If Apple excel at one thing, it's this: convincing us we own the pinnacle in technological achievement, and then replacing it. When we all bought our iPods, we couldn't imagine a day when they'd no longer be desirable, let alone available. Like a car, we'd want to upgrade the device now and again, but the player was so useful and so much fun, we figured we'd always have one. But now the iPod is gone and its functionality has been embedded into the iPhone.
Of course, we now feel the same about the iPhone. So accustomed have we become to its services, we think of it as indispensible - updates notwithstanding. Apple has different ideas, however. The iPhone is still being sold, but we are on the verge of being persuaded to move to a wrist-worn equivalent. If this is successful, it's reasonable to expect the iPhone to be discontinued. But that's a big 'if'.
"My first iPod collapsed with a broken disc."
In an article for Techcrunch, Nir Eyal points out the inherent problems with the promotion of the Watch. The first iteration of any technology runs the risk of disappointing the user. My first iPod collapsed with a broken hard disc after about fourteen months of use. My second one still works today. I begrudgingly accepted the earlier model's failure as some kind of 'try-out'. The challenge for manufacturers like Apple, is to generate a swathe of early-adopters without crushing their hopes with a first model's flaws. Eyal goes on to confirm that the nascent Watch is indeed, fundamentally flawed. In a few significant ways, the iWatch is less convenient than a regular watch, and importantly, less useful than a regular iPhone.
To conserve power (battery life is still the ongoing bugbear for owners of smart technology), the iWatch is completely dark unless it's in use. The kit determines and adjusts its status by the flick of the wearer's hand, or a tap on its screen. You'll notice this isn't necessary when checking a non-smart timepiece. Nir explains how, in an amusing scenario, he was trapped in a meeting as he couldn't ascertain the time without a flamboyant flourish of his arm. This reminds me of the early digital watches in the 1970s, which insisted you press a button to illuminate the LED figures.
"Once an iPhone is lashed to a wrist, it becomes considerably less functional."
Then there's the comparison with the iPhone. This ubiquitous rectangle is simple to operate because the user can pick it up, hold it at any angle and manipulate it with fingers and thumbs to suit. Like a fork, it is designed to be supported and used in myriad combinations. Once a fork, or an iPhone, is lashed to a wrist, it becomes considerably less functionally straightforward. What's more, it is also on permanent display; and we can all think of circumstances where we'd have been uncomfortable waving a piece of desirable tech in the faces of potential thieves.
We know Apple is a master of marketing, and if they're determined to drive our communication kit out of our palm and onto our wrist, then they'll probably succeed. Nevertheless, right now, they've set themselves a tricky challenge: how to create desire for a piece of equipment which is less practical than something they're already selling. It will be fascinating to watch as they tackle it.
Magnus Shaw is a blogger and copywriter