Technology drives humankind forward but as devices become increasingly personal and supplant our non-smart wearables, the importance of lifestyle fit and fashion will move to the forefront. When I refer to fashion, I am referring to the ability of an item to enhance and help define our own personal style. Just as clothes and jewelry help communicate who we are, the latest devices and their brands also paint a picture of who we are.
Devices like the iPhone and Apple Watch have evolved the way we access, gather, and communicate information, and, in doing so, also enriched our lives. Access to information has brought humankind together, and the new data being collected is being used to solve the world’s biggest problems, like curing crippling diseases.
However, with convenience has also come intrusion. These devices have fundamentally changed the way we interact with electronics. As a trend, each step in technological advancement and capability has also meant deeper integration into our daily lives. Before, we left our computers at home; now, we carry our smart phones with us from sun-up to sun-down; and, one day soon, we will wear our smart devices and health trackers continuously.
It is important to realize that technological evolution will drive humankind forward and that we should embrace it as much as possible. At the same time, we should expect products to fit into our lifestyles and add to the diversity of our lives. If we are going to wear and carry electronics with us, they should cater to our tastes and work in harmony with our fashion to help define whom we are.
Fashion should be of paramount importance to any technology company today. Google Glass failed culturally and socially because Google fundamentally misunderstood popular tastes at the time. On the other hand, Snapchat Spectacles is off to a strong start because Snapchat markets their glasses as a fun and goofy accessory to a younger demographic already comfortable with expressing themselves via video. Snapchat built a device that enhances the personas of its captive users, while Google built a nerd’s wet dream and tried to force its tastes on the rest of the world.
Looking at Google’s Self-Driving Car, I wonder if they are making a similar mistake. I would much rather own and be seen in a Tesla. Computers and technology have been at odds with fashion for a long time and this trend continues till today. It all started when the first beige PC tower was created and reigned supreme for decades. The lack of fashion sensibilities in technology comes from engineering culture where algorithm efficiency and processor speed reigned supreme. Engineers, historically, just were not concerned about aesthetics and design.
It took Apple and Steve Jobs to make technology cool, and it took decades. When Apple was first founded, speed and performance were still the main drivers of sales. Only after the market began to mature and speed saw diminishing returns, did fashion become a large driver. Now that computers are blazingly fast, consumers are more concerned about design than processor speed. Taking a Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs perspective, convenience trumps style, but, when technology is convenient enough, style quickly takes over.
Now that smartphones are super fast, and we are never far from an Internet connection, lifestyle fit and fashion will increasingly drive consumer behavior.
But, what happens when technology companies achieve massive marketshare and erect barriers to entry? If every car on Earth was a Google Self-Driving Car, and our only choice was which color we owned would we be satisfied? As Apple and Samsung continue to dominate the high-end smartphone sector, will consumer desire for self-expression be satiated by color choices?
A. Wong & Co. was founded to explore these new market conditions. We built the Journey Collection, a series of 18-karat solid gold bracelets / bands for the Apple Watch Series 1 and Series 2, and the Vanguard Collection, a series of grade 5 aerospace titanium iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus phones, to see if the world is ready for truly personal devices.