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Applewatch

 I am an Apple enthusiast; I was the first person at my university to buy into the Apple Macintosh. I was playing with the Apple IIe weeks after its initial release. I have had every apple device and one of each model (except the iPad gen 3). Well, I did keep up until my corporate expense account ran out of tenure…

I guess I am impressed when the synthesis of design and function approaches a degree of perfection bordering the possibilities of the inconceivable. Apple consistently pulls this synthesis off time after time.The iPad, for instance, was a bomb shell of a paradigm shift. The iPhone was the same. The Macintosh certainly was. As was the iPod (even the squat square little one that most people hated). 

There are other examples of this art of perfection where function merges with form. Sometimes in very surprising places. By way of the possibly obscure, I nominate the Anschutz Fortner Straight pull .17 HMR rifle, The BMW F800GS motorcycle (a cataclysm of perfection over all the other junk that pretends to the classification of dual purpose motorcycling), and, by way of a cycling-centric example, the astounding and very limited edition Mavic Ksyrium 125 wheelset (packing every single plus point ever associated with the Ksyrium line into one set of wheels to celebrate Mavic’s 125 years in business). 

Now, naturally, opinions vary on these things. Perhaps we all come with differently configured balancing points upon which that synthesis of form and function pushes the right button. My button is pushed by that ultimate statement of cycling art reverently delivered via the Wilier Zero.7. That button is also pushed by the Olympus OMD EM-1 micro four thirds camera and Escoda Kolinsky sable water colour brushes… Yours might be pushed by Beats headphones or Mac Trucks. It’s all a matter of stuff fitting into your own mental socket just the right way.

Which brings me to the just announced AppleWatch. On this day (September 9, 2014) I am no longer an Apple fan boy. After watching the one and a half hour keynote presentation, I actually felt ill. Embarrassed. even – for the human race. Watching this audience’s reverential standing ovations and sycophantic adulatory applause to what must have been the most obscene commercialisation of something that hitherto has been free and unconstrained by battery power, I can’t help but put what might otherwise seem to be two unrelated pictures of Babylon into a single frame: the disease of Islamic fundamentalists shooting off their boy guns in the back of pick up trucks and this Apple cheer squad praying to Tim Cook on his AppleWatch Launch. Ugly high priest manic fanaticism at its very, very worst.

It’s not the watch itself that sickens me. That seems like a typically refined Apple design, for sure. No. It’s Apple’s launch into the ‘fitness’ arena that has me planning a hermit-like retreat into the wilderness for ever more. 

It’s a con job. It’s marketing spin. It is the end credits to this era of the material commercialisation of everthything. 

Wearing a bloody watch will NOT make you fit! I don’t care if it does have clever heart rate sensors in the bottom of its case. I don’t care if it does motivate its wearer with customised beeps and syrupy heart pumping emoticons to share with your mates. Apple has just consolidated this perversity of a trend into a marketing fait accompli. That trend started by fit bit and the like is now locked down, packaged, and delivered. The gymnasium glitterati have now taken over the game. 

The deal is done. Now the image association between fitness and technology is complete. AppleWatch plus exercise equals health and fitness. The fitness you might associate with a six day intensive cycling training camp is now to be pushed out to the realms of the seriously uncool.  Cool is now measured by the output of your AppleWatch. Now we can quantify just how wonderful we imagine ourselves to be and, worse, share the metrics involved with anyone else connected to the internet cloud. Which, thanks to Apple, is everyone who is anyone at all. Fitness without quantitative proof is the same thing as wealth without consumption. The real exercise is to exercise your results with everyone else. To join the young-and-beautiful perfections of human kind you need an AppleWatch and the very latest Gucci running/cycling wear. You need to spend up big on the accoutrements of fitness to be fit. Fitness that is not shared via the cloud is just sweat and stink.

The new great THING will be fitness sharing apps powered by your brand new AppleWatch. Everyone but everyone will be sharing their Jony Ive designed fitness accomplishment readouts by way of social intercourse from this day on. Whereas once you might greet someone with a rather rhetorical ‘how are you’, now you will be able to receive a complete set of readouts by way of response. Yes, this fitness monitoring and sharing thing has been trending over the past few years, but Apple’s latest toy is about to make it go nuclear. 

I am old fashioned now, it seems. The only fitness metric that I reckon we need to share is one that does not need to be spoken, let alone measured and shared. It’s your’e lack of fat and ability to offset the assaults of gravity. You don’t need readouts to prove or demonstrate your fitness on a bike; you do that by dropping everyone else on a hill or by winning a race. Once we ride together, or run together, or whatever else we choose to do, we soon get a picture of who is lagging behind. That’s the best kind of metric to share. Words don’t need to be spoken, and you don’t need to be in range of a data transmission tower. 

While some of us are addicted to parading our fitness data on social networking sites like STRAVA, it’s not quite the same thing. STRAVA and the like are pretty hard core. You don’t go on STRAVA to satisfy the latest fitness campaign devised by workplace Occupational Health and Safety or HR bureaucrats (unlike the new AppleWatch, STAVA won’t record your efforts to stand up for one minute each and every workplace hour). Few people share their STRAVA results by way of casual social exchange (most of us check out STRAVA achievements in a manner more akin to stalking than shoving each other’s watches in our respective faces). STRAVA is hardly some kind of universal language through which to parade your imagined prowess. It is at this precise point that Apple has moved into the picture. Through the fitness monitoring dimension of its new AppleWatch, Apple has set up a new universal language of fitness sharing that will be transmissible to absolutely everyone, given that absolutely everyone is now likely to buy an AppleWatch (just like they did with the iPhone and iPad). In this regard, the new AppleWatch is the missing link. 

Putting it all another way, the AppleWatch is a focus on the micro fitness domain. STRAVA is more on the macro side: big bang fitness metrics like king of the mountain awards and the like. The AppleWatch will now allow, facilitate and encourage people to compare seriously marginal fitness increments that would be way beneath the resolution of macro fitness tracking systems like STRAVA. With micro level fitness sharing, fat people can now boast about achievements down the the resolution of one kilojoule. Achievements at that level are swamped the first time one eats a single Mars Bar, or even a single M&M. 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with people being encouraged to exercise more. And if the AppleWatch and the social peer pressure support network that this device will now empower can improve personal fitness, more power to Apple. That’s definitely not my problem. My problem is that we are now headed into that same kind of faux fitness fantasy that once was attached more exclusively to gym memberships and Sunday coffee shop rides. Faux fitness is dangerous because it is delusional fitness. Have you ever noticed all those seriously fat people who convince themselves that their fitness is in hand simply because they subscribe to a gym? Somehow, spending money on a gym membership is equated to becoming fit, per se. You can become fit in a gym, but how many people actually do? We are set in a culture of the monetisation of everything, including fitness. These days, when we consume fitness, we exhaust our credit cards rather than our bodies. Somehow, many people can’t distinguish between these two outcomes. The danger comes if our imagined fitness is rather different from our physiological fitness. And it is in this regard that social fitness sharing is likely to make things much worse. If two unfit people compare their AppleWatch results as the metric through which to track progress, the whole improvement game might just stay in the far left corner of pre-marginal gain. As they say, if you and your mates are being chased by a lion, you only need to run faster than the person behind you than the person way out in front. 

I can’t see this forthcoming social fitness sharing thing to be a healthy initiative by itself. Given the predilection of nearly everyone to satisifice down to the minimum level of exertion in everything other than the accumulation of money, the new AppleWatch might well become a giant mattress thrown over the hitherto pain-equals-gain metric from which true fitness flows. Apple, it seems to me, has dropped a new engine into an already alarming universal inclination to physical mediocracy. 

Finally, while the new AppleWatch is a fine piece of industrial design, it is a rather poor device with regards to fitness tracking per se. It might be fine as an adjunct to your iPhone for messaging and the like, but for fitness tracking, a simple Garmin running watch will eat it for lunch. For starters, with a Garmin watch (like, say, the wonderful new Garmin Forerunner 620), you don’t need to strap an iPhone to your body as well. Plus, you don’t need to be in range of a Telco tower. The Garmin has inbuilt GPS and more running functions than the AppleWatch, and all for much less money if you discount the need for an iPhone as well. On the cycling side, the AppleWatch is vastly inferior to any Garmin device. Mainly for the same reasons. Plus, the Garmin will go for 3 days to the day or less that the AppleWatch battery is likely to support. And on the matter of not forgetting that the AppleWatch requires that you also need to be ‘wearing’ your iPhone for it to work, how exactly does that work out for your work out in a gym? Especially now that all the new iPhones are to be so much bigger than the models they have replaced. This is not very practical, to say the very least. There is no way on this planet that I am going to go running with an iPhone 6 Plus strapped to my arm and no doubt it will feel like carrying an iPad in my cycling shirt instead of the petite iPhone 5 I currently possess. 

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