Nalini Muppala

Analysis, observations, perspectives on mobile space

Why is it called Apple Watch

with 2 comments

Apple announced a revolutionary product in Apple Watch. The name does not strike a cord for many. The dissatisfaction is palpable and understandable given the promise of a computer on wrist and the possibilities that enables. It will be much more than a watch. But why call it Apple Watch?

As Horace Dediu succinctly put

Apple product names are usually intuitive and convey the intended use directly. Just to pick a few: Numbers, Mail, iPhoto, Apple TV, Thunderbolt, Lightning – All these names make sense and convey the intended use directly. In light of this the name Apple Watch seems to be a disservice for the potential it shows.

However promising the prospects of iPhone might have been in 2007 it is hard for anyone to predict what would become of the iPhone a few years later. The killer apps for iPhone did not exist in 2007. Same goes for the Apple Watch in 2014.

What do you name a product when you do not clearly know what it would evolve into if you are used to naming products to convey exactly what they are meant for?

The safe bet is to name the product to convey the one essential function that is well defined, it will always do, and can be called upon to do anytime. For iPhone the essential/bare-minimum function guaranteed to always work is making phone calls. For Apple Watch it is telling time.

Horace Dediu reminds us of the Tentpoles around which iPhone and Apple Watch were launched

When the iPhone launched, Steve Jobs introduced it as being three products in one:

– A wide-screen iPod
– A phone
– A breakthrough internet communicator

When the Apple Watch launched, Tim Cook introduced it as being three things:

– A precise timepiece
– A new, intimate way to communicate
– A comprehensive health and fitness device.

Of the three tentpoles for iPhone only the phone part is a novelty in an apple product and well defined – Phone part of iPhone works the same way since day one. Although it would be a disservice to the product, an iPhone can be used just as a phone. iPod functionality existed in the iPod. Internet communicator functionality was not well defined – at least not the way it would power novel applications a few years down the line. It seems natural that Apple would name this product Phone.

Of the three tentpoles for Apple Watch only the timepiece part is well defined and guaranteed to work the same way from day one. Timepiece functionality is a novelty in an Apple product. Timepiece functionality will not improve significantly – Accuracy within 15 msec is way more than good enough. The other two tentpoles do not pass this test: intimate communication device and health/fitness device parts are far from well defined and will see significant improvements in future version. It seems natural that Apple would name this product Watch.

Now does it make sense to call them iPhone, Apple Watch?


Written by Nalini Kumar Muppala

October 4, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Posted in Smartphone

2 Responses

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  1. When you are trying to launch a brand new category of device who’s use case is varied and malleable as the product and it’s ecosystem matures, it’s always best to give it a bland generic non-limiting name. Defining the Apple Watch as an “Ultra personal wrist computer with built-in biometric based identity and authentication system, wellness tracker and intimate sensorial messaging device” would have been too much of a mouthful and overly limits the device’s true future potential.

    Jahangir (@jnaina)

    October 5, 2014 at 4:49 am

  2. […] ・Why is it called Apple Watch | Nalini Muppala […]

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