Apple's Cook: The Apple Watch will be the first smart watch that 'matters'

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) CEO Tim Cook said that the Apple Watch "will be the first modern smartwatch--the first one that matters," even if its usefulness is not readily apparent.

The Apple Watch will be available for pre-order on April 10 and hits stores April 24, and will be sold at a wide range of price points, from $349 to more than $10,000 for the 18-karat gold edition.

In an interview with Fast Company, Cook was asked about the idea that many people seem to have a hard time imagining the usefulness of the Apple Watch. "Yes, but people didn't realize they had to have an iPod, and they really didn't realize they had to have the iPhone," he responded. "And the iPad was totally panned. Critics asked, 'Why do you need this?' Honestly, I don't think anything revolutionary that we have done was predicted to be a hit when released. It was only in retrospect that people could see its value. Maybe this will be received the same way."

The Apple Watch pairs with the iPhone 5, 5s, 5c, 6 and 6 Plus via Bluetooth. Users can send messages, read email and answer calls to their Phone via the watch. The watch supports Siri, Apple's digital personal assistant, and users can dictate to the watch to reply to messages. Apple is letting third-party developers create apps for the watch. Developers can use a software tool that Apple calls "WatchKit" to extend the capabilities of notifications so that users can take actions based on the notifications on the watch.

Cook noted that the input methods for smartphones and tablets don't work on smart watches with small screen sizes. That led Apple to create "Force Touch" technology for the watch, which can tell the difference between a light press and deep press, letting users control a device differently depending on how hard they push on the screen.

"[On a small screen] you need another dimension of a user interface. So just press a little harder and you bring up another UI that has been hidden," he said. "This makes the screen seem larger, in some ways, than it really is."

Cook added: "These are lots of insights that are years in the making, the result of careful, deliberate ... try, try, try ... improve, improve, improve. Don't ship something before it's ready. Have the patience to get it right. And that is exactly what's happened to us with the watch. We are not the first. We weren't first on the MP3 player; we weren't first on the tablet; we weren't first on the smartphone. But we were arguably the first modern smartphone, and we will be the first modern smartwatch--the first one that matters."

Most smart watches based on Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android Wear have not sold in large numbers. However, the next Android software release will reportedly include Wi-Fi support, meaning that features such as notifications and Google Now will function when a Bluetooth connection is unavailable, according to The Verge. Additionally, some companies, such as Huawei and LG Electronics, have been heavily emphasizing the design and craftsmanship of their smart watches to appeal to watch enthusiasts. A problem Android Wear watches and the Apple Watch run into is a lack of watch-specific apps, especially compared how any apps are available for smartphones and tablets.

Cook noted that Apple released WatchKit for developers in mid-November. "So by the time we ship the watch in April, there will be plenty of third-party apps," he said. "You don't start with 700,000. You grow to that. But there will be enough apps to capture people's imaginations."

Elsewhere in the interview, Cook rejected the suggestion that Apple is turning into Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) by trying to have its iOS operating system be all things to all people. "I think it's totally different. Yes, things are more complex," he said. "When you're doing a Mac, that's one thing. But if you do a phone, and you want to optimize so that you have the fewest dropped calls of anyone, and you're working with 300 or 400 carriers around the world, each with slightly different things in their network—yes, that's more complex."

Cook said it is more complex to do things like "Continuity," which syncs the Mac to nearby iPhones. "What we try to do is hide all of that complexity from the user," he said. "We hide the fact that doing this is really tough, hard engineering so that the user can go about their day and use our tools the way they would want and not have to worry about it. Sometimes we're not perfect with that. That's the crack that you're talking about. Sometimes we're not. But that, too, we will fix."

Cook added: "In my mind, there is nothing that's incorrect about our model. It's not that it's not doable, it's that we're human sometimes, and we make an error. I don't have a goal of becoming inhuman, but I do have a goal of not having any errors. We've made errors in the past, and we'll never be perfect. Fortunately, we have the courage to admit it and correct it."

The interview was conducted with Rick Tetzeli and Brent Schlender, who co-wrote "Becoming Steve Jobs," a forthcoming biography of the former Apple CEO. Cook said Apple as a company is constantly evolving but that the core values of the company should not change. "I don't think the values should change," he said. "But everything else can change."

And what are those values? Cook said that Jobs "felt that most people live in a small box."

"They think they can't influence or change things a lot," he said. "I think he would probably call that a limited life. And more than anybody I've ever met, Steve never accepted that. He got each of us [his top executives] to reject that philosophy. If you can do that, then you can change things. If you embrace that the things that you can do are limitless, you can put your ding in the universe. You can change the world."

For more:
- see this Fast Company article

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