Is the Apple Watch really a watch? Do big tech companies like Apple have a responsibility to society based on the impact of the products they make?
In an interview with the Financial Times, Apple’s chief design officer Jony Ive spoke about the company’s latest products and its impact on society. Ive has been in his position since 1996, leading the team in the design of products such as the iMac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad. Ive is notoriously shy and rarely does interviews, making this an especially interesting look into the company.
When asked about Apple’s claim that sales of the Apple Watch are such that it’s now considered the “number-one watch brand,” Ive invoked the iPhone:
“We had this same challenge with the product that we called the iPhone. Clearly the capability of the iPhone extends way beyond the function of what we would traditionally call a phone.”
So, is the Apple Watch really a watch? Ive was upfront about his thoughts:
“No, I think that this is a very powerful computer, with a range of very sophisticated sensors, that is strapped to my wrist. That’s neither very descriptive nor very helpful.”
Apple’s products have inarguably had major impacts on society, both in positive and negative ways. Ive is very aware of this and the role Apple plays in the world.
“Very often, so much of what a product ends up being able to do isn’t what you initially thought. If you’re creating something new, it is inevitable there will be consequences that were not foreseen — some that will be great, and then there are those that aren’t as positive. There is a responsibility to try and predict as many of the consequences as possible and I think you have a moral responsibility to try to understand, try to mitigate those that you didn’t predict.”
In discussing the company’s responsibilities to humanity, it’s clear that this is a topic that weighs heavy on Ive’s mind.
“I think it’s part of the culture at Apple to believe that there is a responsibility that doesn’t end when you ship a product. It keeps me awake.”
Ive goes on to talk about how he learned to love the Apple Photos “new memory” feature, which he found annoying at first, and the rumors surrounding the design team being the last to move to Apple Park. He’s also asked about the Apple Car, which is the one topic he pretty much avoided talking about. Regardless, it’s an interesting read so be sure to check out the full piece at the Financial Times.