Apple’s great at polishing and tweaking device usability, but it’s even better at creating catchy new terminology.
Like every other person who covers or is vaguely aware of technology, I watched Apple’s Tuesday’s event. I witnessed the unveiling of the Apple Watch, and listened to Jony Ive describe the company’s new wearable.
I really admire Apple. Yes, the company has pioneered certain design and interface elements and popularized several major electronics categories, but that’s not why I admire it. I’m impressed by Apple because it’s taken the act of renaming and rebranding concepts to a science so meticulously calculated that I’m fairly certain its new headquarters actually is a functional spaceship. Apple didn’t reinvent the wheel, but it deftly managed to rebrand it, and many other features and technologies that are already in use.
Old Is New Again (But Still Old)
The Apple Watch isn’t new, and none of the things it does are new. It’s an attractive design that puts a lot of emphasis on the user experience, which is what Apple is very good at, but it doesn’t do anything new. You wouldn’t know that listening to Apple’s senior vice president of design, though. According to Ive, Apple is essentially responsible for perfecting the transistor, the app, and the wheel.
There are two ways to take this. 7000 Series aluminum is a standard category of aluminum alloys with zinc, and I’m fairly sure entire industries would take issue with the implication that Apple only just created aircraft aluminum. However, while worded poorly, Apple might have literally created a new aluminum alloy in the 7000 series registered with the Aluminum Association, which tracks aluminum alloy series of all kinds for industrial and commercial use, and that is what the statement means. But it sounds like Apple’s saying it invented 7000 series aluminum itself, and since alloy classifications are fairly esoteric it’s pretty easy for people to believe it.
On the Apple Watch Sport’s glass: “We used an alumina-silicate glass that’s especially resistant to scratches and impact. It’s fortified at the molecular level through ion exchange, with smaller ions being replaced by larger ones to create a surface layer far tougher than ordinary glass.”
That’s remarkable. It’s also Gorilla Glass. Gorilla Glass is aluminosilicate glass strengthened with ion exchange. It is indeed far tougher than ordinary glass. It’s also been used by many electronics for several years now.
These complaints have no bearing on the Apple Watch itself, just how Apple is framing it. As usual, it’s implying it’s making huge breakthroughs in technology and design when it’s using concepts and techniques that have been around for ages. The Apple Watch looks like a well-designed piece of technology, and it might finally get smartwatches broad acceptance, as the iPad did with tablets, the iPhone did with smartphones, and the iPod did with media players.
However, obfuscating every little element with unnecessarily long words that sound smarter than they actually are seems wrong. It’s the worst kind of jargon: the kind that takes concepts that could be accesible and readily understood by customers and puffs them up to make them seem magical when they’re not.