Today’s the day, everyone. Apple watch Day. The day we fanboys, tech heads, and early adopters have all had our alerts to tell us about the second it came. No, I’m not talking about Keynote announcement day, or pre-order day, or even launch day. No, I’m talking about the holiest of holy days in the Appleverse.
I’m talking about review day.
Today’s the day Apple lifts its embargo on publishing long-form, personal-use reviews on its new wearable, written and produced by the handful of faithful bloggers and critics deemed worthy enough to tell the masses what to think. And boy, did they ever. They told us it was “excellent“. They told us it was “something like a natural extension of [Farhad Manjoo’s] body.” They even said it was “the most capable smartwatch available today.” At a glance, high praise across the board. But there was something else common in everything I read today, a refrain present in the vast majority of eloquent prose extolling the Apple Watch’s numerous virtues:
“You don’t need it.”
You know what? They’re right. You don’t need an Apple Watch. Remember, the Watch is iPhone-dependant. So if you’re planning on buying one, it means you either already have an iPhone (and therefore the watch’s entire suite of functionality, save the heart rate monitor), or you don’t have an iPhone and you’re buying it purely as a fashion accessory, foregoing any of its features other than its ability to tell time. You do not need an Apple Watch, just as no one needs a Samsung Gear S, a Moto 360, or any other second, tiny screen that emulates the functionality of your first, pocket-sized screen. If you’re considering an Apple Watch, and your decision is going to be based on Vulcan-style cold, cold logic, your decision has been made for you and the answer is no.
But here’s the thing. I think the reviewers have gotten it wrong. They’re approaching the Apple Watch the only way they know how, and that’s as a mobile device first and a fashion accessory second. And that’s just not what the Apple watch is.If you’re going to review a device like this one, you have to buy into its marketing and look at it from a fashion perspective first, and as a mobile device way, way second. And since fashion accessories are never a product of need, you then you land on the question you SHOULD be asking; not “do you need it”, but “Do you want it.”
It’s only fair to point out that the Verge’s Nilay Patel did indeed talk to Racked, a fashion magazine, about its fashion appeal. It’s also fair to point out, however, that Racked is a VOX media company, which owns, among other things, The Verge, and it shows as Patel talks to the team. The whole bit comes off as more an ad for Racked than a review of a watch. That said, they do make some extremely salient points, and it’s easily the closest any review has come today to approaching the watch as a fashion accessory instead of a tech one.
That’s how you should evaluate the Apple Watch. Not as a computer that’s also a watch, but as a watch that’s also a computer.
This “YOU DON’T NEED IT” bias goes far beyond the tech critic community, too. If you’re like me, you’ve spent the past week goggling APPLE+WATCH+REVIEWS at least once a day, and discovering that Apple shaming is still alive and well on the internet. Reviews like this one go out of their way to make you regret not only this decision, but every Apple purchase you’ve ever made. College Humor took the day off from writing dick & fart jokes to pen this magnificent opus declaring that the Apple watch is the perfect way to tell people not only that you’re a douche, but just how MUCH of a douche you are.
…I gotta admit it’s kinda funny. But like the critic crowd, these derisions all come with a common theme, and it’s served with a hot side of jealousy:
“If you spend that kind of money on something you don’t need, you’re an idiot.”
Again, this is just looking at it wrong. Of course, getting into a logic argument with loudmouths on the Internet is pointless, as logic is a sort of barren wasteland where angels fear to tread. All I know for sure is, these same people aren’t rushing to make videos about the insanity of spending $13,000+ on a Tag Heuer Monaco. For some reason, fashion that serves no purpose gets a pass, but as soon as you cram half an iPhone in there, well, now you’ve gone too far.
When it comes to technology, no category is more mysterious, divisive, or all-out baffling than wearables. And no wonder; it’s a technology segment still very much in its infancy. Aside from a few one hit wonders like FitBit and Pebble, and a few what-were-they-thinking failures like Google Glass, wearable Technology is largely unproven and unexplored. But fashion doesn’t suffer from such growing pains.
Fashion is an ever-changing landscape that isn’t defined by any kind of logical standard; it’s purely about trends and opinions, which we then use as standards. It’s the one thing we all have that strays as far from need as anything can. And that’s how you should evaluate the Apple Watch. Not as a computer that’s also a watch, but as a watch that’s also a computer. The tech is secondary; Apple themselves have made it abundantly clear that they want the watch to be seen as a fashion accessory that works with your technology, not necessarily as a piece of technology itself. Not primarily, at least.
I predict, however, that you’re going to feel like you need one very soon. In 2007, when the original iPhone was announced, almost no one had a Smartphone. In 2010, before the iPad, almost no one had a tablet. It’s now 2015, and taking a look around, I don’t see a ton of Smartwatches on peoples’ wrists.
Not yet, anyway.
I’ll be posting a real-world hands-on of the Apple Watch after mine arrives, sometime around April 24. Yeah, I’m getting one. I don’t need it by any means. But holy shit, do I ever want one.