AMITIAE - Monday 2 March 2015

Ten Days after Apple's Spring Forward: Baselworld - There is an App for it

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


With a week to go before Apple is to make announcements, probably about the Apple Watch, other companies are already releasing their own interpretations of watches, although what we have seen so far is limited to devices running Android. The major watch industry show, Baselworld, follows later this month and there will be some expensive time-pieces there: there is also an app for Baselworld.

While we have a fair idea of the basics of the Apple Watch, and Tim Cook let slip a couple of hints over the last week or so (causing some angst with his comments on the watch being a key-fob substitute), pricing is yet to be announced, apart from the starter $349 (11,296 baht).

Most speculation has focussed on the top of the range Apple Watch Edition: made of gold. Suggestions of between $4,000 - $10,000 have been put out as a price level and - no surprise - some pundits think watches at such high prices will fail to sell and Apple will have another (speculative) dud on its hands.

Apple Watch
Image with Permission of Apple

In the real world, hand-made watches can go for hundreds of thousands of dollars as they are regarded as works of art to be handed down, rather than a simple device for telling the time. While mass-produced watches, such as Timex or Swatch shifted the market to cheaper electronics, like the car industry, where factory production is the norm, companies like Ferrari, Maserati, Bentley and McLaren still make handsome profits on hand-made cars.

Just under two weeks after the Apple event on 9 March, this year's Baselworld opens in Switzerland, running from 19 - 26 March. This is considered the major trade show for high end watchmakers and, as one might expect, preparations have been under way for a long time. The website is extensive with multi-language displays of maps, exhibitors and several other useful links. There is also an app for the show.

While there are also Baselworld apps for Android and Blackberry devices, I examined the iOS version, using both the iPhone 6 and the iPad Air 2. The app is optimised for both, so has a proper full screen display on the larger device.

I want to avoid obvious puns such as "like clockwork" or "a well-oiled machine" so I will get them out of the way now; but the app has been carefully developed to give an almost seamless experience for those attending or just simply interested in what will be there. The app is cleanly designed and set out in a logical fashion.

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After a tidy start screen, there was a slight delay the first time the app was opened to allow the data to be updated. On the iPhone it then displayed a list of options, including Exhibitors, Index of Products and Floorplans. There were also several links to sources for updates and press releases that would be coming during the show, as well as links to options for hotel and travel.

At the bottom of the screen are four main tabs: Index (as above), Map, Favorites and Search. The Map is a delight and worth downloading the app for this alone. It opens with a watch face (showing the correct time) which immediately zooms out to show the floor plan of the 6 sites for the show (Palace plus 5 Halls). The tiny watch face can just be seen on the wall of Hall 2.

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Tapping on any of the Halls offers an exploded diagram, showing each floor. Users can then tap on any floor and that is expanded to show a floor-plan, with names of exhibitors. If the 3D display is not convenient, there is a one-click icon for a 2D display at the top of the screen. These controls are at the bottom of the screen on the iPad. All parts of the map can be zoomed in or out using the pinch. Plans can be rotated in 3D.

To the right of the 2D/3D icon is a tiny watch icon. Pressing this brings back the watch face to a full screen display. To the far right at the top of the screen, is an arrows that allows the user to enter directions - beginning and end - the result is displayed on the map as a blue line.

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Product and exhibitor listings are available as product groups (broken down into several sub-headings) as well as just the exhibitor name. When an exhibitor's entry is examined, as well as the ability to examine sets of information and link to the company website, a large + below the name and product image opens a set of options for the user: Take a Photo/Video, Take a Note, Add to Addressbook, Show on Map, Share, and Favorite.

Each of these practical actions would be useful when visiting a large show such as Baselworld allowing the user to save information for later analysis. An additional feature allows users to opt for offline operations, so all the data is downloaded beforehand. An oddity, but rather practical, was that opening several screens started a video, but the iOS device straight-away displayed a "Mute" icon on the screen, so that there was no disturbance. The user could easily turn sound back on to enjoy the product video.

I did try the Search feature, but was unable to find Apple listed. Nor was Apple shown as one of the companies holding a press conference, although one little gem there was that motorcycle world champion brothers Marc and Alex Marquez will be at the Festina booth on 21 March and will be available for one on one media interviews. I almost wish I were free to go.

Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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All content copyright © G. K. Rogers 2015