Apple Rings and Watches

There is, undoubtedly, a lot of truth and clever insight in Craig Hockenberry’s piece, Wearing Apple. (Please read it; it’s definitely worth the time.)

But first, some issues I had with his argument about why a watch seems out-of-the-question.

The Competition

He notes:

…the companies that dominated the music player and mobile phone markets were making complete crap prior to Apple’s arrival. Granted, there are a lot of cheap and crappy watches on the market, but they’re not remotely interesting to the demographic that buys Apple products. And to many people, a fine timepiece is more about status than technology.

I’m not aware of many Apple users that wear “fine timepieces”. (Rolex is the only company that springs to my mind if I even try to think of companies that build fine timepieces. It’s possible it’s just me…but I live in a den of Apple users, and I don’t hear them talking about fine watches, either.)

I don’t see what would be wrong with Apple entering this market from a brand/status perspective. Apple would trample the existing players.

The Customer

Then, Hockenberry seems to argue against his own point:

Who is going to buy this wearable technology?

Trends are always set by the younger generation. Especially with clothing, jewelry and other items that appeal to a demographic with a lot of expendable income.

So Apple’s product needs to compete with high-quality, luxury brands…yet youth will define this market? I don’t see any of the younger generation wearing luxury watches, or watches of any sort.

The earlier point and this one can’t both be true. (For the record: it’s this one that’s true. Youth will define the market. Again, another reason why an Apple watch doesn’t seem out of the question to me.)

The Ring

Then I think he gets on track, in a big way:

The first step is to start looking at things from Apple’s point-of-view. I ask myself, “What problems can a wearable device solve?”

As I think about answers to that question, it leads me to the conclusion that Jony Ive and crew aren’t looking solely at the wrist. Wearable technology could take cues from other kinds of jewelry: rings and necklaces, for example.

I do agree that a ring is—conceptually—closer to what Apple will release than a watch. I’ve always envisioned Apple’s watch as having a minimal screen and almost no interactivity; a subordinate, an adjunct, to your phone, and certainly not the combination TV/GameBoy/mini-iPhone that people seem to think it will be.

But Hockenberry doesn’t mention something I think is important: an Apple ring is scarily close to a punchline.

Asking customers to wear a ring instead of a watch is a big deal. Now, it seems like it’s asking less. But really, it’s asking more; a lot more. Asking a non-ring-wearer to become a ring-wearer (and most male youth are not ring-wearers) is asking them to almost jump to a different demographic.

A ring is also more personal than a watch. Rings are to identify my marital status, my membership in a club (my high school class, my Super Bowl-winning team.) People feel close to Apple…but that close? By contrast, wearing a watch is…wearing a watch. No biggie. (For what it’s worth, in a different but not entirely dissimilar situation, Disney is asking people to wear a watch.)

I’d like an Apple ring. It satisfies exactly what I want from an Apple watch. But…it’s asking customers to make a big leap.