Apple is Showing Off Features When They Need to be Telling a Story

Apple had the world’s attention yesterday when they had their Spring Forward event. We knew they would be talking about Apple Watch, and many of us were hoping to see them make a better pitch for the Watch than they did back in September. In September, Tim Cook and Kevin Lynch were very proud of the functionality the Apple Watch provided, but didn’t do a great job of telling us a story to show why we want this product. I don’t think they did a bad job of demoing the Watch yesterday, but they completely failed to tell a story.

The brilliance of Apple has always been in their storytelling. When they revealed the iPhone, they told a very compelling story about how you’ll have the entire internet in your pocket. When they revealed the iPad, Steve Jobs gave a half-hour demo while sitting in a comfy chair. He showed how using an iPad was more relaxed and easier than using a Mac. I got out of each of those events knowing that I must have those products now because I understood how I would fit them into my life. More importantly, I understood how each of them would have made my life better. Apple had a chance to do that with the Apple Watch yesterday, and I think they missed the opportunity.

The problem begins with how they demoed the apps. Kevin Lynch flawlessly navigated between tasks, and we did get to see some compelling apps. However, he was using the Watch from a mounted podium, not on his wrist, and he was also using the Watch for over 10 minutes straight. Neither of these are representative of how real people will use this device. To their credit, they did show a video of Christy Turlington Burns using the Watch is real life. But even that video didn’t do a good job of showing off how she trained better or ran faster because of the Watch. They showed her looking at her step and distance stats after the race, and wouldn’t you know it, her numbers were off the charts! The video basically said, “I wore an Apple Watch while running a half-marathon”.

I really, really think Apple should have made a video of a normal person[1] using Apple Watch over the course of a day. Show the alarm gently tapping your wrist in the morning to wake you up instead of a loud, abrasive alarm clock. Show them adding an item to Reminders while they’re getting lunch ready for their kids and don’t have a free hand. Show them quickly replying to a text message with a single tap, leaving their phone in their pocket. Show them at a party they really want to leave and tapping their significant other from across the room to give them “the sign” that it’s time to go.

The value of Apple Watch, and smart watches in general, is that they speed up the process of communicating. The selling point is that you will be able to communicate faster and easier than you currently can on your phone. That’s what technology has been doing for years, and it’s been a specialty of Apple. The iPhone came out and over time made us realize that we could do almost everything we can do on a PC with the device in our pocket. As crazy as it sounds, I think that the Apple Watch will take over many small tasks that we rely on our phones to do right now. Apple has a lot of work to make the Watch compelling enough to get there, but it could happen sooner than we think.

I’m still buying an Apple Watch because I believe in the concept of a smart watch and I think that the product itself looks very good. My concern is that I was not more excited at the end of the presentation than I was at the start. Apple didn’t really move the needle for me, someone who has already bought into the product. If I, a smart watch optimist, wasn’t ecstatic, how are smart watch skeptics going to respond?

I worry that Apple is spending too much time explaining WHAT the watch does, and not enough time explaining WHY we should want it. As Tim Cook said, this is the next chapter in Apple’s story. That’s big talk for a brand new product category, so Apple needs to convince the masses why they want one, otherwise this will just be a footnote in their story.


  1. And by normal, of course I mean a beautiful actor with a beautiful family and beautiful friends.  ↩