Apple courts fashionistas as smartwatch expectations mount (@Reuters)

Apple Inc has invited top fashion editors and bloggers in unprecedented numbers to its Tuesday launch gala, further evidence that the iPhone maker is preparing to take the wraps off a smartwatch. Apple is forging closer ties to the fashion world as it plots its foray into the fertile field of wearable technology, trying to win over a critical crowd that may prove crucial to the success of consumer gadgets worn around the body.

On The Audience for an iWatch

Analyst Ross Rubin for VentureBeat:

Ultimately, Apple’s competition in the smartwatch space is not Samsung, LG or Motorola, at least not with the products that they are shipping today. It is brands such as Tag Heuer and Movado, brands that represent premium quality and materials while still being affordable and relatively mass market compared to elite luxury brands such as Cartier and Rolex.

I just don’t agree with this. Not that the current competition is any kind of barometer for what smartwatches can be but the last part about typical “premium” watches. Those purchases are still made for very different reasons. Yes, in some ways, it can be argued that gadgets have become as much of a fashion statement as clothes and accessories. But I think most people continue to make their gadget-purchasing decisions based primarily on functionality rather than fashion.

Eventually, these two markets will probably converge. But in the near-term, I believe the audience for the iWatch, aside from tech geeks and Apple loyalists, will consist of a lot of first-time watch buyers who have stopped wearing wristwatches (because their smartphone can tell time) or with younger millenials, have never worn a watch at all. I don’t think the folks buying Swatches and Tag Heuer watches are necessarily going to gravitate towards an iWatch because they’re looking for something fashionable first and foremost; not a gadget.

Grading on a curve: Smartwatches in 2014 (@techpinions)

Jan Dawson:

The real point here is that smartwatches today, like smartphones then, had a niche appeal. Smartphone penetration in the US was in single digits in 2007, and that reflected the fact most people hadn’t seen the need to buy one. Smartphones in the US were work-centric, focused on delivering email and a basic web browsing experience. Apps for anything beyond PIM (personal information management) were poor or non-existent and, as such, the vast majority of the general population saw no need for one. Those that needed one would likely be issued one by their employers, and a few hobbyists would buy one for personal use or because their employer didn’t see the need.

If smartwatches are to succeed then, we need an existing player or a new entrant to do something similar to what the iPhone did to smartphones in 2007: that is, fundamentally reinvent the category

This is pretty much what we already know. The main thrust of the article was one that consumers (and the tech press) ought to therefore be heightening their expectations for what the devices can do, which I agree with:

The bar has been set so low for smartwatches that a device as flawed as the Pebble gets a score as high as the iPhone 5C or the LG G3, even though the latter devices do a far better job of meeting needs in their category than the Pebble (or any other smartwatch) does in its category.

He follows with some general criteria re: form factor (size and display) with a passing reference to functionality but I think the latter is the most important. It’s also the hardest to successfully predict. Would one have judged the iPhone in 2007 based on what the app ecosystem looks like today? Even Steve Jobs didn’t originally envision how things ended up turning out.

7 things the iWatch needs to do if Apple wants to win (@verge)

Most of the time, the iWatch should do nothing. It should sit forgotten on your wrist, alerting you only when there’s something worth paying attention to. And that won’t be every notification, every alert, every message. The iWatch needs tools to be finely tuned, and needs to be smart enough to tune itself to show me only what I need to see right now. Mostly it needs to just look good, and tell me the time. Everything else should be, and feel, secondary.

OK. But if that’s the case, are you going to fork over $300 for the privilege of owning one? Certainly, I agree with a curated approach to notifications and alerts. But if I wanted something that mostly just told me the time, I’d buy any of the thousands of watches for sale. There has to be an essential use case inherent to the watch itself; some reason I’m going to fork over a couple of hundred dollars.

Apple, Swatch working together on an ‘iWatch’ (@venturebeat)

Apple has been working with at least one partner, Swatch, to release a line of smartwatches in variety of branded styles and price points, a source with knowledge of the situation tells VentureBeat.

While most Apple-watchers and media have been laser-focused on one or two “iWatches” from Apple itself, the Cupertino, Calif.-based electronics and media giant may actually be working a number of partners in the watch business.

Apple and its partners will offer a family of smartwatches to suit all tastes “from geek to chic,” our source says.

So is Apple going after traditional watch buyers here? I feel like the market for smart watches is going to be made up mostly of people who aren’t watch connoisseurs and indeed many who may have never worn a watch. Not that those folks aren’t fashion concious too but I think it’s more about the utility of the device and less about the look or how it may be perceived as a status symbol.

Early Apple Designer Explains The Only Way The iWatch Will Work (@businessinsider)

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Esslinger said, “When Apple eventually launches the long-awaited iWatch, it has to top the iPhone in function, design, and prestige — anything else would be completely illogical.”

The current smartwatches are a misunderstood issue because I don’t think there’s a real need for another device to access a smartphone already in the hand or in the pocket of the user,” he said. “It makes sense to make technology more wearable, but it must be a complete device.”

Doing Something First Versus Doing Something Right (@parislemon)

I’m still shocked each time I see Apple’s competitors clearly rush something out the door, almost like the real world version of the classic “FIRST!” blog comment. And I’m more shocked that they’re shocked each time they fail.

This is overly simplistic. It’s not as if Apple’s competitors are pushing inferior products out the door on purpose. Not to mention there have been attempts at smartwatches long before Pebble, Samsung, Qualcomm got involved that go back 30+ years. So while they may be “first” if you define first (in modern day tech parlance) to mean “before Apple enters the market,” these competitors feel they’re using today’s technologies to iterate on what’s failed previously. To say they’re all rushing their attempts out the door is way too broad a statement to make.