Thursday, March 19, 2015

I Eye the iWatch

Never mind a little drum roll, imagine the sound of trumpets. Hell, throw in trombones and the whole brass section. Imagine a regal fanfare that builds in anticipatory crescendo to a climactic, straining chord. Then silence. The curtains part, a white-hot spotlight pierces the darkness, and there on a plinth for the world to behold ...

A watch.

Not just any watch, but a battery-powered watch so special it can’t run an entire 24 hours without a recharge.

Of course, it's the Apple iWatch that officially debuted on Monday in a typically Apple-sauced  event. This was going to be big, and in its own way it was. The media made as much of it as they could. It was a coveted reporter's assignment after all. Nobody really wanted to call it a waste of time, so very few did.

OK, maybe it wasn't a complete waste of time. The iWatch is a nifty gadget. Just about anything you can do with your iPhone you can do with the iWatch. You can email, you can text, you can watch streaming TV, you can even find out the time. Trouble is, you can't do most of those things without having an iPhone nearby, like in your pocket. The iWatch talks to your phone wirelessly, and your iPhone does the heavy lifting computing-wise.

Yes, there are things you can only do with an iWatch, like send a lover or cardiac specialist your actual heartbeat. Like other smart watches, the iWatch can monitor vital signs and help track your health. At the big event, Steve Job's successor Tim Cook promised lots of nifty apps to come. Even so, for the most part the iWatch is an advanced combat unit of the iPhone. It can lay down small arms fire, but the mothership has the artillery.  

The question is, if you already have an iPhone, do you really need an iPhone extension on your wrist? Is it that much trouble to pull the phone out of your pocket? If you have an iPhone mount on your dash for navigation, what's the point?

In fairness, the letdown of the iWatch debut was only in comparison to the level of genius Apple has shown in the past -- marketing products like the iPod, iTunes, iPad, and the most disruptive product of this new century, the iPhone.

The iWatch is not in the same league as those products that made Apple one of the richest, most successful companies on the planet – not even close. But Apple products often have an edge over competitors. They’re beautifully designed, more intuitive to use, and more expensive -- status symbols to be sure. You can impress your pals at the Iron Skillet by talking to Siri on your wrist.

Beyond technology, the iWatch is jewelry, and as you might expect it can be expensive. A top-of-the-line model will set you back anywhere from $10,000 to $17,000. The cheapest model (which does all the same things, by the way), on the other hand, goes for $350. That’s pretty much in line with competing smart watches.

But the truth is a real smart watch has yet to arrive. That would be one with all the functionality of a smartphone – but without the smartphone. So you might just want to hold out. Even then, do you really want to watch Monday Night Football on a watch?

Stay tuned for the smart pinky ring.