This approximately the size of the watch face...

This is approximately the size of the watch face…

Less than two weeks ago Apple announced their upcoming Apple Watch – their first piece of wearable technology – to be released early 2015.

Two words…

Conspicuous consumption.

Conspicuous consumption as cited from Webster’s dictionary is the “the act or practice of spending money on expensive things that are not necessary in order to impress other people. (i) Is an Apple watch really necessary? We have our iPhones, iPods, iPads, iPad minis, iMacs, macbook pros, etc. What is the difference, besides being able to show off to your friends and/or complete strangers that you had a spare $350 to spend on the convenience of having everything on your iPhone, but on your wrist? (P.S. you’ll still have your iPhone in your pocket). (ii) Here’s what I’ve deduced from Apple’s film on the watch, and the few and far between specs on the watch itself that haven’t been overly glamourised:

  • There are many different apps available for the watch, but it would seem that if you are, in fact, able to download them it would have to be over wifi as the watch is completely sealed.
  • The watch face comes in two sizes – 38mm and 42mm. Both are approximately around 1.5 inches. This is fine for a regular watch, but a screen that small would make viewing all those apps difficult, even when you can zoom in.
  • The watch charges like a macbook in that the charger cord magnetically attaches to the back of the watch. The Apple website doesn’t give any info about battery life though.
  • One of the most important pieces of info I’ve gleamed is that the watch is just an extension of your iPhone – it uses your iPhones gps and wifi/cellular. This leads me to question if having both your iPhone and watch turned on would just double your cellular usage. Would it even work if you didn’t have an iPhone? This also means that even with your watch on your arm, you’ll still wind up with your mobile phone in your pocket.
  • You’re able to text on the watch, but VERY short messages. That goes for receiving texts as well. Anything larger than a few words and you’re going to have to resort to your phone.
  • Every time you raise your arm, the display is activated. This could potentially suck up battery.
  • You can listen to music on the watch, but there’s only one speaker and no headphone jack. Not sure what sort of sweet beats you’d get out of it.
Approximate size (from the side)

Approximate size (from the side)

Even with a sizeable list of cons against it, there’s a good chance the Apple Watch will make a profit. Why? Because it’s a Veblen good which is, as theorised by economist Thorstein Veblen in his 1899 book The Theory of the Leisure Class, a consumer good that has that “snob value”. It is a luxury good that acts against the normal flow of common sense where demand increases as the price of the good rises. (iii) Whether or not you or I actually spend the money for what some would argue to be a wasteful accessory of a watch, the want for it is still present because: it’s not yet released which means it’s scarce, it’s new, it basically does everything the iPhone does PLUS you can where it, and you know everyone else wants one too.

Comedian Ricky Gervais' solution

Comedian Ricky Gervais’ solution

(i) Conspicuous Consumption, viewed 21 September 2014, <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conspicuous%20consumption>

(ii) Apple Watch Film 2014, viewed 21 September 2014, <http://www.apple.com/watch/films/#film-design>

(iii) What Is Conspicuous Consumption?, viewed 21 September 2014, <http://www.conspicuousconsumption.org >

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