This is post on wearables but not about the Apple Watch.
Yes I know today was the day all the tech blogs and gadget columnists hit the send button on their reviews of the Apple Watch; call this a bit of counter programing.
A few weeks ago I pondered what would happen if the Apple Watch failed. And I thought I came off too negative in the post about the potential for wearable devices. I still don’t feel like they are the next big thing but I do think they are part and parcel of computing’s future. I think computers and digital appliances will end up in a lot of places including the things we wear. That means smart watches and sensors in clothing; the issue right now is the current wearable fad is about adding onto the phone.
With few exceptions the smart watch in 2015 is about putting your phone on your wrist and adding a clock. There are things like fitness trackers, think FitBit and Nike’s Fuel band, but they are singular devices. Android Wear and the Apple Watch are platforms that require you be inside their perspective ecosystems to use their product. And if you do the devices act as another phone screen.
The problem with this first generation of wearables to me is their sitting in a niche whole waiting on something to die; an answer to a problem only nerds were asking for. At best smart watches become the must have accessory for your phone; at worst a fad that turns ugly. I don’t see people turning over watches every two years like they do phones. Phones are bought on plans that hide the cost or for the cheap. What we have here is technological jewelry; circuits and baubles. Smart watches aren’t required and their value add is negligible. You are paying for a device so you don’t have to pull the other out your pocket.
It is a little too easy to come up with the reasons why smart watches can fail: niche product, useless without a phone, built for obsolescence, and no good in bright light. But what intrigues me is how to you need to think about wearable tech and make it work.
So in order to understand how a wearable can work we (that’s the royal we) will turn our eyes toward Disney.
See Disney has a wearable device that they have been selling in troves. It sells for about $13.00 a piece, can be personalized with skins and buttons, and comes in many colors. They do nothing but make it easy for you to walk around Disneyland and Disneyworld (seriously it’s a band with an RFID chip and that it; no touch screen). The Disney MagicBand is the perfect wearable because it embraces what it is.
The Apple Watch and the Moto 360 want to be watches but they can’t. A watch does not go bad and updated after two years. You spend money on a watch thinking it will last; even the cheap ones. Watches are accessories that we collect and pass down; they sit unobtrusive until needed. They don’t tap and make you conform to constant checking or become unusable in sunlight.
The MagicBand’s purpose is to be a fun way, a magic way, to go ride Magic Mountain or pay for dinner at Disneyland. It is designed to be unobtrusive; not to distract but make easier to engage. The Band can be made to be as personalized as you want for a price that makes it easier to walk away from. The Band is a proper accessory where others are PCs strapped to your arm. And the funny thing is that MagicBand that cost way less than Apple’s watch makes people and children giddy because it has a clear end unlike the plethora of smart watches that are the FUTURE.