, it will start to align its product range to face 2015 with great expectations, but also great challenges.

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