"Is that the iWatch?"
Early on an unseasonably brisk morning last week, a purposefully stern TSA agent in the JetBlue terminal of the Boston's Logan International Airport posed that question after I used my Apple Watch as a boarding pass and moved through security on the way to a wearable technology conference in San Francisco.
I considered the question for a moment, showed a hint of smile and said simply, "Yeah, it is," even though the nit-picky editor in me wanted to inform the gentlemen that it's an Apple Watch, not an iWatch. Had I chosen to correct the agent — it's never a good idea to correct a man in uniform, by the way — my efforts would have been futile. For better or worse, the Apple Watch is still the iWatch to lots of people, thanks in no small part to the seemingly endless deluge of "iWatch rumor" stories that led up to Apple's official announcement last fall.
The TSA example is just one of many instances during the past week in which I watched complete strangers refer to the Apple Watch as the iWatch. The second incident occurred on the same day, inside an infamous beer bar in San Francisco's Lower Haight neighborhood, called Toronado. The surly, tattooed bartender was showing his Apple Watch to another patron, and I overheard the barfly refer to it multiple times as an iWatch. (The bartender didn't correct him either.)
A couple of days later, I called Capital One customer service to activate Apple Pay on my Watch. After I successfully answered a handful of security questions and verified my identity, the bubbly female representative said, "Congratulations on your iWatch! Enjoy using Apple Pay."
At the Wearable World Congress event, the Apple Watch was front and center, and guess what? More than a few attendees unconsciously referred to the smartwatch as the iWatch.
In other words, Apple appears to have a slight branding issue.
If the company had its way, the Apple Watch might have been the next great iProduct, falling in line with the iMac, iBook, iTunes, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Apple even filed for trademark on the name "iWatch" in a number of countries, including Columbia, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Taiwan and Turkey, according to 9to5Mac.com.
Other entities have attempted to trademark the term in the United States and Europe during the past years, according to CNBC, and Swiss watchmaker Swatch, initiated a few different legal filings to block the use of the name iWatch, which it says is too similar to its trademarked "iSwatch" name.
Apple is a marketing and branding juggernaut. It puts just as much energy and attention to detail into the way it presents its products as it does designing them to function as seamlessly as possible. And its failure to secure and use the name iWatch seems like an unfortunate misstep for a marketing team that doesn't make many of them.
Of course, the fact that lots of folks are calling Apple's first smartwatch the iWatch, even though that is not its name, isn't really a big deal. The name won't significantly affect sales, and it also won't fix many of the software bugs spotted by early users. (My Apple Watch's fitness tracking features pale in comparison to my Fitbit, and in some cases don't work at all, for instance.)
Regardless, I can't remember the last time I saw a technology product on par with the Apple Watch so frequently "misidentified" in the market, and it's hard to believe Apple didn't see this branding confusion coming — or do something more to avoid it.