The Watch Band Connector is its Most Critical Component
Although mentioned only briefly, the Apple Watch band connector may be the most important bit of the Apple Watch’s design. The band connector solves several problems Apple faced with the iPhone and answers the most troubling design question posed by wearables.
Let’s start with the design. Why is nailing the strap system so crucial to a successful wearable?
To design a wearable we actually want to wear, Apple has to find a way to make a product which will soon become obsolete also a personal product we’ll cherish. These qualities are at odds; making a personal piece of jewelry with an expiration date limits the amount of money shoppers are willing to pay and therefore reduces the budget you can spend making the object feel precious. And if the watch doesn’t feel precious, most people won’t wear it. Especially every day.
Apple answers this problem by making the bands detachable. In doing so, they’re isolating the part of the product which will not go obsolete (at least not anytime soon) and making this the precious bit. Watch Apple’s design video and pay attention to the language they use around the straps. We’ll cycle through Watches if a new generation appeals to us, but our fine mesh or leather straps will stay on our wrists.
Mark my words: the high-end straps will be expensive. Italian artisans don’t come cheap. And most of Apple’s Watch category profit margin will come from the straps.
Which brings us to the iPhone mistakes Apple will not repeat.
To my eyes, there are two major mistakes Apple committed seven years ago when they first introduced the iPhone which hounded them for several generations:
They left a ‘price umbrella’ in their product line. For a long time there was only one iPhone, and it was expensive. People who liked the product and wanted to join in but couldn’t swing the cost were ignored by Apple and addressed by Android. Android gained it’s initial footing by undercutting the iPhone, selling a smartphone for less. Apple was painfully aware of this fact and it took them several years to correct it.
Apple underestimated and missed the market for iPhone cases. As a company notorious which prides itself on the perfection of the object, it’s safe to assume a case was seen as a compromise by those in charge. We certainly know they didn’t use them. But Apple eventually recognized the market for them and even blocked out 3rd parties during their first case launch and has been launching them ever since, at very nice prices. But still: this market is mostly owned by 3rd parties.
The watch band system addresses both of these problems.
There will be no price umbrellas because the practical price of the watch will vary based on the band you buy. True, we have barely any pricing information (starts at $350!), but I’m making an assumption: the most expensive bands will cost at least as much as the watch itself while the base bands (likely the sports bands) will be a modest $30-$40.
In effect, with wide range of bands Apple has a full price gradient which addresses the luxury market and the mass market. This is important. Without the mass market, the economies of scale won’t kick in and platform plays (like Apple Pay) will whither on the vine. But if they only addressed the mass, the Watch both wouldn’t be personal and precious for those who want luxury and they’d leave a ton of money on the table.
With regards to the second iPhone mistake detailed above – that Apple missed the case market – I’m going to make another assumption: Apple will not be entertaining 3rd party bands and will enforce this legally and practically. To the latter point, I seriously doubt any case manufacturer has the laser cad facilities needed to carve out the precision parts in the band’s connectors (see the image above). Even if Apple did license the dock, I don’t think 3rd parties could join in. At least for awhile.
Apple will own the band market for at least the first three generations of watches. This clever design allows Apple to put the pressure on Android Wear makers. They can move most of their margins to the bands themselves (a market they have locked up) and drop the margins on the Watch itself, maintaining competitive prices. If not driving them below the competition.
While the band mechanism itself was mentioned only briefly last week, I think it’s one of the most important components announced. The connector allows Apple to address the luxury and mass markets, allows them to ship a personal product by isolating the part which will go obsolete, and locks up a lucrative market which will provide margin cushions for the Watch itself, allowing for competitive pricing.
The Apple Watch feels like the first iPhone or iPod. It’s too expensive, too bulky, lacks apps other than a few example Apple entries, but is good enough to convince us that a smart watch future is inevitable.
In a few years, a sub $200 device will land in a semi-mature ecosystem and sweep the holiday season. Apple’s watch will almost certainly have it’s iPod Nano moment.
The big question is whether Apple or Google will launch this ideal device.
Apple clearly will nail the hardware, but Google will lap Apple when it comes to services, contextual data, and algorithms. Most of a smart watch’s interface is invisible. It is the health, location, movement, social, scheduled, and other context data which drives the device 95% of the time. And right now I’d bet on Google Now over Siri.
But it’s close. Google products are contextually aware but socially awkward. Apple products are socially aware but contextually awkward. Google ships a face computer. Apple ships jewelry.
I’ll be thinking about our wearable future in the coming days and weeks, but my immediate reaction to Apple’s show yesterday is an excitement for the eventual change in how we interface with technology. As wearables improve, I’m looking forward to:
Shorter, responsive emails that are more like conversations than memos.
Contextualized decisions based on health and context data. (For example, if you use your free hour between 3 and 4 to go to the gym your fitness chart will look like if not it will look like that.)
Biometrics based security.
Practical dictation tools.
Smartphone-format devices we mostly leave in our bags and pockets.
Smartphone-format devices that don’t need to manage notifications.
It’s been nearly 6 months since the release of Reporter. We’ve been thrilled by the response so far and are working hard to ensure that Reporter adds the features you’ve been requesting. We are currently integrating iCloud backups and preparing for the release of iOS 8.
The New York police will test cameras made by two manufacturers: a one-piece device from Vievu and a two-piece system from Taser International, in which the battery and activation switches are separate from the camera itself. The companies’ cameras were selected, Mr. Bratton said, because they provide “end-to-end” systems that include storage both on-site and remotely.
The high definition video evidence is managed by our free proprietary VERIPATROL™ software system to securely store and catalog video files. The LE3 camera and VERIPATROL software utilizes a FIPS 140-2 compliant Digital Signature process to prove that the video has not been altered and VidLock security prevents unauthorized access if the camera is lost or stolen.
It will be fascinating to watch the growth of video analysts and their legal affects.
Most of the futures I imagine involve a BitTorrent-like protocol backing a medium which looks like Today’s Twitter. A distributed client network that doesn’t filter feeds, recommend content, and has IRC-like channels.
“Addresses were selected from lists of bombed-out buildings, and printers were engaged to put together letterheads for these fake groups, many of which “were littered with quotations that would act both as clues and as an inspiration to the prisoners,” as Clayton Hutton puts it. Some of these clues were pretty daring, such as a few lines from St Matthew, Chapter 7: “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” I am reminded, whenever I read this, of the story of the US prison escape attempt that was foiled only because the chef baking the cake with the file in it got a little carried away and wrote, “Good luck with the break-out!” in icing.”—"Inside Monopoly’s secret war against the Third Reich"
“Galt’s Gulch Chile is (was) meant to be a modern and real-world replica of Ayn Rand’s objectivist hide-out in Atlas Shrugged. Wealthy investors (or at least folks with a lot of bitcoin) envisioned a protected libertarian community where they could ride out the impending social and financial downfall of American society. Unfortunately for those taken in by the project, it appears now that the whole enterprise was a greed-driven scam.”—MetaFilter
It is the strange fate of America, in its waning days, that even wrestling — carnival redoubt of grifters, heels, and freaks of every stripe — would wind its way into the colorless confines of a ratty corporate park. Today, World Wrestling Entertainment — now renamed, per a legal settlement with that more genteel WWF, the World Wildlife Fund — trades on the New York Stock Exchange with a market capitalization of over $856 million.
Jim Barnett, one of the most powerful godfathers in the mid-twentieth century “Territorial Era” of wrestling promotion, boasted that he dealt with only three coteries: kings, prime ministers, and dictators. Barnett more typically dealt with sweaty jobbers and Georgia babyfaces, with names like “The Continental Lover” or “Geeto Mongol,” but the claim is perhaps not as ridiculous as it appears. Historically, professional wrestling, with its screaming neon lunatics, potbellied big daddies, and tasseled “ring rats,” has been considered too absurd to be taken seriously — deprecated by sportswriters and ignored by politicians, its fans derided as low-class marks.
This — the notion that pro wrestling is a fixed, low-rent travesty, undeserving of serious mainstream scrutiny — is the single greatest angle ever sold by the wrestling industry.
How did you study Anthropology and get into making apps for a living? Do you do a big part in anthropology and app making is just a side hobby?
Well, I don’t make apps for a living. Just for hobby, really.
But I do work in tech, specifically location data and analytics. Previously I worked in advertising, developing brand strategies.
Anthropology can be incredibly useful as a base knowledge if it was taught not as a trade (“Here, memorize these kinship diagrams…”) but as a method of thinking and investigating. Understanding how people interact with their culture, and how cultures bleed into one another and negotiate, allows you to think about how your efforts situate themselves and are encountered.
“Just the book I made of all my conversations—this 400-page book, almost like a bible, that encapsulates the year—just looking at that, not even reading it, but just looking at it, and realizing that I could go to any day of the year and basically relive it through my conversations, it’s really powerful.”—
I haven’t seen the book, but I have seen the database. Having so much qualitative data organized so precisely is fascinating. He was able to pull up every conversation we had in 2013, from the mundane to the significant.
On "Prime Pantry" & Amazon's Terrible Product Design
Put aside the Kindle and Prime for a moment. Now name one thing Amazon has launched which is in common usage besides simple shopping.
I’d argue you can’t. Amazon comes up with problem solving tech but is absolutely terrible at packaging it.
Consider the Amazon Fire Phone. To what audience would a $200+ phone (with a two year contract) which doesn’t run a major OS appeal? It’s main features help you shop at Amazon more easily (though the image recognition services), a problem most people don’t have in the first place.
Or Amazon Wish Lists. A great product buried behind a horrible UI. Within Wish Lists are all the features of Pinterest (and were in place years before Pinterest) and no one cared beyond a select few.
Or Amazon’s Kindle hub, which has been recommending I follow Tim Ferris and his goofy highlight from a Ben Franklin biography for nearly 5 years now.
Adding your first Prime Pantry item to Cart starts a Prime Pantry box. As you shop, you see that each Pantry item tells you what percentage of a Pantry box it fills based on its size and weight. Pantry boxes are large and can hold up to 45 pounds or four cubic feet of household products. As you check items off your list, we continuously track and show you how full your box is.
You can buy as much or as little as you want for a flat $5.99 delivery fee per Prime Pantry box.
Think about this from an average shopper’s point of view (and stay with me here. It gets booooring):
An item which would normally be Prime or a Prime Add-On now goes to a sub-category within your cart.
Click on your cart to check out and you see this sub-category marked by a infographic of a shipping-box filled up to the percent it contains. In my cart, this was 0.9% when I first noticed it. Zero point nine!
You realize that no matter what you do, clicking “check out” will ship a large separate box with small bottle of hand soap, for an extra $5.99. You want the hand soap, so you might browse the “Prime Pantry” store for more things to stick in your box.
The”Prime Pantry” store is pretty incomplete. I found three additional things in there that we use on a regular basis. Box filled to 10.4%.
At this point, you aren’t going to pay $5.99 for a mostly empty box, so you look for a way to check out without your “Pantry” items. There isn’t a way. Only way is to save all “Pantry” items for later.
Voila: Amazon has convinced you to buy the hand soap at the store across the street.
At several points in the process I felt like the team from AWS was given the reigns to design this process. Measuring boxes by percentage – even without the decimal point precision – is more akin to mangling server loads than shopping for groceries.
And this is the current state of Amazon: every new product or program they launch is almost certainly going to be hidden behind a terrible experience. Their new card reader is undercutting Square on price? I’d bet money it won’t catch on because a) Amazon won’t market it to retailers and b) they’d never figure out how to use it anyway.
To make matters worse, this seems to be a cultural problem rather than just a lack of resources. Read The Everything Store and it’s hard to think of Amazon as a company which tries to create good experiences. And this blind spot could likely bring them down.
Eric Kohn reviews Godard’s new film, “Goodbye to Language.”
Here’s one sample paragraph out of the total eleven, emphasis mine:
To some degree, the overwhelming montage taps into the over-saturation of today’s media climate, a point that Godard makes explicit several times: the recurring shot of a flat-screen television broadcasting static speaks for itself, as does a more comical bit in which two strangers continually tap away on their iPhones and exchange them, repeating the action. At one point, as the narration samples highlights from philosopher Jacques Ellul’s essay “The Victory of Hitler,” someone holds up a smartphone screen showing off the essay’s contents. It doesn’t take a lot of analysis to determine Godard’s intentions: He portrays the information age as the dying breath of consciousness before intellectual thought becomes homogenized by digital advancements.
“If you see an interesting story or photo on reddit, message the redditor who shared the piece to ask for their permission prior to using it in an article or list, ask how they would like it to be attributed, and provide them a deadline before you move on to another story.”—Reddit’s press guidelines are bonkers.
“There were a few abandoned buildings—one was a barbershop, and one was an abandoned McDonald’s,” Mr. Cowing said. “Someone hit the barbershop with a truck, so we took the McDonald’s.”
Their new control center, dubbed “McMoon’s,” fit all of the criteria they needed: the doors locked, and it was free. For their console, they pulled a broken flatscreen TV from a government dumpster and fixed the power supply. The other pieces are from eBay, including a Mac laptop and some radio parts.
With just those bare-bones pieces, they were able to MacGyver a computer-radio hybrid that made contact with the ISEE-3.
The fuzzy focus culminated in Square Wallet, which was initially called Card Case. Though Dorsey won’t acknowledge it publicly, the aim internally, says one source, was to “own both sides of the counter”—vendor and customer—so the company could one day “cut out the credit-card companies altogether.” (At weekly all-hands meetings, former COO Keith Rabois, only half-jokingly, used to announce the projected date on which Square’s payments-processing volume would overtake Visa’s.) Instead of helping consumers pay with their phones, like many other digital-wallet products, Square’s Wallet app enabled consumers to open a virtual tab with a nearby shop and then pay for items merely by saying their name when they arrived. Despite its popularity with the tech vanguard, Wallet saw barely any adoption. Few merchants accepted it, partly because few consumers paid with it, and vice versa. Even where Square Wallet was accepted, cashiers often didn’t know how it worked. “It wasn’t necessarily faster, or more convenient,” Dorsey says, looking back. “It felt more futuristic, but that doesn’t make it better.”
Wallet failed because it had a horrible go-to-market plan and it may have been too early.
I taught at least 10 different businesses who used Square how to check me out with it. They had no idea how it worked. Once they were set up, Square Wallet was an amazing way to do business. Transactions weren’t a forced interaction with a keypad, they were a morning greeting and quick chat. My face popped up on their register and they tapped it as they told me the total. I bought more at these venues because I it was a pleasant transaction and the barriers to purchasing were so low.
But again, I had to teach each vendor how Wallet worked. I showed my friends the glimpse of the future Square was offering. They had no idea such technology existed. For years I used Wallet as an example of how location technology was being applied in as a subtle interface.
It’s too bad Square never marketed Wallet, taught their vendors, and showed small businesses how Wallet led to more loyal customers. Wallet could have led to a better type of store.
“Relax into the couch as you chill out in Deckard’s apartment helping him track down replicants. Share some hard space liqour out of his bottle bag. This is 12 hours of the ambient droning sound heard in Blade Runner while in Deckard’s domicile.”—crysknife007 (Via Gizmodo)
“Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on a security camera dragging his unconscious wife-to-be Janay Palmer by the hair, after knocking her unconscious, and the National Football League has chosen to suspend him for two games. Rice in fact will return to the field just in time to wear the NFL’s pink-festooned uniforms to celebrate their deep commitment to breast cancer awareness.”—Dave Zirin
“One page of the catalogue is devoted to Restoration Hardware’s environmental impact. First, the company claims that sending out the catalogues all at once is more responsible than spreading them throughout the year. (It does not acknowledge that, in 2003, when it mailed six catalogues annually, it used half as many total pages.) Second, the company says that it purchases paper certified by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. (However, as Business Week explained, other retailers, such as Pottery Barn, buy paper from forests certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which has stricter environmental standards.) Third, Restoration Hardware points out that it purchases carbon offsets through UPS to fund conservation projects. (Those offsets, while helpful, cover only the shipping, not the paper production, themost harmful part of the process, because of the energy used to break down wood into pulp.) The company responded to my questions about its environmental practices by emailing a press release containing information identical to what’s in the catalogue.”—
“In China drinking with clients and colleagues is now seen as vital to career advancement; some job adverts even call for “good drinking capacity”. One study found that civil servants had a far higher incidence of alcohol-related liver diseases than the population at large (the higher the rank, the worse their health prospects).”—The Economist
“To Foursquare’s credit, the default recommendations you see upon opening the app are more personalized, as they’re largely based on the “tastes” you’ve picked prior. Which is a nice feature, certainly. But in all the times I’ve used Foursquare over the past few years, the one discovery feature I favored over all others was the ability to only search places where friends had previously checked in. Now that that filter is gone, the best you can do is impotently scroll through places the people you follow have “recommended.” It may sound like a technicality, but the lack of control makes the entire process feel more distant.”—
Time for more Yo thought pieces (and you thought they were done!) as the one-touch design model spreads. Today Push for Pizza, an app that does exactly that. Watch the usually well-made Sandwich video:
The current wave of convenience-tech products (Uber, Push for Pizza, all 1-day delivery applications…) suggest that our technical capabilities outstrip our ability to package them.
It feels like 1999 all over again. Suddenly anything can have a webpage, so it can. Suddenly anything can have an app, so it can. Suddenly anything can be on-demand, so it will be.
This phase of the tech industry is what I’d like to call the Malcolm Phase, named after a wise man who once commented that people become “so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” And we all know what happened next.
But unlike cloned dinosaurs, all of these applications are inevitable. The question is are they inevitable right now.
Think about 1999. Pets.com died a fiery death, but now we have Wag. WebVan failed but FreshDirect thrives. Kozmo’s business model dusted off the ashes and was reborn as Seamless, Grubhub, and more.
Why the failure then and success now?
As I see it, while technology may advance quickly, human behaviors are sluggish. We are advancing slowly on a road towards complete faith in digital transactions. Using pizza as an example, here are the phases of trust we’re advancing along:
Trust in Digital Purchases: “If I pay for pizza on a website, will they receive my money and actually delivery a pizza to me?” (this wasn’t present in 1999)
Trust in Digital Recommendations: “Does this service know of a better place to get pizza than I do?” (we’re barely at this point now)
Trust in Digital Completion: “Does this app know a great place to get pizza from and how to get it to my house?” (Push for Pizza is aiming here)
Trust in Digital Instigation: “Does this app know when I’m going to want pizza?” (Some are already planning for this)
Another good way to think about this is the various job we’re hiring the app or service to be:
Cashier: Take my money, give me goods.
Concierge: Give me a few ideas, let me make the choice.
Admin: Go research and complete a transaction for me.
Proxy: Anticipate my purchase needs and execute them.
Obviously these trust levels are related to disposable income. If you have a ton of money you won’t mind if an Admin or Proxy screws up every now and then. But for most people, we’re only at trust level 1 and 2. Yelp and other’s recommendations have a high enough hit rate that we’re willing to spend money on an untested restaurant regularly.
But Push for Pizza jumps to trust level 3. And I’m not sure we’re ready for the commitment.
To their credit, they’re taking a smart approach: the risk costs are low for the user (pizza is cheap and relatively commodified), the audience is focused and impulsive (did you catch the brief shot of one of the kids exhaling smoke in the video above?), and the trust precedent is set (Uber has paved the way, which was handled cleverly in the video without being tired). We’ll have to wait to see if these tactics will be enough. Best of luck to them1.
The biggest reason I think they won’t succeed, beyond slow user adoption, is that these three strategies (commodified product, focused audience, early adopter customers familiar with the business model) are rarely all aligned. Pizza is not a commodity in affluent, tech-savvy markets like New York, San Francisco, and LA. The core audience will never try again if they hit the button and Dominos arrives. ↩
“Researchers at MIT, Microsoft, and Adobe have developed an algorithm that can reconstruct an audio signal by analyzing minute vibrations of objects depicted in video. In one set of experiments, they were able to recover intelligible speech from the vibrations of a potato-chip bag photographed from 15 feet away through soundproof glass.”—