by Theo Gibbons, Product Manager for Wearables
Both Apple and Microsoft will shortly be entering the UK wearables market, but with characteristically distinct products – what do the differences between the Apple Watch and the Microsoft Band reveal about their divergent approaches to the burgeoning world of wearables?
First things first – it is in the name after all – Microsoft’s offering is not a smart watch. Though you would be excused for thinking otherwise. It does after all show the time, preview emails, and buzz whenever a call, text or tweet comes through to your tethered smartphone, all standard features of self-proclaimed smart watches. Yet, as Microsoft’s Yusuf Medhi makes absolutely clear, the Band doesn’t intend to compete for dominant wrist real estate, being designed to “serve on the opposite side of your watch”. To avoid any possible confusion, the Band can even be worn self-effacingly, screen facing inwards.
Fashionista or Functionista?
So definitely not a smart watch. But why? Well, it is in line with Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella’s take on wearables: “devices will come and go. The most interesting thing is the data being collected”. Which explains why the Band was “Designed to showcase the power of Microsoft Health”, the software platform, and not vice versa. It is certainly true that as wearables become ever more discreet, the aesthetics of the hardware will be ever less relevant. But as it currently stands, wearables are in fact all too conspicuous, hence the marriage of necessity with fashion and design.
Apple, who have always appreciated the appeal of design beyond functionality and the pull of want beyond need, have taken this all very seriously for their first foray in wearables: hiring top execs from Yves Saint Laurent and Burberry; courting fashionista royalty during a Paris fashion week pop up; and splashing out on a 12 page PR spread in Vogue. Capping this all off was a typically superlative laden product launch, the “most personal device yet” promising to inaugurate a “new chapter in the relationship people have with technology”.
You get the picture: Apple is pitching an experience, not just an object. Whereas the Microsoft Band seeks to the obscurity of secondary wrists, Apple’s range of watches long for interaction and overt display.