APPLE Inc’s first smartwatch, unveiled on Tuesday, has split fashion arbiters who may prove pivotal to its broad acceptance.
Many praised the “Apple Watch,” priced from US$349 when it debuts next year, for its clean aesthetic, but some bloggers and editors said the watch had a masculine aura, which would limit its allure to parts of the style-conscious crowd. Others said the design, while pleasing, was less than revolutionary.
The gadget, which must be paired with an iPhone, is shaped like a traditional timepiece, with a small square display. A dial on the side, reminiscent of the winding mechanism on a mechanical watch, can be spun or pushed to manipulate what is on the touch screen.
Apple will offer three different versions — sport, standard, and a luxury edition — with finishes including stainless steel and gold plated. The display can be customized to show the time in numbers or a facsimile of a watch with hands.
Wrist bands range from leather and stainless steel to sports models in hues from pink to blue. The Watch recognizes voice commands and carries sensors that can track steps and heart rate.
Roseanne Morrison, fashion director for The Doneger Group, an industry consultant, said that the design fell short of her expectations.
“It’s not pretty,” she said. “It’s very future techno as opposed to feminine sexy.”
Many agreed that the device was better looking than existing offerings from the likes of Samsung Electronics and LG, which are judged to be clunkier.
But rival tech giants like Google Inc and Intel Corp are increasingly competing with Apple in the emerging market for wearable devices. Based on tablet and PC adoption rates, Citigroup expects the smartwatch market to reach about US$10 billion by 2018 versus an estimated US$1.4 billion to US$1.8 billion in 2014.
Eric Wilson, fashion news director for InStyle Magazine, said Apple also faces competition from luxury watchmakers like Rolex. Swatch has said it’s exploring a watch with intelligent digital features.
“The Apple Watch will be a status symbol to carry,” he said. But the design is “generic in the sense of its flexibility and individualization.” With the exception of the bright colors and gold trim, he added, it is “a very masculine watch.”
Some fashionistas may be reluctant to wear a smartwatch at all, said Sonny Vu, chief executive of Misfit Wearables, which makes an activity monitor that can be worn as a broach, on a necklace, or on a wrist band.