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Over the past months I have read quite a bit of speculations about Apple’s iWatch, and I am cautiously optimist about the its launch. No doubt the company has launched products which have reshaped the market landscape, but it has also been spinning out several ‘not very different from the previous one’ products. However, every single product launch sees an amount of buzz which is the envy of its competitors. There has been so much buzz about iWatch too. Seeing the past trend one may wonder if the iWatch is just going to be a ‘watch like something’ coming with iOS optimized for a smaller screen! The internet is abound with both optimistic and pessimistic speculations, and I am not going to add to the speculation grind mill with less than few hours to go before the launch. In this blog I am going to tell you what I, a strategic designer, will be keenly looking for as details of the iWatch are unveiled today.

How is Apple handling fashion, which is very much about self-expression?
Apple recently hired British luxury watch designer Marc Newson and it had hired Paul Deneve, formerly the CEO of fashion house Yves Saint Laurent some time ago, to work on “special projects”. Over the last two days, a news about Jonathan Ive‘s remark that the iWatch may screw Swiss watchmakers, has drawn quite some attention on the internet. The hiring of people from the field of fashion, and Ive’s remark, point to the fact that when it comes to form design, iWatch may be a fashion accessory (in addition to being other things), and a fashion accessory is essentially a medium for self-expression. Since each one of us is different in some way, innumerable variations in fashion accessories exist. I am curiously waiting to see how even when going the fashion accessory route to design, Apple will enable people (if at all) to express themselves uniquely through the iWatch. Perhaps the iWatch could come in a few different colors and form factors. Or perhaps, Apple could go a somewhat unexpected route and create many variations of iWatch by tying up with several renowned watch-makers and co-designing the interface with them – something similar to what Apple did with automobile makers for its CarPlay.

How does the iWatch go beyond the hype of quantified self?
Amazon recently added wearable products to its online marketplace. The below picture shows the main categories of products being sold on Amazon.
wearables, smartwatch, iWatchInterestingly, most of the products are meant to ‘track’ things – from tracking your activities to tracking your pets. iPhone already tracks many things and Apple is known to have hired several medical and bio-sensor experts, such as O’Reilly’s chief medical officer Michael Masimo and Vital Connect’s vice president of biosensor technology Ravi Narasimhan, for its “special projects”. I am expecting some kick-ass fitness applications. But there are already so many tracking devices which inundate us with data. So what I am waiting to see is how Apple puts all the data together and make the iWatch tell new stories about us. Can iWatch go beyond the ‘quantified self’ hype and tell us things that really help improve the quality of our lives?

Does iWatch introduce any new meanings in wearable category?
We have seen cell phones being used for controlling objects (locks, thermostats, light etc.), enabling transactions and tracking our activities. But perhaps there is a completely new need which the iWatch could address through a feature which is unique to the wearable medium. If iWatch does so, it will be introducing a new meaning for the medium itself. For example, Alessi gave a whole new meaning to kitchenware by infusing playfulness in them. I am waiting to see how radical and/or how nuanced meanings Apple will introduce by addressing our needs which others have not paid attention to.

How the iWatch will handle fashion, which is all about self-expression? How the iWatch will make use of all the tracked data to tell a story about improving the quality of our lives? And how (if at all) the iWatch will introduce new meanings to the category of wearables? These are some of the questions at the top of my mind with less than few hours to go before the launch of iWatch. Is there a special angle that you will be looking for in today’s unveiling of iWatch? I am curious to know the questions in your mind.

Update: Here’s the video of ‘Apple Watch’ being introduced by Jony Ive.

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