Cable In Disguise

By Low Teck Mee

It’s amazing how frequently devices and peripherals are now given a touch of fashion. I’m not talking about the odd iPhone case made more desirable when marketed as designer product. Or the digital bits and pieces given the tech colour of the season (don’t you remember “rose gold”?). I’m talking about those that are rightfully a fashion item, such as this Kyte and Key bracelet, under which lies a very useful charging and data cable.

The question I am hearing now is, don’t we already carry such a cable? Of course we do. Most portable devices that we buy come with an OEM cable—on one end, either a lightning or micro-USB connector, but, in practice and everyday life, do we remember to bring it along when we are not at home or in the office?

A friend of mine has a forgetful boyfriend (their relationship is, thankfully, not quite 50 First Dates). When not desk-bound, he carries along without fail a portable battery charger in his scruffy Eastpak messenger, but somehow, the charging cable is prone to be left behind. Kevin McCallister will know what that feels like. To make matters a little perplexing for my friend, her lover’s smartphone is an iPhone 4s with an equally aged 1,432 mAh battery that goes flat faster than a can of Coke. Since the battery charger and the cable are frequently not a twosome, he often finds himself with the former, but not the latter. Until she decided that he has to find away to strap the cord on a part of his body. That’s where the Kyte and Key wrist wear comes into the picture: she bought him one.

Kyte & Key Cablet

Kyte and Key is known as a maker of “luxury” connectivity units posing as fashion accessories that easily become your personal devices’ BFF. Fashioning cables as wearables is, of course, not a new idea. If you go to Sim Lim Square, where it is not quite the PC and cellular haven it once was, you’ll be able to find all manner of USB and lightning cables that are in the form of bracelets (bangles even!) and key holders and such. Many of these look more suited to sit among your daughter’s play things than to peak from under your sleeve during a board meeting.

These days, many of our gadgets are no more single-purpose devices (when was the last time you used your phone to make a phone call?). It is, therefore, not unexpected that our connecting and charging implements (already dual use there) serve more than what they have come to be used for. And since USB OTG (or by the full name, universal serial bus on the go) has become a mobile standard, allowing your smartphone (or other digital devices) to ‘talk’ to each other, you can basically add peripherals to it, such as a card reader or fan. The cable is more necessary to our digital lives than before.

This cable-ID bracelet, which Kyte and Key calls a “cablet” not only looks, but feels like a premium product. The cable is concealed within a braided leather bracelet and the connectors are hidden under the ‘hood’ designed as a quick-to-open hatch. I’m impressed that they have even bothered to acquire MFI certification for the lightning version. As a luxury item, the cablet comes with a carry tray that slips out of the packaging like a drawer. This tray, which looks like something you might find at Hermès, is also ideal for those stuff you also tend to lose when not assigned proper storage: more cables, memory cards, USB drives, cufflinks, or earrings.

Founded by Antonio Bertone, former chief marketing officer of Puma, in 2013, Kyte and Key alludes to the experiment that scientist/statesman Benjamin Franklin purportedly conducted in 1752 to understand the nature of lightning. The makers of the cablet may not have struck on power that can change the world, but they sure have created some very handsome and useful things indeed.

Kyte and Key Cavoletto Cablet for iOs and Android devices, from SGD19.90, is available at Robinsons and Tangs. Photos: Kyte and Key

Apple Is Inspired By The Hongbao

iPhone 7 and iphone 7 PlusWhy did we not see this coming? A hongbao red of an iPhone. If only Apple released it earlier, parents who dote on their children would be able to give them this during Chinese New Year in place of the traditional red packet. That would make some kid’s CNY a very happy one indeed.

But this is no ordinary red. Or Valentino Red! This is a red with metals in it. Apple has partnered with the (Product)RED campaign, to offer this colour, presumably for a limited time and in limited quantity. For those of you who can’t remember this, (RED) is an AIDS awareness initiative started in 2006 to engage the private sector to raise funds for the battle against HIV/AIDS in Africa. Apart from Apple, some of the initial partners included Nike, Gap, Penguin Classics, and Armani. For Apple, this is the tenth year of their partnership with (RED) and the right time to release a red iPhone.

Red themed App StoreThe red App Store for World AIDS Day last December

In fact, this could be seen as a continuation of sorts for Apple since they did team up with (RED) for a red App Store last year. It was conceived for World AIDS day on the first of December. Could that be a test to see how users would react to a red interface over which red-themed apps were available? With the red iPhone now a reality, it is conceivable that was well received. What Apple product or service won’t be?

This could be one of the boldest colour offerings by Apple, but, to be sure, they’re not the first to adopt the colour of, well, (ripe) apple. Like much of what Apple avails, other brands were ahead, such as succumbing to scarlet: HTC and Nokia Lumia, just to name a couple.

Apple’s last colour choice was the jet black finish for iPhone 7 after the wildly successful rose gold option for iPhone 6S, which itself came after the oddly un-hip candy colours of the 5C. With changes in each version of the iPhone so undramatic (underwhelming even), chromatic leaps are probably the only area where Apple can offer a bold, visible change. Apple’s products are still so covetable, so would this new shade attract, rather than deter, would-be thieves?

The (Product)RED iPhone 7, SGD1,218 or iPhone 7 Plus, SGD1,418, will be available at Apple resellers such as Nubox from 24 March. Photo: Apple

This Pink’s The Thing

Pink PowerFrom top left: Samsung Fast Charge Batter Pack 5200mAh, Apple Watch Edition 38mm 18-karat rose gold case with rose gray modern buckle, Garmin Vivofit 2 with rose gold band, iPhone 6S, Samsung Galaxy Gear Smartwatch, Ray-Ban Round Metal Flash Lenses, and Adam Elements 256GB iKlips Lightning USB3.0 dual-interface flash drive

By Low Teck Mee

Please don’t say pink is the new black. It isn’t. I’ll take orange for my black; just don’t make me think pink. Well, not the pink Apple is trying to pass off as ‘Rose Gold’. A pink in any other name is still pink even in a hue that’s not quite easy on the eye at first glance. Thanks to the Cupertino company, much of the tech world is now enamoured with this shade of diluted air bandung. Even fashion accessories cannot escape the grip of this weak colour. And men are taking a shine to it as if life will be rosier with it.

I really don’t get iPhone 6S and the Plus version that are stained in that misleading, if not trying, ‘Rose Gold’. I was, frankly quite shocked when I first saw it at Nubox months ago. I asked the eager-to-sell-me-this-pink (!) sales guy what he thought of it and he smugly answered with a question: “Do you know it is the most popular colour now?” Or course I did not know. Who would have guessed that the chromatic love child of gold ingot and png kueh could find so many admirers?

Know I came to when I started seeing USB drives, USB data/charging cables, USB car chargers, portable hard drives, mini speakers and so many more I cannot now remember in that colour that makes me weep. And then there’s Ray-Ban’s Round Metal—a style I truly like—looking at me as if it had emerged from the wrong vat of dye. Poor thing. Ray-Ban’s eyewear has always been associated with a certain machismo. You can’t get manlier than a pair of aviator. Yet, here we have a pair of sunglasses eager to be part of Apple’s epicene ecosystem!

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t subscribe to colours as determinant of gender identity. I don’t dislike pink; I equate it with a shade of subtle pleasure: strawberry milkshake, cotton candy, cherry blossoms, and albino dolphins. I don’t connect it to the back of what’s considered the world’s best-selling smartphone. Pink is a nice colour for clothes—Chanel does some pleasing pinks, so does Raf Simons. Pink’s good for sneakers, too—even Nike’s Air Max 90, a hunk of a shoe, comes in pink (regrettably, Asics Gel Lyte 3 has released, gasp, a ‘Rose Gold Pack’!). But this pink, the metallic pink that’s oddly on the cloying side, this pink that’s neither Champagne nor Zinfadel; this is, to me, a poor pink.

‘Tis the season of giving: some hapless chap is going to be stuck with a thing in this pink.

Will The Strap Make The Difference?

Apple Watch Hermes Strap

Apple has just announced new products, but, as usual, there are few gadgets that one can truly be excited about. Apple’s not-so-big reveal in the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in downtown San Francisco yesterday (US west coast time), may thrill the die-hards, but for the rest of us, life goes on, unchanged. Apple has not produced anything earth-shattering for so long that the hopeful have long parked their money elsewhere for excitement. Kanye West would be running for president of the United States of America, and Apple would be releasing iPhone 9, and the device still wouldn’t teleport you to the moon.

Yet, we’d like to sieve through the offerings to see what could make it to the fashion hall of fame… or the lame. We found it not quite at the top of the pile—the iPad Pro took the spot. The new Apple Watch Hermès that was announced didn’t quite cause the heart to skip a bit. Since the launch of the Apple Watch, the company has been courting the high fashion fraternity for staff, ideas, and support. Suzy Menkes excitedly IG-ed the watch moments after its reveal; she even wondered if it is “born from the meeting of Jony Ive and Axel Dumas at our Conde Nast Luxury Conference in Florence in April”, an event Ms Menkes hosted. While it is not surprising that Apple would collaborate with Hermès (actually, we had thought it would pick Coach!), it does not negate the fact that they’re a latecomer to high-profile pairings.

Apple Watch Hermes with diff straps

The first thing that impressed us was how similar the watch is to Hermès’s own Cape Cod series. The strap is clearly Hermès, especially in that leather, in that colour, with that top stitch. It is vaguely equestrian, too. Like watches offered by Hermès, it comes with straps in versions that you can twirl round the wrist or snap on as a wide band around it: the Single Tour, Double Tour, and the Cuff, all telling of what the style of straps they are. Wearables score better with consumers if they have the style cred of an elegant, luxurious fashion accessory. Or, in the case of the Double Tour, a distinguished provenance traced to one of Hermès’s earliest designers, Martin Margiela. Apple is not in the dark about that.

The target market, too, is clear: whichever that causes the unrelenting spike in Birkin sales. It is, thus, not unimaginable that Apple envisions attendees of Birkin auctions sporting the Apple Watch Hermès on their dainty wrists. Win the acceptance of the rich, and the rest will follow.

But does a strap really transform the desirability of this smartwatch? At its core, the Apple Watch, even with a luxury strap, hasn’t changed. You could use a new face with the Hermès logo on it, but that doesn’t modify the heart of the timepiece, which still only pairs with an iPhone. The Watch OS2 is announced to be released next week. If you care about such things, chances are, straps are immaterial.

Apple Watch Hermès with silver face is expected to hit stores in Oct. The straps are not sold individually. Prices start from USD1,100 for the Single Tour. Photos: Apple

Nothing To Watch

Apple WatchApple Watch: Just two of the 34 combinations you can choose from

By Low Teck Mee

The Apple Watch is not a game changer. There, I’ve said it. Some people want to wait and see, but I’m happy to state it now. And it feels as good as the moment Apple finally announced the existence of the wrist-bound wearable: other people can breathe easily and with triumphant delight; I am just relieved that the phantom iWatch can finally have a grave (possibly in the iCloud among nude photos of movie stars) and that many of you can put an end to years of mindless speculation.

Oh, this is not to knock the many ecstatic fans who cheered so loudly when Tim Cook teased on stage with “one more thing” that you’d have thought everyone was given a free trip to the moon. When the Apple Watch was finally revealed, it was a standing ovation inside Cupertino’s Flint Center for Performing Arts—a temporary church to the cult of the fruit that was once a pome of temptation at the beginning of time. No, this is to join everyone else in delighting in Apple’s big reveal.

Apple Watch on the wristThe Apple Watch on a wrist as seen in

But it’s no revelation that Apple is late jumping onto the already crowded smart watch bandwagon. Then again, Apple isn’t exactly a forerunner of mobile technology. As with the iPhone 6’s (and iPhone Plus’s) bigger screens, the Apple Watch is really just joining the club, which is fine since the club doors were never closed. But is this fashionably late?

Apple sure knows it needs to get into the kid leather-bound good books of fashion folk. In Cupertino, fashion editors were in attendance even when New York Fashion Week hasn’t ended. Vogue stalwarts such as Franca Sozzani and Emmanuelle Alt showed up, so did unlikely watchers Gwen Stefani and Liberty Ross. Elsewhere, Instyle’s Kelsey Glein considered it “well worth the wait” and “an object of beauty”. Mobile and tech news site BGR quoted colleague Eric Wilson as saying that the design is “generic in the sense of its flexibility and individualization.”’s Tim Blanks was clearly seduced: the Apple Watch is “where art, luxury, technology, and romance (he was taken by the gadget’s ability to send out heartbeats!) meet”. Vogue China’s Angelica Cheung tweeted, “Standing ovation for #apple #iWatch (sic)”. On the same medium, three and half hours before the Cupertino event, British Vogue’s Alexandra Shulman claimed she was “looking forward to a life-changing watch”, but did not say after that if her life was changed. She did later blog to say that the watch she saw earlier “practically makes thinking redundant and it’s got the fusion of cool design, likeable graphics and techno wizardry that we expect from Apple”. Self-confessed “non-digital specialist” Suzy Menkes opined, “From a fashion point of view, the external aesthetic seemed neutral: neither super-stylish nor repellent. I would imagine that geeks would love it more than aesthetes.” GQ took rah-rah-ing one step further by posting a “fashion spread” on its online version: the Apple Watch peeking from under suit-and-shirt sleeves, underscored by leather bracelets. It seemed only New York Times’s Vanessa Friedman was willing to go against the grain, pondering, “Does it rewrite the rules of our aesthetic expectations?” And her answer? A firm “no”.

Apple Watch GQGQ‘s super-quick reaction: a fashion spread on

To be honest, I have not seen the real thing. What I have seen is what most of you have seen: from what is being posted online and on Apple’s song-and-dance homepage, now appended with a new tab “Watch”, filled with eye-popping images of its latest Swiss army knife of a toy. One of the earliest visuals to appear on Instagram made me think: Nano reborn. Then I saw a video-demo of the home screen and I thought it was an attack of emoji, only to realise, quickly enough, it was a galaxy of widgets! Cute UI and a techie’s idea of elegant form factor may not be comfortable partners to a Dior suit or handles of a Chanel 2.55. I’m sure Apple thought of that. That’s why the Apple Watch itself is a tad better-looking than what its competitors put out not long before. That’s why they will be offering two watch sizes in three different cases (stainless steel, anodised aluminium, and 18-carat gold), as well as a slew of straps that will bring the total styles to a not unstaggering thirty four. That’s why in their marketing speak, they’re eager to assure that “there’s an Apple Watch for everyone”. The thing is, I don’t see Patek Philippe trying to please all and sundry.

Maybe I am looking at this wrongly. Maybe this shouldn’t be viewed as a fashion item, an accessory as vital to one’s image as a bag is. The bag houses our entire life, but these days, it’s likely the smart phone that’s storing our increasingly digitised existence. Apple Pay—the electronic payment system, also just announced—will before long render our wallets redundant, hence possibly our bags too. The Apple Watch is Apple Pay-enabled. Is Apple Watch then a viable mobile addition, replacing our smart phones altogether? Many people seem to think and hope so. I wonder what will happen if, as a result of the rise of Apple Watch, Louis Vuitton loses a sizeable part of their bag business. The mind boggles.

Apple Watch digital crownApple Watch’s navigational tool “digital crown” (right)

I am also amused by how so many reviewers were bowled over by Apple Watch’s “digital crown”—no doubt nifty and qualifies the device as a watch—when the idea is really not new. Back in the days when Sony was making hand phones without the Xperia branding, pre-Sony Ericsson, it had incorporated into some of its handsets a neat little feature called the “jog dial”. Especially memorable was the compact Music Cellular Phone CMD-MZ5, a handset that predated the iPhone. Unlike the “digital crown”, Sony’s “jog dial” was able to scroll up and down, rock forward and backward, and be pressed inward to execute commands. At that time, about 2000, the “jog dial” was awesome. Today, with touch-screen tech, the “digital crown” really isn’t grand.

That’s the thing about the Apple Watch: it’s a product conceived to meet our expectations, not exceed them. Sure, there are gimmicks galore, but will we need them to navigate a day in our mundane life? Some of the features may be useful, but most of them require third-party apps. What’s most exasperating for would-be smart watch owners not propped by iOS is that the Apple Watch won’t work without an iPhone. What good  is a button without a buttonhole?

Kindred Spirits: Tech and Fashion

Moschino X Samsung Note 3

Who was there first?

We know Apple hitched a ride on Burberry Prorsum’s SS2014 show in London, touting the iPhone 5S before its launch with a one-and-half-minute teaser and a 15-minute video captured on the handset. Christopher Bailey was quoted in an Apple press release: “This collaboration celebrates our relationship and shared foundation in design and craftsmanship. We have a mutual passion for creating beautiful products and unlocking emotive experiences through technology, which has made it intensely exciting to explore the capabilities of iPhone 5S.” I suppose it has nothing to do with the target audience such as Sienna Miller and Harry Styles sitting in the front row, or their millions of followers, or what’s trending.

The Burberry collection seen with an iPhone 5S

The Burberry collection seen with an iPhone 5S

But Apple was not the only tech giant to share the clout of some brands during fashion week. In a blog posted on Samsung Tomorrow, Samsung was in Milan “to help celebrate Moschino’s 30th anniversary this year “, showing off not just its soon-to-be-released Galaxy Note 3, but the Galaxy Gear as well. It is, of course, rather curious that a three-decade-old label should need the assistance of a hand phone maker ten years its junior. This, however, was not Samsung’s first fashion week appearance. In New York earlier, the phablet and watch appeared in Dana Lorenz’s Fallon runway that was essentially an accessory presentation.

It’s not hard to see that there’s something mutually beneficial here. Despite the massive unsolicited publicity hand-phone launches receive these days, fashionable is not an attribute that can be immediately dialled up. In the first quarter of last year, Samsung Electronics was crowned the world’s largest phone maker by unit sales, not surprising since its handsets, particularly the Galaxy series, have been all the rage. But popular does not necessarily mean cool, the one quality always associated with Apple. By hobnobbing with fashion labels during the most important days of the ready-to-wear calendar, Samsung could see the cool factor of its products inch up.

Similarly, while fashion may have become a global circus, as IHT’s Suzy Menkes so rightly pointed out recently, not many brands are as tech-savvy as the ever-streaming/posting Burberry. Moschino, not in the collective memory of the world’s fashionistas for a long time, could really reach out to a Tweeter-mad generation by showing smart phones alongside smart suits.

These tech giant are, in fact, a little slow to the game. Fashion has been a marketing medium for a while to non-clothing brands, especially drinks: Coke Light has ensnared Lagerfeld’s silhouette for its cans, Evian has allowed Lacroix to pattern its glass bottles, while Piper-Heidsieck Champagne’s opaque bouteilles wear Gaultier‘s corset and, this year, fishnet stockings. Despite the arguments against carbonated drinks, alcoholic or not, when designers are associated with them, imbibing them may, for a moment, not be harmful to health.

Although it is doubtful that there will be a co-branded Burberry iPhone or a Moschino Galaxy Note, these exercises in mutual admiration can only become more evident and frequent, and as persistent as celebrities in the front row.

Photos: Samsung Tomorrow, Burberry

S And C, Which Will It Be?

iPhone 5S & 5C

As the Chinese often say, good things come in pairs. Apple’s latest iPhone hopes to drive up the goodness quotient with two kindred versions: the 5S and the 5C. Pre-reveal rumours suggested that the former is the premium phone, while the latter is the cheaper one. In fashion-speak, the 5C could be the diffusion line, but Apple has not touted it as a budget buy. According to the US pricing, the difference between the two is about USD100. That does not make the 5C a cheap or entry-level phone, as some pundits had predicted. The 5S does not distance itself from the 5C by considerably more dollars. Both are not like Calvin Klein and cK. To me, they are more Prada and Miu Miu.

The iPhone 5S, like Prada, eschews re-defining the main line’s aesthetic DNA, opting, instead, to preserve its minimalist looks, adding to the selection only an extra colour—something precious no less: gold—to the silver (don’t we know it as white?) and the curiously named ‘space gray’ (don’t we know it as black?). The iPhone pedigree thus remains undiminished.

More intriguing is the 5C. Just as Miu Miu is Prada’s bold, defiant and louder sister, the 5C is 5S’s daring sibling with a valiantly teen spirit. As they are of kin, they are, naturally, identifiable, but they’re outfitted in different skins, or as Apple enthusiastically stated, “beautifully, unapologetically plastic”. The iPhone 5C takes to colour like the Sony Xperia Z1 takes to water. The five shades, apart from the white, do not look like they will be out of place in Toys R Us: green, blue, yellow, and pink, and they’re the green, blue, yellow, and pink of Fisher-Price toys rather than Candy Crush Saga!

iPhone 5C cases

It is clear to see that Apple wasn’t planning to make a bold design statement with these phones. The lack of newness may suggest a certain smugness: they know they’ve created something iconic, hence change is not required. If that is so, why offer cases for the iPhone 5C to create decorative interest for its rear? Equally colourful as the handsets that go with them, these silicon snap-ons look like soap dishes! The over-large perforation not only allows you to reveal the contrast colour (if you choose to) of the 5C, it brings about a cuter form factor, in a Yayoi Kusami sort of way.

Who’s going dotty over the 5C? It’ll be interesting to see.

Apple iPhone 5S and 5C will be available in Singapore on 20 September at authorised Apple dealers