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The global COO of Wolff Olins says Apple Watch still needs to prove its genuine worth

Spoiler alert: The Apple Watch will not change your life in 2015. It will make your wrist a bit heavier and your pocket a bit lighter though.

It’s offering two main things: self-quantification and good looks. Christy Turlington says good things about it while running in Africa for charity. With several versions on offer in the $350 to $17,000 bracket including a shiny gold edition, it won’t be for everyone.

With a social sciences background, I’m particularly interested in the social construct of our lives and how we use technology. All of which means the launch of Apple Watch is fascinating on lots of levels both personally and professionally.

1. What problem is it solving?

Let’s agree no one is going to buy an Apple Watch to tell the time. So what else could make it attractive? Well, it's wearable, wireless and familiar. These are good starting points

Like me, you probably carry around a lot of analog junk that’s become annoying. At some stage a device like this could carry money, credit cards, home keys, car keys and so on. That’s useful.

Maybe it could shave a few minutes off your day by auto-logging into your Mac while you juggle your coffee in the morning. Project out further, and it could be your ID at the airport, as well as your boarding pass. Battery life would have to cheer up and security breaches would be a major concern.

Read: Apple seeks high ground with Apple Watch

You're unlikely to use it to make a call. Not for a long while anyway. Aside from the tech needed, we still like to put a phone to our ear, and that's a strong behavior to break.

2. What role does it play in self-expression, status-making and presenting ourselves?

Second spoiler alert: We rarely wear watches simply to tell the time. They're fun, expressive and affordably fashionable — Swatch. They're a sign of good taste in your community — ever met a designer who doesn’t like a Mondaine? They're statements of wealth and style, perhaps dressed as an investment — Phillippe Patek and "you merely look after it for the next generation."

Stylistically, the Apple Watch looks like a miniature iPhone 6 strapped to your wrist by way of a fancy strap choice. I don’t think Switzerland is losing any sleep or looking for a new industry to get into just yet.

And yet they may be on to something.

There is one area where the Apple Watch could be a game changer. Apple launched HealthKit last year. It’s a framework for developing and housing health and fitness apps. Allowing them to work together, share data and aggregate results into one comprehensive picture.

Meaning all your personal health stats and behavior are in one single place and can be accessed from anywhere with the right technology. By your doctor, for instance. A bunch of major US hospitals are already trialing the service with a view to improving patient healthcare, with more set to follow.

iPhone prices are heavily subsidized by network providers, but the Apple Watch doesn’t enjoy this luxury. Potentially limiting its appeal. This could all change if healthcare providers see it as a useful enough device and it becomes part of a wider ecosystem.

From what I can see so far, the Apple Watch isn’t beautiful enough to be iconic or useful enough to be truly relevant. Giving it a more fundamental purpose that enriches our lives would certainly help lift it out of the ordinary. Fashionable toy or something more integral – I guess time will tell.

Sairah Ashman is global COO of Wolff Olins, a creative consultancy with worldwide offices in London, New York, Dubai and San Francisco.


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