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Can Apple Inc. Effectively Personalize an iWatch?

By Daniel Sparks - Mar 24, 2014 at 8:05PM

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Will consumers' demands for unique styling with wearables be a problem for Apple's historical approach to uniform designs?

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 ( AAPL -1.17% ) 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 ( GOOGL -0.68% ) 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?

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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