What Apple Watch Isn’t

Alright. It’s been 15 days since Apple announced Apple Watch; what most have viewed as Apple’s entrant into the “smartwatch” segment. But has Apple really done that? I don’t think so. Apple doesn’t make a product where the product category isn’t broken. Look at personal computers. That category didn’t even exist. Apple gave us the Apple II (and then the Mac). Look at portable computers. Apple gave us the PowerBook. Look at PDAs. Apple gave us the Newton. Ok, maybe that was a bad example. Look at portable music players. Apple gave us the iPod. Look at “smartphones”. Apple gave us the iPhone. Look at netbooks. Apple gave us the iPad. Can you even find a netbook for sale these days? Exactly. Apple doesn’t just move into a product category where there is no problem. The wearable market, which includes “smartwatches”, isn’t entirely broken. You have traditional watches, digital sport bands, and now “smartwatches”. So let me address each separately.

Traditional Watches:

This product category won’t be going anywhere for obvious reasons. Low and high tier watches need not worry about Apple Watch. They address a segment of consumers who can’t afford Apple Watch or who appreciate the prestige and build quality of a luxury watch. The danger that Apple Watch poses is that it will eat away at the mid tier which is the bulk of where consumer spend is. It is in this segment that Apple Watch will actually fit.

Digital Sport Bands:

Devices like Nike’s FuelBand (which has been discontinued) and Fitbit on serve a niche market. If you aren’t tracking steps or calories, they really won’t serve a purpose to you. I know people who wear them daily and they do double as a watch, but they’ll never replace traditional watches in fit or finish. Apple Watch, with its health-tracking features, will place a stake at the heart of this category.

Smartwatches:

My favorite category. This is the Jack Of All Trades category of wearables. Place tons of features in a device even if those features don’t work exceptionally well. Google, Motorola, and Samsung were “first” to this party but they haven’t solved anything. There was no problem that needed to be solved here. But they get to say that they entered the space before Apple. But Apple isn’t making a “smartwatch”.

I know. That last sentence may not make sense to most of you. But just look at the name of the product. Everyone thought that it would be called “iWatch”. Instead, Apple announced Apple Watch. Why no lowercase i? Personally, I believe the lowercase i would have given Apple Watch a different perspective. If you take a look at Apple’s website, it doesn’t use the word “smartwatch” at all. The word wasn’t even mentioned in the September 9 announcement. Don’t you find that kind of odd? I don’t. Apple isn’t making a “smartwatch”. It’s making a watch that has more functionality than traditional watches. Apple could have made some futuristic band that would have differentiated itself from rivals Google and Samsung. Motorola, for its credit, has actually made a good “smartwatch”. I’m actually not comfortable with calling theirs that because I think that their product is more in line with what Apple is attempting to do in the watch space.

Yes, Apple Watch has tons of features. Most of which we don’t yet know. But what Apple is banking on is that you love the design and personalization of Apple Watch so much, that you will put down your Movado and wear Apple Watch exclusively. Have you noticed the quality of the bands for Apple Watch? How about their prominence in Apple showcasing the device? Apple wants you to fall in love with it as a watch first, and then it’s function second. If you wanted something on your wrist with lots of function, then Google and Samsung have better products. But their products are ugly; from physical design and user interface. And you can’t really customize them. Their products are just boring. And make no mistake on the hiring of Angela Ahrendts, former Burberry CEO, as SVP Retail and Online Stores and Paul Deneve, former Yves Saint Laurent, as VP working on “special projects”, reporting directly to Tim Cook. Apple Watch is going to be a fashion/lifestyle product and these two giants in the fashion industry will be key to its success.

But here’s my last point as to why Apple hasn’t made a “smartwatch”. The price. Apple only announced a starting price of $349. And we all know that is going to be for Apple Watch Sport which is made of cheaper aluminum and glass. You want the stainless steel Apple Watch or the gold Apple Watch Edition? Be prepared to pay considerably more. Reports that I’ve read say that the stainless steel version is considerably heavier than the aluminum and the gold is considerably heavier than the stainless steel. That leads me to believe that it isn’t just a finish. The housing for these versions of Apple Watch are likely entirely made of these materials. That then increases the build cost. Gold is valuable. No matter what it’s shaped into. And that gold has a price. Don’t be surprised when Apple Watch Edition retails for over $1,000. Personally, I believe it could be in the $2,000-5,000 range. I know. That’s steep. But I really don’t think Apple is making a product in Apple Watch Edition that is meant to sell to the masses. I could be wrong. But I don’t think I am.

At the end of the day, I expect Apple Watch to sell very well. It will definitely freeze sales of rival products, which is why it was a good idea for Apple to announce it so early. My only concern is that customers won’t buy an expensive, electronic, watch. There’s also different buying behavior when it comes to watches. Most people don’t buy a new watch every year. I haven’t bought a watch since 2006. I actually hate having something on my wrist. While I want to say that I will go out and get Apple Watch gen one, it’s functionality and battery life will be key for me. Also, we know the product will get better over time. So maybe I’ll hold off for gen two. What I am clear about, is that I’ll be buying Apple Watch first because I like it as a watch.

My First Weekend With The iPhone 6 Plus

Unlike many people, I knew exactly which iPhone I was going to get when Apple announced them on September 9. There was no debate in my mind. I was going with the 6 Plus. But how did I draw such a conclusion after never owning a phone of that size? The jump to the 5 from the 4S wasn’t nearly as big as the one I was about to make. And sure, I could have just gone with the 6 but the 6 Plus had so much more appeal and upside to me. The demo of the 6 left me a little underwhelmed. It felt just like my 5S but with some improvements. The 6 Plus, with its much larger screen (with higher pixel density), larger battery, camera with optical image stabilization, and unique build of iOS8, made it truly stand out from its slightly smaller cousin, the 6. Now I don’t think that the 6 isn’t a worthy upgrade. It is. But I saw function over form in the 6 Plus. The size didn’t intimidate me. My hands are fairly large and so are my pockets. What I wanted in this phone, I think I’ve found. A device that lasts me two days on a charge and increases my productivity. The 6 Plus is just that. I have no doubt that I will fall even deeper in love with it once 3rd-party developers rewrite their apps to take advantage of the higher pixel density. Notice that I didn’t say larger screen. The 6 has a larger screen but it has the same pixel density as the 5 and 5S. That means that it’s only going to be able to run the same version of apps as its predecessors. But the 6 Plus will have special apps that take advantage of the higher pixel density. Some apps have already been updated and they are noticeably better. In the coming weeks, the wave of app updates will make 6 Plus owners feel like they have a new phone over and over again.

So that’s why I chose the 6 Plus. So how about the phone in general? It is amazing. Let’s start at the beginning. So I got one of the pre-orders. Probably wouldn’t have if Apple hadn’t been having issues on the online store which delayed the start of sales by a few hours on September 12. But they did and I was able to secure a pre-order. The next week was stressful as pre-orders hadn’t been confirmed by Apple. The confirmation email didn’t arrive until just after midnight on September 19. So I arrive at the West 14th Street store around 1pm. Luckily there was a separate line for customers who had pre-ordered. Because even at 1pm, the line for general sales was almost three blocks long. Once inside the store, the wait was only about an hour to get my phone. And as with any iPhone/iPad (and eventually Apple Watch) launch, being at an Apple Store is an experience. The staff and other customers (and Twitter) made my hour wait fly by. After I got my iPhone, I went and browsed the store. I decided to get the brown leather Apple case. I’ve never used a case with any iPhone I’ve had. Not the iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S. Yes, I didn’t get the 3GS. Just wasn’t a worthy upgrade in my opinion. And I think Apple learned that even on the S releases, they have to bring innovation. But back to what I was saying. The 6 Plus is already big. And while it might be thin, placing a case on it doesn’t make it much bigger. That’s always been an issue with iPhone cases. The phone is so beautiful and thin and people want to hide it with a case. I do get that it also serves as protection. But I much rather prefer my iPhone to keep its sleek look. But this big ass 6 Plus doesn’t make me feel the same way about cases. I actually think the phone is better inside of a case. The way Apple machined this thing makes it pretty slippery. The phone is slick. Literally.

So how about using it? Well I set up my 6 Plus from my 5S backup. My advice? Don’t do it from iCloud. Backup and restore from iTunes. You go from an hour to ten minutes. But once my phone was set up, everything is just working as should. The stock apps are so great on the 6 Plus. I really can’t imagine using a 6. The double-pane view for the stock apps isn’t just a UI gimmick. It really does add more functionality that makes for a better experience. And the size isn’t at all that difficult to get used to. I could understand some women not wanting such a big phone. Taking selfies in the mirror with a phablet isn’t the best look. I’m going to have to figure out a way around that as well. May just still use my 5S for that and AirDrop the pictures to myself. May. But I’m definitely keeping my 5S. My experience this weekend with the 6 Plus is that it isn’t as convenient to take pictures with. Sure, it takes much better pictures. But it’s a little bit awkward. And trying to sneak pictures just got a bit more difficult. But I’ll figure that out. The best thing about this phone is that big ass battery. My phone hasn’t seen 100% battery life since Friday afternoon. On Saturday, I went out for most of the day with my phone at 70%. And it lasted me until I got back in. That’s something that wasn’t possible before. And while I’ve heard good things about the battery life on the 6, the 6 Plus is just better. Finally, an iPhone that can last two days on a single charge. But let’s talk about charging this thing. It does take a while. So charging at night until 100% instead of putting it on the charger in the morning while I shower is probably how I’m going to have to operate.

All-in-all, I’m loving this phone. And it will get better as more apps are made for it. Sure, it’s bigger but it’s just better. And at 64GBs, I really don’t have a need for that iPad Mini that I was thinking about getting. I can understand people who buy the 6. I’m sure it’s a great phone but it’s the second best phone on the market.

"Typed on my iPhone 6 Plus"

Beats by Dre: Designed by Apple in California

I know it’s been a while (over a year) since I last posted anything on here. 2013 was just a hectic year. Lots of stuff happened in tech, but I won’t bother to point out what I was right about last year (almost everything). So what has brought me back to Tumblr? This Apple acquisition of Beats Electronics. Ever since rumors first broke of this deal, my mind has been churning as to what makes Beats worth $3.2B. And while the deal came in at $3B ($2.5B for Beats Electronics and $500M for Beats Music) and many reports as to why Apple wanted Beats, I’m still a little mystified. Are Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine really that valuable? Is Beats streaming music service and their 200,000 subscribers worth $3B? This certainly isn’t about overpriced and mediocre-sounding headphones and speakers. Can’t be. And I don’t want anyone to think I’m hating on a widely popular electronics brand. I’ve owned Beats headphones and earbuds since day one. I’ve been lucky enough to never have had to pay for any. The quality just isn’t there for me. I’d much rather listen to music via a pair of Sennheiser RS 180’s. I won’t even mention the HD 700’s. Best consumer headphones you could ever buy. Even still, I’m in love with my Beats Executives and my Beats Pill. They are amazing products for what they are designed to do. Amazing. And they also have a certain cool factor. Apple products also have a cool factor. So there’s that synergy between two lifestyle brands. But that alone isn’t worth Apple’s largest ever purchase. Apple’s largest purchase before this was it’s purchase of NeXT in 1996 for $429M (inflated to $639M today). The purchase of NeXT allowed Apple to develop Mac OS X. This was key in Apple developing a modern operating system for it’s Mac lineup, and later iOS for iPhone and iPad. Considering all the products that run on NeXT code, that purchase was cheap. I just don’t see the same value in this Beats purchase. Tim Cook has gone on record as saying that new features for Beats will “blow your mind” and that there are “products you haven’t thought of yet”. Those are bold statements. Some could say that they are for investors who are concerned that Apple just blew $3B of their money on a company that only cleared $1.5B in revenue last year. I think it’s clear to say that the return on this investment won’t come in the form of headphone sales, no matter how high the profit margin is for Beats products. From everything I’ve been reading, this purchase was for the people resources that Beats will bring to Apple. Dre and Iovine will be full-time employees at Apple. Still not sure how that is going to work. You don’t just go from owning a company to being an employee. No matter how much money ($700M for Dr. Dre in this case) you made from selling your company. It’s a different mindset when you’re the guy at the top making the decisions than when you’re just another employee. And yes, I know they won’t be too far from senior management, reporting to Apple SVP Eddy Cue. But they won’t be involved in many closed door meetings. That’s not an easy pill to swallow. Egos can wreck a business faster than any rival. I don’t see that happening with Dre as he’s a relatively quiet figure and Iovine has had a good relationship with Apple in the past. But the chemistry between these two and Apple’s top brass should be watched. I think Apple is betting on Iovine’s relationships in the music and TV industry to boost declining music sales and to possibly secure some content deals for Apple’s heavily rumored television product. Apple has promised to go into categories that it currently isn’t in. So along with the obvious iWatch, a true Apple TV is likely the other. While the iWatch will generate a few billion for Apple, television is a much bigger opportunity. Should Apple be able to successfully tap into that, we’re talking about the worlds first trillion dollar valuation for a company. In the short term (I’m thinking holiday quarter), we can expect to see some Jonny Ive inspired headphones and speakers. Too early to see Beats Audio in iPhones but it will likely come. Still, nothing mind-blowing. All very predictable really. For this deal to be successful, Iovine has to deliver some huge content deals.

Apple Made Google Maps Better

I’ve had the chance to use the Google Maps app for iOS for a few days now and I have been blown away by how great the app is. It is hands down the best mapping app available for mobile devices. But you know what else I realized in using the app? Apple was right to kick Google Maps off of its devices in favor of its own mapping solution. Sure, the new Maps for iOS app isn’t that great (I’m not going to slam it like others have), but it accomplished what it needed to do. Apple showed everyone what type of company Google really is. For at least two years, Google refused to bring turn-by-turn navigation to the iPhone because it wanted its Android operating system to have a competitive advantage. And so only but being kicked off of the platform, did Google update its app. And now, iOS has the best version of Google Maps available. And look at how quickly it took Google to push out the app. It’s amazing what a company can do when given the right amount of incentive. Kudos to Apple for pushing Google to release a better app. Now if Google can only fix this Gmail issue with iOS devices!

The World Has Gone Mad….

Apple (AAPL) is trading below $700 and Gangnam Style has almost a billion views on YouTube. Something just isn’t right.

And So The World Yawns At The iPad mini

I usually don’t get too excited about Apple product launches and so I won’t this time either. After all, Apple only releases products that sell in the millions and beat previous sales records of the product it’s replacing.

The iPad mini went on sale today with small lines and very little fanfare. So this product must be a flop. Wrong. Only the WiFi model went on sale today. Just wait until the cellular version goes on sale and the the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear. Then you will truly see that Apple’s family of iPads dominate the iPad market. As I’ve said many times before, there isn’t a tablet market. There’s an iPad market and everyone else.

Tim Cook Shakes Up The Orchard

When I first read the story, I was mixed with emotion. Happy to see John Browett leave, but kind of concerned about the departure of Scott Forstall. Browett wasn’t the right man for the job, and while his recruitment to Apple in a partial indictment on Tim Cook, his departure shows that Tim can pull the trigger when needed. But on the other hand, Forstall was like a rock star in Palo Alto. But if I think deeply about it, he needed to go.

But let me talk about this Browett guy for a moment. First of all, I had never even heard of Dixons before. But then when I found out what Dixons was, I realized that this guy wasn’t the right guy for the job. Apple Retail was created from the vision of Steve Jobs and the hard work of Ron Johnson. No one outside of Apple, has any idea how to make Apple Retail work. Ron’s successor should have been someone from within Apple Retail’s senior management. I suspect this will now be the case. Tim can’t afford to make the same mistake twice. Apple Retail is just as important as the products themselves. Think about it. Most people have their first meaningful interaction with an Apple product in an Apple Store. Not only does a customer buy an Apple product because it meet their needs, they buy it because of the support that they get with that product. And that support extends to over 380 Apple Stores worldwide. Apple Retail is the face of the company just as how Steve Jobs was and the iPhone is today. So you can’t have some British bozo (God save our Queen) who has no idea about the Apple culture come in and with such authority. Apple Retail employs more staff than any other division at Apple. Apple Retail is where the culture of Apple lives. And as a former Apple Retail employee, I felt extremely offended that this Browett guy would come in and try to make cost-cutting measures in Apple Retail. Apple Retail isn’t designed to generate revenue. It is a support feature first in many ways. Sales comes second. Why do I say this? Just ask any Apple Retail employee how much commission they make. They don’t! Apple Retail isn’t driven by salespeople. It is driven by people people. People who can empathize with an irate customer. People who can help an elderly couple get set up with an iPad that allows them to FaceTime their grandchildren halfway around the world. Any idiot that think laying off staff to increase revenue within Apple Retail is a good idea deserves to get sacked so quickly. Mr. Cook, you and I have been friends for a long time, but you better think long and hard before you pick Ron Johnson’s (Browett was a mulligan) successor.

Now on to Forstall. Like Jony Ive, I thought Forstall was golden. Simply untouchable. This is the guy who told Steve Jobs not to have an iPod-like interface for the iPhone and to go in the direction that the iPhone is at now. In any other company, the success of the iPhone would have been enough to secure employment until retirement. But not at Apple. Your current success only serves as the benchmark for your next project. And while iOS (Forstall’s division) continued to progress, the level of “wow” seemed to be fading. Each year the tent pole features seemed to be more and more incremental. And while I personally feel that smartphones are reaching a feature saturation point, I think the iOS team could push the envelope a little more. But this isn’t the reason why Forstall is leaving Apple. Speculation is that he’s actually being forced out. Here’s what John Gruber has to say about it:

Forstall is not walking away; he was pushed. Potential factors that worked against Forstall: his design taste, engineering management, abrasive style, and the whole iOS 6 Maps thing. I also wonder how much Forstall was effectively protected by his close relationship with Steve Jobs — protection which, obviously, no longer exists.

I can believe it. Siri debuted as a beta product. I think it still might be. Not sure. And while slapping a beta tag on something lowers expectations, it’s just so unlike Apple. You expect that from Google but not Apple, where products are known for having such polish. But instead of learning from that “mistake”, Forstall signed off on Apple’s new Maps app. Now while I haven’t had any problems with Maps on iOS6 so far, and much of the “issues” are overhyped, Maps was egg on the face of Apple. Apple had to publish an open letter to apologize for the new Maps app. A letter that Tim Cook had to sign because Forstall is rumored to have refused to sign it. This was the final nail in the coffin for the golden boy. And as Gruber suggest, without Jobs, the protection for Forstall is no longer there. Jobs was famously known for valuing personal relationships, but maybe Tim Cook doesn’t. It may appear that he is a cold a decisive individual. The reason why Apple masters the supply chain as well as they do.

Now I’m sure investors will overreact to this news and it’s good that Apple did it when the stock market was closed (Thank you, Sandy!). This will allow Apple PR to try and massage the concerns of its investors before the massive selling begins. I have to admit, this shake up had me thinking about selling my stock. Not because I don’t agree with the moves, but because it might show that Tim Cook isn’t a confident leader. I don’t believe this to be true. I believe that he is supremely qualified to head Apple, but I don’t know if the large investors believe that. But let’s give this shakeup some time to play out. Jony Ive is heading up HI (Human Interface) design, which I believe he will exceed in just like he had with the physical design of Apple’s products. And if we look ahead, Apple is heading into its biggest fiscal quarter with its strongest product lineup ever. Investor concerns should be eased over the holiday quarter’s massive sales.

Google Crashes The Market

Did anyone pay attention to the stock market yesterday? No? Well let me fill you in on what happened. Google’s earnings got published early and sent the tech sector into a dive. Google missed their quarterly expectations and so the selloff began. Now I genuinely don’t care about what Google does (aside from them ripping off everything that that produce from someone else). But I start to care when Google’s earnings somehow decrease my Apple (AAPL) shares! How the hell does Google’s earning have to do with my stock? I’m waiting for Wall Street to return my inquiries on that. Apple has exceeded their own guidance for as long as I can remember. Yet their stock gets hammered when they don’t crush analysts inflated expectations. Does anyone see what is wrong with Wall Street? Because I surely do.

Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.

I might not agree with the gasbag that is Rush Limbaugh but he’s right.

Now, something fascinating came up the other night in a debate, and I wanted to mention it the other day, and I didn’t get to it. Candy Crowley brought up the Apple example and manufacturing. And the example was that not one Apple product is made in America, and yet they’re the largest company in the country, they sell gazillions of products, and not one of them is manufactured in the United States, and of course the hand-wringing and, “Oh, what can we do? Can we bring that back? Oh, my God.”

There’s a simple reality. The last time Apple products were really manufactured in this country, you’ve gotta go back to when John Sculley ran the company, the early nineties. Apple had two factories, and they could stamp out a million Macs a day, computers. There was no iPhone at this point in time, just the Macintosh. They had two factories. One was in California, I think Fremont, if I’m not mistaken, somewhere in California. The other one was in Cork, Ireland. But the iPhone, the iPod, the current iteration of the iMac, all the Macintosh line of computers, the iPad, have never been made in America. Those are not jobs lost. Those are not manufacturing jobs that have somehow been squandered and lost.

Those products have never been made here. However, they wouldn’t exist without American ingenuity. All of the industrial design, all of the software engineering, many of the components for the various products, all of them are designed here, every damn one of them is designed here. Many of the components inside, the chips, made here… what did it take to get those iPhones in everybody’s hands? It took airplanes. FedEx, an American company. Apple buys out FedEx routes for weeks leading up to the release of a product. Then once the iPhones got here, where did they go? They went to Apple stores, they went to carrier stores, they went to individuals’ homes. They had to be delivered by somebody. UPS delivered some, FedEx delivered some, people picked them up themselves.

The Apple Store has its own employees. The number of jobs that Apple creates or facilitates, despite the fact that their products are manufactured (or assembled, I should say) in China would astound people if they ever stopped and looked at it. There are plenty of jobs in this country that are being filled and that are necessary because of Apple, even though their products are manufactured there…

By the way, I’m not speaking to you as an Apple fanboy. I’m speaking to you once again strictly in economic terms. Apple is not a drag on the US economy, even though those products are not manufactured here. Those are jobs that are never gonna come back. Have you ever stopped to think…? The iPhone 5 right now, they can’t make enough. They are selling every iPhone they make.

They have had the fastest rollout, international rollout of a product ever. The iPhone is on sale in more countries than any phone at this stage of its release date as any product they’ve ever had. They simply can’t make enough…. Their phones, their products, their computers, the iPads, the iPhones, the iPods. All these are made by one company called Hon Hai Precision, Foxconn, and they’ve got factories all over China, factories that employ 300,000 people. The total number of employees of the manufacturing firm is over one million. It takes five days to make an iPad, I read. Manual labor, five days. I don’t know what it is for an iPhone. One of the reasons the manufacturer says the iPhone’s late or tough to get is because its design is so intricate.

It’s the thinnest and the lightest and it just takes a long time to put one of these things together, and it is really hard because it’s so miniaturized. It’s so technically advanced… The bottom line is that those jobs were never here. We didn’t lose those jobs. And the jobs that are related to all those products are real, and they are American jobs, and the intellectual content — the stuff that makes those iPhones valuable — is all made and designed here…

I don’t know where to stop when talking about Apple. Look at the people that make accessories for all their products: the cases, the external batteries, the chargers. It really represents total economic ignorance to sit here and wring your hands and worry about the fact that the iPhone, the iPad, whatever, is not made in the United States. The economic activity associated with the assembly of those products over there by the ChiComs is incalculable.

Well, you could calculate it, but it would stun you.