Can Apple Inc. Effectively Personalize an iWatch?

Walk into a Starbucks and no one minds sporting the same smartphone. But that's not the case for every consumer market. Imagine this scenario: A week before your new car is delivered your neighbor buys the same vehicle with the same specs -- ouch. Even worse, imagine one-third of the people in Starbucks wearing the exact same wristwatch. This dilemma poses a question: What is Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) solution for meeting the demands of fashion for its alleged iWatch?

Apple's product design engineers, led by the renowned Jony Ive, have undoubtedly considered the implications of this dilemma. But since the wearables market is still in such an early stage, it is worth wondering whether Apple will be able to fully and accurately encapsulate the effects of a long history of fashion and unique designs for the wrist on smartwatch purchasing choices.

An advantage for Android?
Google's (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) open software development kit for its Android Wear platform, which allows other manufacturers to adapt the operating system for their design, is one way to address consumers' demand for unique fashion. Could the open approach be the superior method in a fashion-stricken market?

Android Wear device from Google's Android Wear developer preview video.

Google director of engineering for Android, David Singleton, acknowledged the company's effort to solve this problem in a video describing Android Wear:

To bring this vision to life, we're working with consumer electronics manufacturers, chipmakers, and fashion brands, who are committed to fostering an ecosystem of watches in a variety of styles, shapes, and sizes.

Historically, Apple has kept its product line small, with limited designs. If Apple continues down this road, will consumers change the way they think about distinctive fashion on their wrist? Or does Apple have a unique solution?

PCs, MP3 players, smartphones, or tablets were never known for personalized fashion before Apple entered the categories. Even today, consumers across the globe seem completely unmoved when strangers next to them are using the same gadget.

Could this be Apple's plan?
One designer has come up with an interesting concept that Apple could implement to address fashion while only manufacturing one form factor for the iWatch. Argentine design student Tomas Moyano imagines a round device with grooves that allow for unique bands or other accessories like clips or necklaces. Using induction charging technology and wireless syncing, Apple could use the grooves without blocking any ports.

There's nothing entirely innovative about the underlying approach behind Moyano's design. In fact, a device called the Shine from Misfit Wearables already boasts a similar approach to solving demands for unique style. Nevertheless, the tactic does effectively address styling issues beyond the circular iWatch display.

But will differing bands be enough for consumers? Given Jony Ive's track record, investors shouldn't fret over Apple's method to solve this dilemma. Chances are, the company has an eloquent and innovative solution. But even if Apple's answer proves to be a success, will Android's likely broader range of styling solutions make its devices more competitive with the Apple in wearables than it is in smartphones?

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  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2014, at 8:50 AM, Bobleh wrote:

    Daniel, the solution to iWatch personalization is in a true Apple fashion rather simple and elegant.

    The classic wristwatch is a centuries old design. Originally made with just one application in mind - measuring time. Cramming modern apps into this legacy design results in baby software and poor experience. We've been here before - remember the first smartphones before the iPhone, with their small screens and complicated button controls.

    Now dream up the watch for the 21st century, with display room and context-intensive apps. What you end up with is an interactive bracelet, an all-band flexible display with downloadable skins - apply different colors, themes, pictures, make them fit with what you are wearing. One unisex all-age revolutionary and disruptive design, in a true Apple style. Suddenly, the Apps are not a tiny version of your mobile apps. Suddenly, you can see context for your fitness data. You can customize the look to fit your fashion tastes. You now have a product from the future, just like you felt when the first iPhone was introduced.

    Now if you say people want the classic watch design (and don't want to download one as a skin from the iWatch store). Fashion and people's tastes change. The wristwatch was originaly only for women, men refused to wear it as they saw it as a womens bracelet. Now it's the norm (the needs of war, riding the horse and holding the gun rendered the mens pocket watch rather impractical). And iWatch could well be the next year's norm.

    Is the technology ready? It might as well be, just look at the flexible display-based products popping up everywhere.

  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2014, at 10:17 AM, TMFDanielSparks wrote:


    Loved your thoughts! Thanks!

  • Report this Comment On March 25, 2014, at 8:05 PM, iWackyInvestor wrote:

    Apple needs to change their Chairman Mao Suit "One Size Fits All Ways". It's worked in the past, but wearables are different and they do.... have to be adaptable as well as give people a way of customizing them to their own style.

    Jony Ive is only into one single style of perfected art for everybody. Although that worked for the communist Chinese in the Mao Suit and blue bell bottom dungarees for practical purposes with a practical blue shirt to go with it, not everyone works the same job swapping decks or works in the fields like this styles dictated they were good for.

    Although Apple has gotten away with a one size fits all style of Jony Ives for years on other products. Watches and wearables in general constitute the greatest market variances in styling of any product category on the market. What's perfect for one person is anothers most hated style.

    Motorola's new round faced style 360 is a dramatic departure from literally every single design of smartphone out there and the reality is.... I for one am still wondering how they did that or if it's really even possible. Consider that although nature abhors a straight line and like trees in a forest, you can't find two lines exactly the same, Industrial design of Jony Ive will never fit quite right. He has to adopt to a changing World of ART!

    Look at exotic cars and you always see curves and reverse curves that never disrupt the sense of naturalness. But how did Motorola w/ Wear Android succeed in designing a round porthole like screen? Apple is not a screen maker, so they like Moto must again depend on a 3rd party to supply something like this. It's already been rumored Samsung is making the Moto 360's round screen using it's YOUM AMOLED technology. This can't be cheap to produce either.

    If Apple wants into the flexible, unbreakable, nanogear (Graphene Coating harder than diamonds) on round screens of the future, they will most likely have to go to Samsung to get them! ....and we already know Samsung will never give Apple another great deal on it's one of a kind technology ever again. After trying to sue them out of the American Market! (note too; Samsung's YOUM technology is the only one capable right now of being transparent. The others OLED technologies like LG's require a backlight & reflective surface)

    But what they could do is use artful design and like the student in South America suggests, give their iWatch adaptability to look and be near anything a customer wants. A modular design is the only way to do that. Come up with something that can be worn as a Star Trek like Comm Badge, or on the wrist with a strap, in a pocket as a complete replacement for a smartphone for people who want that.

    Put a notification screen around or along the side or bezel, so as a comm badge can be easily glanced down at for messages and notifications. This would be the first truly hands free wearable. Your hands could still be free to do other things! ......and this alone could set it apart!

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Daniel Sparks

Daniel is a senior technology specialist at The Motley Fool. To get the inside scoop on his coverage of technology companies, follow him on Twitter.

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