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Apple beats buy joins tech and street-wise style




By BARBARA ORTUTAY

NEW YORK (AP) - Beats Electronics' colorful, oversized headphones serve as a fashion accessory to cool kids riding the New York City subway, but as tech companies such as Apple, Samsung and others are discovering, wearable gadgets like smartwatches and Google Glass still have a long way to go to become trendy, must-have consumer items.

Apple's $3 billion purchase of Beats Electronics, by far the company's largest acquisition, is at least in part recognition that Beats founders Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine might be able to help Apple incorporate more style and flair into its premium technology gadgets -especially a coming wave of wearable devices.

Technology companies see wearables as an important area of growth beyond smartphones and tablets, and many are slowly realizing that if they expect people to wear gadgets -be they bracelets to monitor fitness activity, smartwatches to substitute smartphones or Internet-connected goggles- those devices must focus as much on form as function.

So far, the most noteworthy wearables have hardly been stylish. The standard Google Glass product looks more like something out of Star Trek than a fashion accessory. Fitness bands meant to be worn 24 hours a day are difficult to match with evening gowns or even a suit and tie.

"I guess they are accessories, but I would not say they are high fashion," says Alison Minton, a blogger who writes about accessories, jewelry and handbags on accessorygeneration.com. "There's a ways to go before they could be considered high fashion in the way Chanel would be, or Prada."

To change that, tech companies are beginning to attract top talent from the world of fashion. Apple's move comes less than a year after the iPhone and iPad inventor hired Angela Ahrendts, a respected executive who helped mold Burberry into the popular luxury brand it is today. In recent weeks, Google lured fashion and marketing executive Ivy Ross, who's worked for Calvin Klein, the Gap and Coach, to head its Google Glass unit.

"With your help, I look forward to answering the seemingly simple, but truly audacious questions Glass poses: Can technology be something that frees us up and keeps us in the moment, rather than taking us out of it? Can it help us look up and out at the world around us, and the people who share it with us?" wrote Rossin a Google Plus post.

For Ahrendts, Apple is already a luxury brand. Three years before she was hired at Apple last fall, she signaled her admiration for Apple in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

"I don't look at Gucci or Chanel or anyone," Ahrendts told the newspaper in 2010. "If I look to any company as a model, it's Apple. They're a brilliant design company working to create a lifestyle, and that's the way I see us."

To be sure, Apple has long been a trendsetter when it comes to producing elegant gadgets. Jony Ive, who designed the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Apple's newest mobile software system iOS7, still serves as the company's chief style visionary. But Dr. Dre and Iovine have created wildly popular headphones that young hipsters, celebrities and professional athletes adorn themselves with -even when they're not listening to music. Dre and Iovine's input will be highly valued as Apple looks to introduce its next breakthrough device.

The cultural coming-together of geeks and fashionistas is happening slowly, says Michael Londrigan, dean of academic affairs at LIM College, a fashion school in New York City. Apple's hiring of Ahrendts, he adds, "was really the start of it."

"Overall, the goal is to marry the function with the fashion, creating a wearable technology that is sort of seamless."

Indeed, the bulky nature of many wearable gadgets is what stops many people from considering them, says Minton. To her, fitness bands are reminiscent of "gigantic, oversized watches they had when I was a kid." You know, the ones with the calculator built in.

"It doesn't look like something an adult would really wear. It's functional, but when you care about fashion it's not always about function, it's more about the look," she says.

Besides the need for sleek, unobtrusive design that can be worn with a T-shirt as well as with a three-piece suit, wearable technology also faces a material challenge.

"Fitness bands are basically rubber. That's hard to appeal to fashionistas," Minton says. "That's not really a sexy kind of material."

So what's going to nudge tech companies further into the fashion world? Minton suggests partnering with well-established fashion houses such as Stella McCartney or, yes, Burberry, on limited edition collections.

"You may not need a fitness band, but if it is in Burberry plaid, you would wear it," she says. Especially if only 1,000 are made.

Join the discussion

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happy2bgridfree June 01 2014 at 12:56 PM

I see someone wearing those things, the first thing that goes through my head is, "Omg, what a horse's arse."

Flag Reply +11 rate up
Sean Johannson June 01 2014 at 11:52 AM

crappy headphones for listening to crappy rap music !!!

Flag Reply +11 rate up
2 replies
angelnightblade Sean Johannson June 01 2014 at 4:17 PM

As opposed to crappy headphones for listening to crappy west/country music?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
3 replies
Cathy Sapp Sean Johannson June 01 2014 at 9:40 PM

Not complete crappy, these are professional quality headphones which are used by DJ's on the radio through out the country.....I myself used them in my job.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
mbne26 Cathy Sapp June 02 2014 at 2:56 AM

beats headphones are over priced garbage with way to much bass. they sound like trash. i have yet to find a pair of beats worth giving up my cheap $9 jvc earbuds.

Flag 0 rate up
traveler2001 June 01 2014 at 11:46 AM

beats are junk

Flag Reply +9 rate up
1 reply
pm0501 traveler2001 June 01 2014 at 1:26 PM

They come from the same Chinese slave labor factories as Sony, Koss and Bose. It's just a name connected to a famous rapper. Nothing special about Beats!

How many kids have been shot or beaten to death over their Beats headsets? Makes ya think doesn't it!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
mad_dawg_1 June 01 2014 at 1:37 PM

I would never buy any thing from a thug rapper. Just another stupid move by apple

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
ilovestevetindle mad_dawg_1 June 01 2014 at 9:59 PM

ITS THE NAME.ROFLMAO THE RAPPER DIDNT MAKE THEM.ROFLMAO ROFLMAO OMG OMG i cant help but laugh

Flag Reply 0 rate up
afreakaman June 01 2014 at 1:50 PM

Style and Sound Quality are, of course, two different animals--as the success of Beats prove;........ to many,... style is more important. Beats are waayyyyy overpriced too!!

Flag Reply +6 rate up
bankfive June 01 2014 at 5:36 PM

No money for rent

But they can convert Food stamps for Beats ....Welcome to America

Why is this guy in the picture shopping for Beats in the middle of the day instead of working?

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
mbne26 bankfive June 02 2014 at 2:59 AM

you have no idea what time that picture was taken, and you have no clue what his job situation is so quit being a stupid redneck.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
ddiribbons June 01 2014 at 5:44 PM

Notice the dredlocks on the black guy in the photo. They let them grow into greasy, bug-infested, filthy heads.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Odens Fist June 01 2014 at 12:59 PM

Those headsets are complete junk... And anyone dressing up in Hot Air balloon colors and pants hangin off of their keysters, is an uncouth FOOL..!! Pull your pants up, throw away those ridiculous clown shoes, and get a job..!! "SLAP"

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
angelnightblade Odens Fist June 01 2014 at 4:17 PM

White racist alert!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
5 replies
billynglen June 01 2014 at 12:49 PM

Crap headphone so people will know what a douchebag you are.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
kellymeadows.kelly June 01 2014 at 3:58 PM

beat are a waist of money and all the quality your getting is[ leather/pleather, plastic, foam, wiring, and the ability to hear bad rapping/bad words/bad grammar/bad life choices] which all adds up to bad quality.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
iconkestrell kellymeadows.kelly June 01 2014 at 4:17 PM

Waste?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
mbne26 kellymeadows.kelly June 02 2014 at 3:02 AM

yes the headphones suck. just because you don't like rap doesn't mean it sucks. let me guess adult contemporary?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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