Amazon Makes Even Temporary Warehouse Workers Sign 18-Month Non-Competes 

Spencer Woodman, reporting for The Verge:

The work is repetitive and physically demanding and can pay several dollars above minimum wage, yet Amazon is requiring these workers — even seasonal ones — to sign strict and far-reaching noncompete agreements. The Amazon contract, obtained by The Verge, requires employees to promise that they will not work at any company where they “directly or indirectly” support any good or service that competes with those they helped support at Amazon, for a year and a half after their brief stints at Amazon end. Of course, the company’s warehouses are the beating heart of Amazon’s online shopping empire, the extraordinary breadth of which has earned it the title of “the Everything Store,” so Amazon appears to be requiring temp workers to forswear a sizable portion of the global economy in exchange for a several-months-long hourly warehouse gig.

The company has even required its permanent warehouse workers who get laid off to reaffirm their non-compete contracts as a condition of receiving severance pay.

More gruel, please.

Mat Honan on Periscope and Meerkat 

The ability for anyone and everyone to broadcast live video is just wild. This was the stuff of science fiction even just ten years ago. I don’t know if there’s room for both Periscope and Meerkat to succeed, but Periscope’s lower latency, higher image quality, and first-party status within Twitter will probably win out. I don’t think it matters that Meerkat launched three weeks sooner.

David Sparks on Fantastical 2 for Mac 

David Sparks:

One of my favorite features with the new full calendar menu is the infinite scrolling list of events. This is largely the reason why Fantastical 2 took over on my iPhone as my main calendar application. I really appreciate the ability to scroll through future events and see what’s coming up and I think Flexibits has cracked this nut better than any of its competitors. They took a lot of those same design cues over to the Mac with this new version.

So Much for Dart ‘Rescuing Us From JavaScript’ 

Lars Bak and Kasper Lund, Dart co-founders:

In order to do what’s best for our users and the web, and not just Google Chrome, we will focus our web efforts on compiling Dart to JavaScript. We have decided not to integrate the Dart VM into Chrome. Our new web strategy puts us on a path to deliver the features our users need to be more productive building web apps with Dart. It also simplifies the testing and deployment scenarios for our developers, because they can focus on a single way to build, test, and deploy their Dart apps for the web.

CNet, two years ago: “Google: Dart Will Rescue Browsers From JavaScript”.

Matthew Weiner on the Final Season of ‘Mad Men’ 

Matthew Weiner:

TV and film, in general… some of it is designed for escape, designed to satisfy the lack of justice that we feel in everyday life. We find heroes and we get to have the wish fulfillment of, for example, a woman who has it all, who talks tough and tells people where to go and, yeah, they fail sometimes. There’s not a lot of that on the show. I give the example of how we try to make it less abstract by making it more like real life: If a young man runs into a beautiful woman at a party on Mad Men and she gives him her phone number and he writes it on a piece of paper and then he loses his coat, he will, on a normal TV show, end up figuring out how to find her. On Mad Men, he will never see her again.

This is intriguing, too:

As far as I’m concerned, seasons five, six, and seven are the sequel to Mad Men.

The War Over Who Steve Jobs Was 

Steven Levy:

In the long run, though, I believe that the disagreements about Jobs’s personality will have diminishing importance as future students of technology and culture seek to understand what Steve Jobs actually did, and how he did it. To that end, the lasting value of Becoming Steve Jobs might have nothing to do with its effort to be a corrective to the previous biography. Instead, historians will appreciate the careful documentation of Jobs’s professional evolution. The official thesis of the book is that during Jobs’ so-called “wilderness” years, between his being fired from Apple in 1985 and his return in 1997, the prodigal co-founder gained management wisdom, patience and even a measure of tact, all of which helped him take the company to unprecedented heights. Far from a novel observation, this has long been the conventional wisdom. But never has this narrative been so carefully developed as in Becoming Steve Jobs.


‘Much of It Was Chutzpah and Self Delusion’ 

Adam Banks, reviewing Becoming Steve Jobs for The Register:

My biggest problem with Isaacson’s biography was staying awake. With Schlender’s, it was getting through a page without stopping to note something illuminating.

16 Smartphones That Were Deemed ‘iPhone Killer’, 2008-2011 

Sweet, sweet claim chowder, how I love thee.

Yosemite: The Apple Conference With a View 

File another one under “Conferences in a Beautiful Setting I Regrettably Have to Miss Because of This Detached Retina Thing”. The Yosemite conference has a great speaker lineup and an unbeatable location. (It’s put on by the folks behind CocoaConf, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that this is a developer conference.)

Amazon’s Not-So-Subtle Influence on IMDB 

Keith Bradnam:

At what point should we become concerned by Amazon influencing the IMDb ratings of movies that they would rather see portrayed in a more positive light in order to sell content from

The H-Word

Emma-Kate Symons goes full Apple-is-a-religious-cult in a piece for Quartz, “The Canonization of St. Steve of Cupertino”:

Take a new authorized hagiography of the late Apple founder, out today, with the propagandistic title of Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader.

In this unabashedly flattering account, written with the overenthusiastic participation of Apple’s senior executives and staff, Cook tries a little too hard to rescue and reframe the partially tarred image of his former boss. The man was not “a greedy, selfish and egomaniac [sic],” he says adamantly, and only yelled at him, you know, about four or five times in his life.

There’s a lot to unpack in just these two paragraphs. For one thing, I don’t think Symons has actually read the book — (a) the book only came out yesterday, so unless she obtained an advance copy, she wrote her piece for Quartz having read only the published excerpts; and (b) even judging by the excerpts, I don’t see how anyone could call Becoming Steve Jobs “unabashedly flattering”.

Her screed comes across not as criticism of the book but as a cry for people to stop talking about Apple. “Please Stop Writing About How Successful Apple Is and How Great Steve Jobs Was, I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore and There’s Something Weird About Anyone Who Does” would have been a better headline.

Even her use of “authorized” is curious. Authors Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli did obtain on-the-record interviews from current and former Apple executives, as well as Jobs’s wife. But that’s cooperation, not authorization. They were writing the book with or without Apple’s (or Laurene Powell Jobs’s) participation. If any book on Steve Jobs was “authorized”, it’s Walter Isaacson’s. Nor do I get Symons’s description of the book’s title as “propagandistic”. Love him or hate him, what reasonable person would disagree that Steve Jobs was a “visionary leader”?

But I’ll focus on hagiography. It’s perfectly reasonable to approach Becoming Steve Jobs with skepticism. Something along the lines of, “If Apple executives like Tim Cook, Eddy Cue, and Jony Ive cooperated with the authors, and are simultaneously expressing their displeasure with Isaacson’s 2011 book, that makes me suspect this new book is a whitewashing.

Such skepticism is healthy. But I believe anyone who actually reads Becoming Steve Jobs with an open mind will be disabused of such concerns quickly. The book covers Steve Jobs’s failings unwaveringly, both the personal (e.g., regarding his denial of paternity of his first daughter, Lisa) and professional.

It’s possible that Apple cooperated with Becoming Steve Jobs with the intention of producing — or at least steering the project towards — a hagiography. It’s also possible they cooperated only with the intention of getting an accurate, truthful account of Jobs’s life and career on the record, and that Schlender and Tetzeli earned their trust.

The fundamental problem with Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs is not that the book is “negative”, or that it paints Jobs in an unflattering light. The problem with Isaacson’s book is that Isaacson didn’t understand Jobs’s work. He was granted unprecedented access to Jobs himself in his final years and he blew it. Jobs picked the wrong guy.

I covered the Isaacson book’s many shortcomings in detail back in 2012, and re-reading my critique today, it all stands. But none of my complaints were about whether the book was flattering or unflattering. My complaints were about glaring, blatant inaccuracies (e.g. this quote from Bill Gates, which Isaacson presented as factually true: “Amelio paid a lot for NeXT, and let’s be frank, the NeXT OS was never really used.”) and omissions. Isaacson barely covered the NeXT years, and almost completely ignored Jobs’s interest in software.

Becoming Steve Jobs is an outstanding book that fully stands on its own, not just as a response to Isaacson’s. As time goes on, it should stand as the definitive Jobs biography. Not because it paints him flatteringly, but because it paints him accurately — for better and for worse. The cooperation of those who were close to Jobs only served to make the book better. Schlender and Tetzeli did not set out to praise (or condemn) Jobs. They set out only to capture him, and they succeeded. 

Layout vs. Layout 

Mike Swanson:

Today, Instagram announced an app called Layout from Instagram. It’s described as “a new app that lets you easily combine multiple photos into a single image.” In 2012, I released an Apple Editors’ Choice app called Layout that lets you combine multiple photos into a single image. It was even named an App Store Best of 2012 app. Is it just me, or does it seem insincere for Instagram to release a similar app with the exact same name only differentiated by the inclusion of their company name? Do you think they’d be okay with me releasing an app called “Instagram from Juicy Bits?” Neither do I.

It’s not quite the same thing, since “Instagram” is a trademark and “Layout” is not, but the point stands: it’s a dick move for a company the size of Instagram/Facebook to simply take the name of an existing (and successful!) app that does the exact same thing.

Update: In case you’re experiencing déjà vu, you’re not crazy. Just last year: “Paper vs. Paper”.

Google Changes Course, Intends to Implement ‘Pointer Events’ in Blink 

That leaves Apple and WebKit as the lone holdout.

(Previously: “Why Google’s Blink (And I Think, Apple’s Webkit) Rejected the Pointer Events Spec” and “Lack of Support From Apple Scuttles W3C Pointer Events Spec”.)

Fantastical 2 for Mac 

Terrific new version of one of my very favorite apps. The first version of Fantastical for Mac was more like a widget — the whole app lived in your menu bar, and excelled at quick natural language input and giving you an overview of upcoming events. Fantastical 2 keeps all that, but adds a full-fledged calendaring UI. I’ve been using it for a few weeks, and it’s really good. I think Flexibits has nailed the way to do Yosemite-style design in a third-party app with strong visual branding.

See also:

‘Don’t Take a Flying Leap’ 

Dave Pell, on this thing with news sites agreeing to publish their work on Facebook:

News organizations should not take that leap of faith. They should not trust Facebook to deliver the news anymore than Facebook should fear their ability to build a competing social network.

Yes, Facebook has built a large and powerful network. But they do not know how to run the news business better than editors, journalists and publishers. And they don’t have the same goals.

Facebook to Host News Sites’ Content 

Ravi Somaiya, Mike Isaac, and Vindu Goel, reporting for the NYT:

Facebook intends to begin testing the new format in the next several months, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The initial partners are expected to be The New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, although others may be added since discussions are continuing. The Times and Facebook are moving closer to a firm deal, one person said.

To make the proposal more appealing to publishers, Facebook has discussed ways for publishers to make money from advertising that would run alongside the content.

I can see why these news sites are tempted by the offer, but I think they’re going to regret it. It’s like Lando’s deal with Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.

From the DF Archive: Big Fan 

I don’t often post video to DF, but when I do, it’s good. (Just updated these to HTML 5 <video> elements — they were <embed> tags with QuickTime content previously.)

The Shift-Option-K Apple Logo Glyph Is Not Cross-Platform 

On the Mac, you can put an Apple logo in any text field by typing Shift-Option-K. This might date back all the way to System 1.0 in 1984. Some people use this to spell the name of products like Apple TV and Apple Watch. It’s super-common with Apple Watch, in fact, almost certainly because Apple uses the logo mark (that is to say, the Apple logo glyph followed by “WATCH” in all caps or, even fancier, small cap Unicode glyphs).

This is a bad idea for a few reasons. First, it is not a standard Unicode character and almost certainly never will be — because it is Apple’s copyrighted intellectual property. You could argue that it’s the single most valuable IP asset the company owns. This means the glyph does not render on platforms other than Apple’s own. It just shows up as a “missing glyph” box or a space.

Second, the name of the product is “Apple Watch”. Even Apple spells it out like that in prose.

Third, as Nevan King points out, it could be misinterpreted as the Klingon Mummification Glyph. You wouldn’t want that to happen.

On the Apple Watch Display 

Craig Hockenberry:

I’ve always felt that the flattening of Apple’s user interface that began in iOS 7 was as much a strategic move as an aesthetic one. Our first reaction was to realize that an unadorned interface makes it easier to focus on content.

But with this new display technology, it’s clear that interfaces with fewer pixels have another advantage. A richly detailed button from iOS 6 would need more of that precious juice strapped to our wrists. Never underestimate the long-term benefits of simplification.

Apple hasn’t officially stated that Apple Watch uses an AMOLED display, but it’s sort of an open secret. The other thing is, regardless of the underlying display technology, iOS 6-style skeuomorphism would’ve felt downright gauche on the watch. I don’t think iOS or OS X needed to eschew skeuomorphic textures, but Apple Watch did.

The Making of NHL ’94 

Great feature by Blake J. Harris on the early years of EA’s sports franchises for Sega Genesis, culminating with their masterpiece, NHL ’94:

Even without featuring logos and teams from the NHL, Brook thought, there were other ways to improve the realism of this game. For example, it could emulate the ambience of a game day NHL arena by including the proper organ music. The problem, though, was that each team’s organist played different songs. ‘That’s not a problem, actually,’ explained Dieter Ruehle, the organist for the San Jose Sharks (and previously for the Los Angeles Kings), ‘I can do that.’ True to his word, Ruehle provided EA with organ music for every team; and he didn’t just provide all of their songs, but also noted which music was blasted during power plays, which tunes were used to celebrate goals, and all the other inside info needed to make each arena feel like home. Ruehle was so diligent about getting it right and capturing that home crowd essence, that during a recording session at EA’s sound studio he asked:

‘The woman who plays the organ for the Washington Capitals has arthritis; would you like me to play the songs how they are meant to be played, or the way that she plays them because of her condition?’

‘Definitely the way she plays it!’ Brook answered, after a laugh.

(Via Kottke.)

It’s Time for Baseball to Forgive Pete Rose 

Christopher Caldwell, writing for the WSJ:

On Monday, Rob Manfred, the new commissioner of Major League Baseball, got a chance to extricate his sport from a deepening moral quandary. Pete Rose, the disgraced onetime star of the Cincinnati Reds, petitioned Mr. Manfred’s office to be reinstated in the sport from which he was barred in 1989 for gambling.

Agree completely. Pete Rose has been punished enough.

Peak Cable 

Horace Dediu:

Paying for TV has been a curious consumer phenomenon. There was a time when TV was free to consumers. It was delivered as a broadcast over-the-air and paid for either by commercials (US mostly) or by taxes on viewers (Europe mostly). The consumers were delighted with the idea as it was far better than radio and radio was delightful because it was far better than no radio. […]

And so over a period of about 40 years, watching TV went from free to quite expensive. More expensive even than a family’s communications costs (i.e. telephone service.) That’s quite an achievement at a time when technology diffusions caused huge price reductions in other goods and services. Consider that the TV set used to watch the programming improved dramatically while decreasing in price over the same period.

The Billionaire’s Typewriter 

Thoughtful piece by Matthew Butterick regarding Medium:

As a writer, the biggest potential waste of your time is not typography chores, but Medium itself. Because in return for that snazzy design, Medium needs you to relinquish control of how your work gets to readers.

Tempting perhaps. But where does it lead? I fear that writers who limit themselves to providing “content” for some one else’s “branded platform” are going to end up with as much leverage as cows on a dairy farm. (A problem at the core of the recent Hachette–Amazon dispute.)


My thanks to Bushel for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Bushel is a simple, cloud-based solution designed to help anyone set up, manage, and protect Apple devices at work. Easily configure company email and Wi-Fi networks, distribute apps to your team, and protect sensitive data without locking down devices.

In short, Bushel turns IT from a career into a task. They have a great deal for you — Daring Fireball readers can create an account and manage three devices for free. Forever. Each additional device is just $2 per month. No contracts.

Úll 2015 

A few tickets are still available for this year’s Úll, coming up at the end of the month. I don’t hesitate to call Úll my favorite conference of the year, and it breaks my heart that I can’t make it this year. They’ve got a killer lineup of speakers, and the event is being held at a beautiful venue in Killarney, Ireland. But the best thing about Úll is the attendees. It attracts an amazing, diverse group of good people doing fascinating work. If you can swing it, you should go. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

(I’ve spoken at Úll each year since it started, and I was set to return again this year, but had to cancel a few weeks ago. Long story short, I suffered a detached retina, and part of the procedure to repair it involves a gas bubble injected in my eye to hold the repaired retina in place. It’s dissolving, slowly, over the course of two months, but until it’s fully dissolved, I cannot fly. You know when you take a bag of chips on a plane, and it puffs up like a balloon when the air pressure changes? That, but my eye.)

The Talk Show: ‘All of Us Assholes in Journalism’ 

New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Serenity Caldwell. Topics include last week’s “Spring Forward” Apple media event; the new Force Touch Trackpad for MacBooks, and the prospects for force touch in future iOS devices; and of course, Apple Watch.

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Dan Frommer: ‘Why Swiss Smartwatches Have No Chance Against the Apple Watch’ 

Dan Frommer, Quartz:

Ironically, if the Apple Watch is successful — and has any negative impact in Switzerland — it will be because Apple as a company follows the same tight, vertical integration that the Swiss watch industry does for its core product, mechanical watches.

Since the 1990s, watch companies “have been making increasing efforts to in-source as many steps in the production process as possible,” ranging from individual watch components to retail distribution, according to a Credit Suisse report on the Swiss watch industry. “The manufacturers’ objective is to have the greatest possible control over the entire value chain and to decrease their dependence on external suppliers.”

The Mystery of Lê From Hop Sing Laundromat 

This month’s Philadelphia Magazine has a good profile by Jason Sheehan of my friend Lê, the man behind what I honestly believe to be the world’s best cocktail bar, Hop Sing Laundromat. Worth checking out just for the gorgeous, evocative (and unprecedented, given Lê’s reticence) photographs by Justin James Muir.

Nick Bilton Shits the Bed With Pseudoscience-Laden ‘Could Wearable Computers Be as Harmful as Cigarettes?’ New York Times Column 

NYT public editor (translation from NYTese to English: ombudsman) Margaret Sullivan eviscerates Nick Bilton’s scaremongering column on wearable devices and cancer. Bilton’s column has since been given an “addendum” that pretty much walks back the whole piece. I think the addendum should be at the top of the story, though, not the bottom.

‘Swiss Horologists Are Well Positioned to Out-Apple Apple’ 

Leonid Bershidsky, writing for Bloomberg:

Swiss watchmakers haven’t really slept through the wearable-tech revolution. They’ve been watching as others did their market research for them. They can afford to wait: Export sales of high-end watches last year totaled 13.8 billion Swiss francs compared with just 3.1 billion francs in 2000. The industry has time to ponder strategies, play with designs and selectively choose from the new functions the Silicon Valley giants develop.

In other words, Swiss horologists are well positioned to out-Apple Apple. They are beginning to introduce new products after their competitors jumped in first. Swiss attention to detail can only be good for the emerging wearable industry, which, even with Apple on board, is still flying by the seat of its pants.

I don’t get this at all. Swiss watch companies may well be positioned to succeed with smartwatches, but it won’t be by “out-Appling Apple”. They have nothing that Apple brings to the table. They have no operating system. They have no developer platform. They have no expertise in semiconductors. If “Apple” is a verb, it means to own the whole widget, to “own the key technologies”, as Tim Cook said just this week. TAG Heuer partnering with Google for an OS and Intel for semiconductor design could not be less Apple-y.

The truth is that no other single company can do what Apple is doing with Apple Watch. (Maybe Microsoft, now that they own Nokia’s handset business? But even that seems like a real stretch.)

Apple Grants ‘Good Morning America’ Exclusive Behind-the-Scenes Access to Secret Health and Fitness Lab 

Expect a steady drip of such pieces for the next month, as Apple builds a crescendo of momentum for the Apple Watch launch.

Reviewing Apple Watch Without Having Used It 

Christian Cantrell on the Apple Watch for ReadWrite, “The Apple Watch Looks Great — But It’s Going To Disappoint Lots Of Users”:

Another key issue: Apple lists an 18-hour battery. In the real world, that likely translates into about 14 hours — especially when the device is new and people want to show it off as much as possible. […]

The watch’s complexity will also challenge some early customers. Instead of the app grids and folders iOS users are accustomed to, early adopters will face clusters of tappable dots that are, at first, easy to miss with your finger. You can use the “digital crown” (i.e., the scroll wheel) to magnify them, but it’s not obvious, intuitive or convenient. Users also have to acclimate to new inputs and interactions, including long-look notifications, glances, apps, taps, force presses, and when to use the digital crown button versus the side button.

Some users will deal with the learning curve, but others used to Apple’s typical simplicity will likely find the watch overly confusing.

That’s an awful lot of judgment — battery life, usefulness, complexity — for a device that he’s never actually used. The kicker:

I still plan on pre-ordering an Apple Watch along with millions of other people. But I can’t be at all sure how long I’ll stick with it.

Google Ad for Android Wear 

No functionality demoed whatsoever. The emphasis is on the variety of different watches available for Android Wear, and varying personal styles of the dancers in the ad. The slogan makes the target clear: “Be together. Not the same.” I’ve seen the same slogan on an ad for Android phones too. The message: Apple = conformity. Apple is The Man. Hilarious that Apple Watch is over a month away from shipping and Google is already painting it as the watch of conformity.

I don’t think this is going to be effective, but it’s interesting in the grand scheme of Apple’s history to see their products portrayed this way.

Paczkowski: ‘New Apple TV Set Top Will Debut This Summer With App Store, Siri’ 

John Paczkowski, writing for BuzzFeed:

Earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the subscription internet TV service Apple’s been trying to get off the ground since 2009 appears to be finally headed to market. And now sources familiar with the company’s plans tell BuzzFeed News that a successor to its dusty and recently discounted Apple TV set top box is headed to market as well. Apple intends to show the device off at its annual World Wide Developers Conference in June along with a long-awaited App Store and a software development kit to help developers populate it.

Sources say Apple’s new Apple TV is a significant overhaul of the device, one intended to undergird Apple’s vision of what the TV viewing experience should be, and to raise the table stakes in a set-top box market cluttered with barely differentiated devices from Amazon, Roku, and others.

The “Starting from $69” slide announcing last week’s price cut was an unusually obvious (for Apple) hint that new hardware was coming.

(Point deduction for BuzzFeed for decorating the article with a purely speculative artist’s rendering. Let’s put an end to this — it’s misleading, and adds nothing. Why decorate a factual scoop with fantasy artwork? Update: BuzzFeed has changed the artwork to a shot from Poltergeist — deducted point now restored.)

FTC Report Shows How Google Skewed Search Results 

Rolfe Winkler and Brody Mullins, reporting for the WSJ:

In a lengthy investigation, staffers in the FTC’s bureau of competition found evidence that Google boosted its own services for shopping, travel and local businesses by altering its ranking criteria and “scraping” content from other sites. It also deliberately demoted rivals.

For example, the FTC staff noted that Google presented results from its flight-search tool ahead of other travel sites, even though Google offered fewer flight options. Google’s shopping results were ranked above rival comparison-shopping engines, even though users didn’t click on them at the same rate, the staff found. Many of the ways Google boosted its own results have not been previously disclosed. […]

The report’s findings are at odds with Google’s descriptions of its search practices. Then-Chief Executive Eric Schmidt, now executive chairman, told a Senate panel in 2011 that “he was not aware of any strange boosts or biases” in Google’s results. “I can assure you we’ve not cooked” the results, Mr. Schmidt added.

Typographica: ‘Our Favorite Typefaces of 2014’ 

Always a good read; lots of interesting work from small indie foundries this year.

Bumpy Pixels 

Kyle VanHemert, writing for Wired, on haptic feedback as the new frontier in user interface design:

Apple showed its eagerness to explore this potential earlier this week, with an incremental upgrade to iMovie that adds haptic feedback for a handful of interactions. As explained in the release notes, “When dragging a video clip to its maximum length, you’ll get feedback letting you know you’ve hit the end of the clip. Add a title and you’ll get feedback as the title snaps into position at the beginning or end of a clip. Subtle feedback is also provided with the alignment guides that appear in the Viewer when cropping clips.”

So much potential here.

‘I Can’t Tell You Where I Work, and I Can’t Tell You What I Do, but I Need to Talk to You’ 

Daniela Hernandez, writing for Fusion, “The Inside Story of How Apple’s New Medical Research Platform Was Born”:

He was closer than he thought. Sitting in the audience that day was Mike O’Reilly, a newly minted vice president for medical technologies at Apple. A few months earlier, Apple had poached O’Reilly from Masimo, a Bay Area-based sensor company that developed portable iPhone-compatible health trackers. Now, he was interested in building something else, something that had the potential to implement Friend’s vision of a patient-centered, medical research utopia and radically change the way clinical studies were done.

After Friend’s talk, O’Reilly approached the doctor, and, in typical tight-lipped Apple fashion, said: “I can’t tell you where I work, and I can’t tell you what I do, but I need to talk to you,” Friend recalls. Friend was intrigued, and agreed to meet for coffee.

Great story. This is the best piece on ResearchKit that I’ve seen.

Tesla Can Now Resume Car Sales in New Jersey 

Matt Burns, writing for TechCrunch:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie just signed a law that will allow Tesla to start selling its vehicles again to residents of the state.

About a year ago, New Jersey started enforcing a law that required vehicles to be sold to consumers through dealerships. Tesla doesn’t play nicely with dealerships. It sells its vehicles directly to consumers through company-owned showrooms instead of independently owned and state-certified dealerships. So about a year ago, Tesla stopped selling cars in New Jersey and the company’s two showrooms were unable to offer test drives or discuss sale information.

Nice outcome to this year-old piece.

Inside the U.S. Antitrust Probe of Google 

Fascinating look from the WSJ at a 2012 FTC staff report that recommended filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google:

In discussing one of the issues the FTC staff wanted to sue over, the report said the company illegally took content from rival websites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor Inc. and Amazon to improve its own websites. It cited one instance when Google copied Amazon’s sales rankings to rank its own items. It also copied Amazon’s reviews and ratings, the report found. A TripAdvisor spokesman declined to comment.

When competitors asked Google to stop taking their content, Google threatened to remove them from its search engine.

“It is clear that Google’s threat was intended to produce, and did produce, the desired effect,” the report said, “which was to coerce Yelp and TripAdvisor into backing down.” The company also sent a message that it would “use its monopoly power over search to extract the fruits of its rivals’ innovations.”

The FTC revealed this report to the Journal by mistake:

The Wall Street Journal viewed portions of the document after the agency inadvertently disclosed it as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. The FTC declined to release the undisclosed pages and asked the Journal to return the document, which it declined to do.

“Unfortunately, an unredacted version of this material was inadvertently released in response to a FOIA request,” an FTC spokesman said in a statement to the Journal. “We are taking steps to ensure this does not happen again,” the statement said.

Google Reportedly Preparing Android Wear App for iPhone and iPad 

A few readers have asked about this, regarding my comments earlier today regarding the lock-in advantage Apple Watch has for iPhone owners. An Android Wear app for iOS could definitely be a thing — look no further than Pebble. But the integration between an iPhone and an Android Wear device would be limited by the constraints of what iOS apps from the App Store are capable of. Apple Watch integration is built into iOS itself.

Jason Snell, who’s worn a Pebble for two years, writing for Macworld a few weeks ago:

Unlike all the Android Wear watches out there, Pebble’s watches have always claimed iOS compatibility. That’s true of the Pebble Time, too. But in the past two years as a Pebble user, one thing has been abundantly clear: My Pebble’s relationship with iOS has been fraught with difficulty. I had to fiddle endlessly with Notification Center settings to get alerts to properly display on my watch, and since the release of iOS 8 I’ve found that more often than not my Pebble has just silently lost its connection to my iPhone — or the Pebble app says it is connected, but it doesn’t actually send any notifications. Except when it does.

Meanwhile, Pebble keeps announcing new features that work pretty well with Android.

Apple Watch Prelude

I realize there’s little purpose to further Apple Watch speculation at this point — in two days, we’ll know most of the answers. But there is one good reason for last-minute speculation: this is fun. Apple tends to be such a predictable company that we often know the basic gist of what to expect before one of their media events. Not this time. The many unknowns surrounding the watch are what makes it so fun to ponder prior to next week’s event. So let’s have some fun.

First, there’s this. The same day I published my piece on Apple Watch pricing, MacRumors forum member “pgiguere1” created a graphic with possible prices, posting it with the comment:

I made this speculative price list based in large part on Gruber’s speculation:

The graphic is a pastiche of genuine Apple marketing material. A trained eye can easily tell it’s not from Apple — the typefaces are ones Apple uses (San Francisco and Helvetica Neue) but the way they’re used is wrong. But it’s close enough to fool many, and the image has now circled the social media globe several times. I’ve received at least 50 emails and tweets from DF readers asking if I’ve seen this “leaked price list”.

So let’s put it to rest. This graphic is not a leaked price list. It’s speculation from a MacRumors forum member who read my piece on Apple Watch pricing. And, I think, it’s off in numerous ways.

But there is one thing about pgiguere1’s speculation that I hadn’t really considered: that the 42mm models might cost more than the 38mm ones, across the board. On pgiguere1’s list, the 42mm Sport models are $30 more expensive than the corresponding 38mm ones: $349/379. I’m torn on whether this will be the case. Apple isn’t referring to the two sizes as women’s and men’s — some women will wear the 42 and some men (and, I suspect, many boys) will wear the 38 — but in broad strokes the 38 is the women’s version and the 42 is the men’s. You can see that in the high-end leather straps. The feminine “Modern Buckle” is only available for the 38mm size, and the “Leather Loop” is only available for 42mm.

“Bigger costs more” makes sense — and it’s true for most Apple products, from iPhones to iPads to MacBooks. But with those products, your choice of device size is a matter of taste and personal preference. With Apple Watch, your choice of size is in large part determined by your anatomy.

If I had to wager today, I’d bet that 42mm models will cost more across all three collections. A nominal difference for Apple Sport — $349/379 looks right to my eyes. The difference for Edition models could be $1000 or more because they’re made from solid 18K gold. I’m not sure what to expect for the steel ones, though. $100 difference?

Bands as Stratifying Differentiators

I think Apple’s messaging back in September was misleading, and I don’t think it was purposeful. I think it was a mistake that they will correct on Monday.

In September, the basic message was something like this: Watches are personal, and different people have different tastes, so we created a wide variety of bands to choose from so you can pick one that reflects your taste, and we made them easy to swap so you can change them depending on your mood or the occasion.

Most people took that to mean that your choice of band will largely be a matter of taste — that the various bands will be close to each other in terms of price. I know for a fact — from my email and tweets — that many Daring Fireball readers are hoping to buy an entry-level Apple Watch Sport and an optional Link Bracelet or Milanese Loop for maybe $150 or $200. And I also think most people expect the steel Apple Watches that come with the Link Bracelet or Milanese Loop to cost only, say, $150-200 more than the entry level models with the rubber — er, fluoroelastomer — bands.

I don’t think this is the case, at all.

I wrote about this two weeks ago, and upon further consideration, I am now thinking that the various Apple Watch bands will be priced in significantly stratified tiers.

Consider Apple’s description of what I am convinced is the highest-end strap, the Link Bracelet:

Crafted from the same 316L stainless steel alloy as the case, the Link Bracelet has more than 100 components. The machining process is so precise, it takes nearly nine hours to cut the links for a single band. In part that’s because they aren’t simply a uniform size, but subtly increase in width as they approach the case. Once assembled, the links are brushed by hand to ensure that the texture follows the contours of the design. The custom butterfly closure folds neatly within the bracelet. And several links feature a simple release button, so you can add and remove links without any special tools. Available in stainless steel and space black stainless steel.

Now, if you start with the assumptions that (a) the various watch bands are largely a matter of personal choice, (b) Apple will encourage Apple Watch buyers to mix and match bands, and (c) even the most expensive of them will only cost $200 or so, the above description reads as marketing braggadocio.

But if you start with the premise that the top-of-the-line steel Apple Watch will cost $1499 or maybe even $1999, the above description makes more sense. It’s an explanation for why the bracelet is so expensive. If it truly takes nine hours to cut the links for each band, and each one is polished by hand, and they’re mechanically complex (and they definitely are), this is not a $200 bracelet. I’m thinking it’s about $1000, judging by the description, and based on the prices for replacement stainless steel link bracelets from Rolex, Tudor, and Omega.

The three collections of Apple Watch — Sport, steel, and Edition — will not, I think, be represented by three basic prices. Instead, the three collections will comprise a continuum of price points, ranging from $349 to $10,000 (or $20,000, if my hunch is correct that there are gold Link Bracelets waiting to be revealed).

Here are my final guesses (38mm/42mm):

  • Apple Watch Sport (all colors, with Sport Band): $349/399
  • Apple Watch, steel, Sport Band: $749/799
  • Apple Watch, steel, Classic Buckle: $849/899
  • Apple Watch, steel, Milanese Loop: $949/999
  • Apple Watch, steel, Modern Buckle (38mm only): $1199
  • Apple Watch, steel, Leather Loop (42mm only): $1299
  • Apple Watch, steel, Link Bracelet: $1499/1599
  • Apple Watch, space black steel, Link Bracelet: $1899/1999
  • Apple Watch Edition, Sport Band: $7499/7999
  • Apple Watch Edition, Modern Buckle (38mm only): $9999
  • Apple Watch Edition, Classic Buckle (42mm only): $10,999

And purely based on my own speculation — the following configurations have not been announced, have not even been rumored, and have not been suggested to me by any sort of sources:

  • Apple Watch Edition, Gold Milanese Loop: $14,999/$16,999
  • Apple Watch Edition, Gold Link Bracelet: $17,999/$19,999

In my first draft of this piece, I had the regular steel Link Bracelet models at $1899/1999, and the space black ones at $2299/2499, and there’s a notion in my gut that I should have stuck with them. I’m out on a limb here, and it’s quite possible I’ll be serving up some home-cooked claim chowder Monday. Every single number above other than $349 is truly just a guess on my part. My predictions are way higher than almost everyone else’s:

Back in September, I wrote:

When the prices of the steel and (especially) gold Apple Watches are announced, I expect the tech press to have the biggest collective shit-fit in the history of Apple-versus-the-standard-tech-industry shit-fits. The utilitarian mindset that asks “Why would anyone waste money on a gold watch?” isn’t going to be able to come to grips with what Apple is doing here. They’re going to say that Jony Ive and Tim Cook have lost their minds. They’re going to wear out their keyboards typing “This never would have happened if Steve Jobs were alive.” They’re going to predict utter and humiliating failure. In short, they’re going to mistake Apple for Vertu.

The only thing I would change about this is that I now think it’s the steel Apple Watch pricing that is going to cause the massive collective shit-fit. Most people have wrapped their heads around the fact that the gold Edition models are going to cost at least $5000, and so have already written off Apple Watch Edition as something for the wealthy luxury market.

But the steel Apple Watch, that’s something that most people still look at as for them. And so they expect the starting price to be around $500, and the various leather and metal band options to cost $100-300 more.

But if the starting price for the steel Apple Watch is $500, I don’t see why Apple Watch Sport exists at $350. $150 difference does not justify the difference. If they were that close in price, there’d only be one of them. Sport and steel only make sense as separate collections if the steel collection is significantly higher in price, even at the entry level with the rubber Sport band. People are looking at this as a $100-200 upsell, like going from 16 to 64 to 128 GB iPhones and iPads. Technically that’s possible, but it doesn’t make any sense to me strategically or in terms of operational efficiency. With storage tiers in iOS devices, the only difference is the capacity of the flash memory chip. That’s it. All the other components, and the machining and tooling required to produce them, are the same. With Sport and steel Apple Watches, everything you can see or touch is different. Different metal (aluminum vs. steel), different finishes (matte vs. highly-polished), different displays (glass vs. sapphire), different case backs (plastic vs. ceramic and sapphire). If the marketing argument doesn’t persuade you, the operations angle should. I just don’t see why Apple would bother with all this if the starting price for steel Apple Watch wasn’t at least around double that of Sport.

That’s why I think the pricing for the steel Apple Watch collection is what’s going to raise a ruckus, because there are a lot of people who want one and expect that they’ll only have to pay $500 or $600, regardless of their strap preference.

At the introduction event in September, Tim Cook explicitly billed Apple Watch as the next flagship product line in the company’s history: Apple II, Macintosh, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and now the watch. There will be no brushing it off as a mere “hobby” if it isn’t successful.

The thing is, for all the griping about the prices that I expect come Monday, at $349, Apple Watch has the lowest entry-level price for any first-generation flagship product from Apple. The first iPod cost $399. The iPhone was $599 (before the infamous $200 price cut a few months later, which still left the entry model at $399). iPad was $499.

The fact that so many people want the steel Apple Watch and non-Sport bands shows why they will cost more: desire. Apple sets prices not based on what people want to pay, but what people are willing to pay.

This is without question new territory for Apple. They’ve never sold products with the same computing internals at different pricing tiers based solely on the luxuriousness of the materials.

Third-Party Bands

No matter what the pricing is, third-party Apple Watch bands seem like an inevitable thing. But will Apple stock them in its stores? Will there be a Made for Apple Watch program to certify them? I don’t think so.

If Apple’s prices are as high as I’m predicting, demand for third-party link bracelets and leather straps will be high. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out. I never would have predicted the size and scope of today’s iPhone case market back in 2007.

The Messaging

If I’m even close to correct regarding steel Apple Watch pricing, and if I’m also correct that there’s going to be a vociferous backlash, Apple has only itself to blame. The September event and Apple’s marketing to date have created the impression that the differences between collections are largely about style, not price.

Using the name “Apple Watch” for the stainless steel collection — the collection with the widest variety of straps — clearly establishes it as the “regular” collection. In turn, that has left many with the impression that it will be the best-selling, the most common, the one most people walk out of the store with — and thus priced near the $349 baseline.

“Apple Watch starts at $349” as the one and only mention of price left too much room for bad assumptions, I think.

To play devil’s advocate, perhaps Apple did this deliberately. They showed all these different watch bands knowing that they would spark desire, and that people get their heart set on a certain combination based purely on how it looks — including combinations which they wouldn’t have allowed themselves to consider in the first place if they’d known the eventual price back in September. In other words, someone who’s had their heart set on a model with the Milanese Loop, under the assumption that it would cost, say, $600, might still go ahead and buy it for $1200 even though they wouldn’t have considered it in the first place if they’d known it would cost $1200 back in September.

I think that devil’s advocate take is over-thinking things. It’s just the only explanation I can think of other than that Apple kind of botched the pricing expectations for Apple Watch. Actually, there is one other explanation I can think of: Apple didn’t want its competition to know how much Apple Watch and Apple Watch Edition were going to cost, and they decided the competitive value of keeping prices secret outweighed the value of setting accurate expectations for customers.

Storage Capacity

Apple has revealed nothing about internal storage capacity in Apple Watch. I could see this playing out two ways:

  • Apple never talks about storage capacity for Apple Watch. It becomes a “secret” tech spec, like the amount of RAM in iOS devices. We’ll figure it out once we get our hands on them, but it won’t be something Apple talks about.

  • If they do talk about it, each collection will get its own tier. Say, 8 GB for Sport, 32 GB for steel, 64 GB for Edition.

I don’t think Apple Watch will need much storage, but they’ve said you can store music and photos directly on the device. So it’s not like storage doesn’t matter at all. It’s just another upsell to push people to higher-priced models.

The Modular S1 and Upgradeability

There’s been a lot of speculation about the modular nature of Apple Watch’s S1 “computer on a chip”. Why brag about that? Why encase the whole thing in resin? Why make this photograph? My wild guess back in September: perhaps Apple Watch, or at least the Edition models, would be upgradeable in future years. Take it in for service, pay $500, walk out with your “old” Apple Watch Edition upgraded with an S2.

I now think this theory is bunk. Not going to happen.

Take a first generation iPhone. Now imagine if you could upgrade it to today’s A8 SoC. It’d be better than it was before, that’s for sure. But it’d still have a low-resolution non-retina display. It’d still be stuck with EDGE cellular networking. It’d still have a crappy camera that couldn’t even shoot video. Etc. The “computer” inside Apple Watch isn’t centrally important. Everything is important. The health sensors, the display, the battery, the Taptic Engine, the digital crown, the networking capabilities, everything.

A few years from now we might have Apple Watches that support Wi-Fi or even cellular networking. They might go several days on a single charge. None of those improvements would come from an upgrade to an S2 or S3 chip.

I’d love to be wrong on this one, but I don’t think it makes any sense. And if I am wrong, the upgrade would have to include the entire innards of the watch — new display, new electronics, new battery, new sensors. Everything but the case and the bands. That still seems unlikely to me, but it’s at least plausible. And it could put Apple Watch Edition on par with existing luxury watches in terms of lifespan. But even in that case, the modular nature of the S1 doesn’t really have much to do with it.

Lastly, many readers have suggested a trade-in program, where you could bring in your old Apple Watch Edition and get a significant trade-in on a new one. No way. First, as stated earlier, the value of the raw gold in a gold watch is just a small fraction of the price. Second, trading in used goods is not part of a luxury shopping experience.

One More Thing

Holding the event at Yerba Buena instead of the smaller confines of their campus Town Hall makes me think Apple has a lot to show. There must be more to learn about Apple Watch’s software and experience — Tim Cook even said so back in September, explaining that they simply didn’t have enough time then to show more. I’ve heard that Apple has been hosting over 100 third-party developers and designers in Cupertino for the last month, to test and refine WatchKit apps on production Apple Watch hardware, so I expect a bunch of third-party Watch app demos too.

The new Mac version of Photos is in public beta, so I expect a full demo of that and the now-complete iCloud Photos cross-device experience. And if they’re going to talk about Mac software, maybe they’ll reveal the rumored 12-inch thinner-than-ever MacBook Air, too. My gut tells me the new MacBook Air could be ready, and it also tells me that the purported bigger iPad is not.

Update: If Apple is ready to unveil the upcoming redesign of its retail stores, we will see Angela Ahrendts’s first on-stage appearance since joining Apple last year. 

  1. Marco expressed a thought I’ve considered myself:

    Apple’s letting the $10,000–20,000 guesses simmer in the press to set price expectations high, just as they stayed quiet when everyone thought the first iPad would cost $1000. Maybe it’s for the same reason: maybe the Edition won’t be completely unreasonably priced for a piece of electronic jewelry that will probably be completely obsolete in five years but happens to be encased in a thousand bucks worth of solid gold. Letting people believe it’ll cost so much will make the real price seem like a great deal when it’s announced.

    That’s certainly possible. But what makes me think otherwise is that $1000 was the rumored starting price for the iPad. When Steve Jobs unveiled the “$499” slide, it was our collective expectation for the iPad’s entry-level price that was exceeded. (I remember being in the Yerba Buena theater at that moment — everyone, yours truly included, was genuinely surprised by that. It was palpable.) The “best” iPad — 64 GB with cellular networking — cost $829, which isn’t that much less than $1000. With Apple Watch we know the starting price: $349. What we don’t know is how much the higher-end models will cost. 

On the Pricing of Apple Watch

After the gala announcement event in September at which Apple introduced Apple Watch and whatever last year’s iPhone was, I ran into SlashGear editor-in-chief Vincent Nguyen in the private hands-on area Apple had set up for select members of the media. I’ve known Vincent for years from various Apple events, and I always enjoy his perspective. I was actually looking around for him this time, though, because I really wanted to hear his take on Apple Watch. Vincent is a watch guy — he knows the watch industry, and his taste is excellent.

We greeted each other, walked in, and started staring, close-up, at the lineup. When we got to the Edition models, Vincent said, with some excitement, “This is going to cost $20,000.”

I’d already started thinking that the Edition models would cost thousands, plural, but $20,000 struck me as a price from Bananas Town. Vincent’s reply was something to the effect of, “Try to find a good 18-karat gold watch for less than $20,000. You won’t.”

Here’s what I wrote back in September, in my initial thoughts regarding Apple Watch:

In short: hundreds for Sport, a thousand for stainless steel, thousands for gold.

Most people think I’m joking when I say the gold ones are going to start at $5,000. I couldn’t be more serious. I made a friendly bet last week with a few friends on the starting price for the Edition models, and I bet on $9,999.

The more I think about it, and the more I learn about the watch industry, the world of luxury goods, and the booming upper class of China, the better I feel about that bet. I don’t think I was wrong to place a friendly late night bar bet on a $9,999 starting price. I think I was wrong to guess just $4,999 in my ostensibly sober published analysis.

I can see which way the wind is blowing. For months I’ve been asking friends who might know — or know someone else who might know, or even know someone who knows someone who might know — whether my guess of $5,000 is too high for the Edition starting price. The answer has always been “No”. But the way I’ve been told “No” has given me the uneasy feeling that I’ve been asking the wrong question. I should have been asking if $5,000 is too low.

I now think Edition models will start around $10,000 — and, if my hunch is right about bands and bracelets, the upper range could go to $20,000. I was off by a factor of two, and my friend Vincent, I think, nailed it back on the day Apple Watch was introduced.

It’s All About the Bands

Louie Mantia helped clarify my thinking on this by publishing this seemingly sparsely populated table of Apple Watch collection/band combinations. Study that for a few minutes, and you should come to a few surprising — to me at least — conclusions.

One of the selling points Apple emphasized in September is that bands are easily interchanged on Apple Watch. You just press a button underneath and it’s released; slide a new one in and it securely clicks into place. And they showed a wide variety of bands: Sport, Classic Buckle, Leather Loop, Modern Buckle, Milanese Loop, and Link Bracelet. Six different styles, all of them — other than the Milanese Loop — in multiple colors.

I walked out of the event under the assumption that all of these bands would be available to purchase as accessories, like iPhone cases. So that one could, say, buy an Apple Watch Sport with a white sport band, and buy a Milanese Loop or one of the leather bands to make it dressier.

I am no longer certain that’s going to be the case. And if it is the case, the non-Sport bands are going to be expensive — in most cases, even more expensive than the Apple Watch Sport itself.

What seems clear to me now is that the various bands signify tiers within the three collections — particularly for the stainless steel Apple Watch models. Take a look at Apple’s page for the steel Watch collection, and scroll down to the bottom, where they present a scrolling carousel of “all 18 models in the collection”. From left to right:

  • 38mm with White Sport Band
  • 42mm with White Sport Band
  • 38mm with Black Sport Band
  • 42mm with Black Sport Band
  • 38mm with Black Classic Buckle
  • 42mm with Black Classic Buckle
  • 38mm with Milanese Loop
  • 42mm with Milanese Loop
  • 38mm with Soft Pink Modern Buckle
  • 38mm with Brown Modern Buckle
  • 38mm with Midnight Blue Modern Buckle
  • 42mm with Stone Leather Loop
  • 42mm with Bright Blue Leather Loop
  • 42mm with Light Brown Leather Loop
  • 38mm with Link Bracelet
  • 42mm with Link Bracelet
  • 38mm Space Black Stainless Steel with Link Bracelet
  • 42mm Space Black Stainless Steel with Link Bracelet

Things to note:

The “Modern Buckle” is only available for 38mm models. The Leather Loop is only available for 42mm models. The Space Black watch is only available with a single band option: the Link Bracelet.

Sport Bands are surely the least expensive. Link Bracelets, I’m almost as sure, are the most expensive. I think Apple placed these models in order from least to most expensive, going from left to right. (Including the fact that 38mm models will cost slightly less than their 42mm siblings.)

Why are there both Classic Buckles and Modern Buckles? From their descriptions, it sounds like the Modern Buckle uses a better leather, and without question it has a more advanced clasp mechanism. I conclude: Modern is more expensive. They both exist because they’ll sit at different price points.

Note too, that on the regular Apple Watch collection page, the Classic Buckle description states, regarding color options: “Available in black.” This, despite the same band being offered in Midnight Blue for the Edition collection.

So I’m thinking the regular Apple Watch will come in at least five pricing tiers:

  1. Entry: Sport Band, black or white.
  2. Regular leather: Classic Buckle, you’ll get it in black and you’ll like it.
  3. Milanese Loop.
  4. Deluxe leather: Modern Buckle for 38mm models, Leather Loop for 42mm models. Each with a choice of three colors.
  5. Link Bracelet.

You’ll pay a premium for color straps and advanced clasp mechanisms, and you’ll pay even more for the Link Bracelet.

I think the spread between these tiers could be significant, ranging from, say, $700 for the entry model with the Sport Band to well over $1,000 for the Link Bracelet. I still think the average for the steel Apple Watch will be around $1,000, but depending on your strap choice, you’ll pay several hundred less or more.

But wait. I would not bet against Apple bringing back the black tax. Remember the plastic MacBooks from 2006? Apple charged $150 more for the black one than the white one, even though they had nearly identical specs.

Note that the silver Apple Watch Sport only has four band color choices: white, blue, green, and pink. The space gray Sport edition has only one band: black. I think Apple might charge more for both the space gray Sport model and the space black stainless steel model.

Further, I don’t think any of the stainless steel bands will be available for retail purchase. They’ll sell sport bands, which you’ll be able to use on any Apple Watch, but I don’t think any of the nicer bands will be available for retail purchase. Don’t hold your breath for a space black Link Bracelet to put on your $349 Sport model. The nicer bands aren’t accessories that Apple hopes you’ll tack onto your purchase; they’re signifiers of how much you paid for your stainless steel or gold Apple Watch.

Limited Edition

Which brings me to the Edition collection’s curiously thin lineup of strap choices. There are only three for each watch size, and Apple doesn’t present them side-by-side in a carousel like they do with the stainless steel models:

  • 38mm Yellow Gold with Bright Red Modern Buckle
  • 38mm Rose Gold with White Sport Band
  • 42mm Rose Gold with White Sport Band
  • 38mm Rose Gold with Rose Gray Modern Buckle
  • 42mm Yellow Gold with Black Sport Band
  • 42mm Yellow Gold with Midnight Blue Classic Buckle

That’s the order in which the six models appear on Apple’s page. It almost certainly does not correspond to price.

Things to note: None of these leather colors are available in the standard Apple Watch lineup. These are not regular Sport Bands — they have gold clasps. None of them have metal bands.

These are (I think) $10,000+ watches, but half of them come with rubber sport bands that are nearly indistinguishable from the bands on the $349 Sport collection.

Glaringly omitted is a gold Link Bracelet. I’d place a side bet Apple withheld it in September, and will unveil it as a surprise option at the event they’ll hold before releasing the watches. If you’re going to go gold, go gold. Some people buy a gold watch simply because they like it. Others buy a gold watch because they want everyone to know they wear a gold watch. The latter group will gladly pay $20,000 for a watch with gold band.

Perhaps I’m biased by my personal taste in watch bands, but at the hands-on event in September, the Link Bracelet was my favorite by far, followed by the Milanese Loop. It seems downright ludicrous to me to charge significantly more for the Edition models and not offer the best of the bands. Note too that among the Edition combinations Apple currently lists, there is but a single 42mm model with something other than a rubber Sport Band — the Midnight Blue Classic Buckle. Further, as stated above, I think the Classic Buckle is the low-end leather strap. I’m guessing Apple will offer Edition models with gold Link Bracelets for $20,000, and perhaps Milanese Loops for $15,000 and a Leather Loop for around $12,500.

Look at the Watch Industry

Don’t try to guess the price of the Edition models based on the amount of gold they contain. I did it this week, but it’s the wrong way to look at this. It doesn’t matter if the gold in an Apple Watch Edition model is “only” worth $1,000 or $1,500 or whatever. The gold in a Rolex is only worth that, too — and their gold watches sell for $20,000 and more, for the exact same movements in their $6,000 stainless steel models. The value of a gold watch is only tangentially related to the number of ounces of gold it contains. And Edition isn’t just made of 18-karat gold — it’s made of the best 18-karat gold in the world. (I don’t know that for a fact — I don’t know anything about gold — I’m just saying what Apple is saying.)

Apple Watch Edition is not a tech product, so don’t try to price it like one.

Apple Watch Edition is a luxury wrist watch. Apple’s ambitions in this arena, I am convinced, are almost boundless. They’re not entering the market against Rolex, Omega, and the rest of the Swiss luxury watch establishment with disruptive prices. They’re entering the market against those companies going head-to-head on pricing, with disruptive (they think) features.

Again I point you to someone from the watch world, Grail Watch’s Stephen Foskett, who points out that gold watches typically cost $10-15,000 more than the same watch in stainless steel — and tens of thousands more if they come with a gold bracelet. Even if I’m wrong about Apple having gold Link Bracelets lying in wait as an April surprise, I don’t think a $10,000 starting price for Apple Watch Edition is even a step out of line for the watch industry.1

Will it work? Will people actually buy these? I have no idea. But I think Apple thinks it’s going to work. 

  1. At prices like these, an Apple Watch Edition is not an accessory for your iPhone — your iPhone is an accessory for your Apple Watch Edition. 

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