In 2015, Apple entered the arena of clothing apparel with Apple Watch. The product launched Apple's attempt to seize real estate on the wrist. The wrist has been shown to be extremely useful given its field of vision for viewing information at a glance in addition to its ability to promote certain health monitoring capabilities. While Apple Watch is fighting against traditional mechanical watches, the competition ends up being much broader. In the end, Apple Watch is competing for a spot on the wrists. One of the fiercest competitors of the Watch is non-consumption, or empty wrists.
A similar dynamic is now developing with the AirPods. The device is Apple's attempt to grab real estate by ear. Competitors for these properties include both wired headphones, such as EarPods, and non-consumption in the form of empty ears. Although the AirPod features are few today, the fact that tens of millions of people use them increases the likelihood that later versions of AirPods will be adopted.
The battle for our eyes is on the horizon, not quite ready for prime time. A pair of smart glasses is more likely to be Apple's next big category of products.
The key to grab real estate on our wrists, in our ears and in front of your eyes is to sell tools that people want to wear and that we see being dressed. Product design, defined as the way we use it, is crucial in this regard. With Apple Watch, interchangeable tapes have played a crucial role in the adoption of Watch. The stylish AirPods loading case has come to define the product experience.
Instead of positioning technology as a barometer of the success of apparel products, the intersection of technology and fashion will determine the products that people will want to wear throughout the day. The lessons learned from Apple Watch, and now AirPods, will give Apple an edge when it comes to developing a pair of lightweight, discreet smart glasses.
Unlike Amazon and Google, which are desperately trying to position the voice as a way to overcome the current paradigm of smartphones / tablets, Apple approaches things differently. Instead of betting on a voice interface transmitting certain information to a fixed screen, Apple is betting on mobile screens hosting a digital assistant. Apple is betting that consumers want touch screens to be familiar to them in order to become better computer and computer assistants in the future. Apple Watch ends up serving as a bridge to the future. The most valuable mobile screens of our lives will be more and more worn on the body. In addition, Apple believes that screen manipulation via fingers, hands and eyes will remain a crucial part of the computer experience in the near future.
The AirPods play a role in this vision by exploiting sound on the move. The wired helmets are an endangered species because there is no place for sons in a sartorial world. Although the viral nature of the AirPods may weaken over the coming months, especially as adoption continues to grow, the biggest advantage of the different memes, tweets and videos AirPods is that wearable devices continue to to infiltrate society. We are witnessing the beginnings of the era of portable equipment.
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