back to article It's not always about you: Why the Apple Watch is all about China

If you’re wondering why you don’t want the new Apple Watch as much as you think you should, don’t fret, it’s because you’re not Chinese. When it was launched last month, all eyes were on what innovations Apple had been cooking up. Sure, a watch would likely tell you when someone was calling, or pop up your emails, but this is …

  1. Scott Earle

    Overgeneralisations much?

    "China, and much of Asia, do not use letters; vowels and consonants"?

    You do mean "China (and Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau) and Japan", don't you?

    The rest of Asia DOES use alphabets, or abugidas, or something that is consonant-vowel based. Even Korea (at least in the South - not sure about the North) uses an alphabet, even though it does not look like one to Western eyes. Also, India has LOADS of alphabets, and is almost as populous as China.

    1. SDoradus

      Re: Overgeneralisations much?

      He didn't say "most" of Asia. He said "much" of Asia. I understood him perfectly. And yes, the Japanese do use around four different systems of writing - including Hepburn romanization, for example, and two syllabaries. But they also use what amounts to Chinese ideographs (kanji). So there.

    2. SDoradus

      Re: Overgeneralisations much?

      I might add, Korean Hangul script manages to be both a syllabary and an alphabet at the same time. It's the invention of one of their better monarchs but one still occasionally sees Chinese script (hanja) even now.

  2. Scott Earle

    Also - Apple Watch Edition edition is gold plated?!?

    Where on Earth do you get your information from?

    The Edition edition (seriously?) is made OF GOLD. It's not gold plated. Apple's own website says as much. See here :

    Expect it to sell for at least ten times what you are guessing. Maybe twenty times.

    I'm going to stop talking to you - you haven't done ANY checking of the 'facts' in this 'story'.

  3. frank ly Silver badge

    Please explain

    "And that is how Chinese characters work – it is not the finished picture that relays the information but the individual strokes built on top of one another. Do the strokes in a different order and they mean something completely different."

    How do Chinese people read books and newspapers and e-mail and websites, if all they can see is the 'finished picture' with no information about the order in which the 'strokes' were made?

    1. Scott Earle

      Re: Please explain

      Don't try to think too hard about it. He's an idiot.

      1. El_Fev

        Re: Please explain

        You need to do some growing up, learn to talk to girls, lose your virginity etc etc.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Please explain

          @El Fev; "You need to do some growing up, learn to talk to girls, lose your virginity etc etc."

          Whatever one thinks of the OP's point, I don't really get the applicability of that response to it.

          Could it be that you're just parroting a stock put-down without really understanding where it does and doesn't work? This, ironically, would indicate *your* lack of life experience and suggests it's something you've had said to you on many occasions- a put-down you'd now like to use against others, but without "getting" it.

          To understand why it doesn't work here, you'll have to do some growing up, learn to talk to girls, lose your virginity etc etc. (Sorry, that was too easy... :-P )

    2. aBloke FromEarth

      Re: Please explain

      Stroke order does matter, but only for handwriting - there are a few reasons for it, such as making sure the character looks in proportion.

      Or, if you're finger-signing a character on the palm of your hand then if it starts with, say, a left-to-right line, then that immediately excludes the thousands of characters that don't start like that. If you get what I mean.

      But you're right, it doesn't matter for typed text at all.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Please explain

      Watch someone inputting Chinese characters on a touch screen.

      At the end of inputting a word, they have selected a complete character which may consist of 20 or so detailed strokes that would be a nightmare to draw completely, by just inputting maybe 5 strokes.

      The reason print characters are so complex is because it has to make up for not having the stroke order information.

      1. killban1971

        Re: Please explain

        "The reason print characters are so complex is because it has to make up for not having the stroke order information."

        Sorry, but I am calling you on this one.

        Stroke order is not required. It is what differentiates good handwritten Chinese from bad. There is no difference in the handwritten, typed or printed characters. The difference is the individual style of the writer, if the handwritten were different from printed, that would require learning two sets of characters. Spoken and written Chinese are subtly different, as there is less chance of contextual problems with written text.

    4. SDoradus

      Re: Please explain

      That's a good question and deserves an answer longer than I can give here, but he's not really wrong about stroke order being important to meaning.

      The overseas Chinese communities in Asia are still of huge economic importance, and they use traditional (not simplified) Chinese scripts in which stroke order is vital to the meaning of a new character as it's slotted into a learner's memory. And everyone in that mode of communication is constantly learning, and re-learning.

      Remember, you need about 8,000 ideographs in memory to make a stab at reading a newspaper; a cultivated and literate reader might be more or less familiar with up to a hundred thousand. Without the variation in stroke order it can be very easy to confuse how ideographs/logographs are built up from radicals and other subcharacters. The loss of information in certain printed scripts is a real issue.

      1. David Given

        Re: Please explain

        ...I do wonder sometimes how having a hundred thousand ideograms in your head affects your worldview. Because you'll start to see meaning in random noise in the environment; chances are a handful of sticks dropped on the floor will look enough like an ideogram you know to be readable. (Pretty sure there are forms of divination that do just that.)

        Even in English, I will occasionally find a word jumping into my head, and then a careful search of the environment will reveal the word written somewhere; my eye fell on it and I unconsciously read it.

        Of course, finding out is easy enough; all I need to do is to learn Mandarin and memorise a few tens of thousands of ideograms. Simple, really.

        1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

          Re: Please explain

          It's not that bad, IIRC there are only about 6,500 simplified and about twice as many traditional characters in typical computer systems. I also believe there are only about 50k unique characters in total but I've heard some claim it is closer to 80k. Even in China I think literacy is defined as knowing about 2,000 characters even though it would probably require knowing 3-4,000 characters to read a typical newspaper. I think to get into the tens of thousands of characters you'd need to find someone who is quite well educated.

    5. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Re: Please explain

      The reason a few strokes can identify a character is because many homophones look quite distinct from one another and a few strokes will clearly identify the difference. For instance the character for male is 男 which is pronounced nán and difficult, 難 (traditional, 难 simplified), is pronounced and intonated exactly the same way and may not necessarily be distinguishable from context. In comparison horse 馬 (马) and mom 媽 (妈) have the same pronunciation but differ in tone.

      Stroke order, generally top left to bottom right, is so you don't smudge the ink and your characters are clear. In calligraphy the customary brushes also produce a distinctive look to the stroke such as making it taper in a certain way and there is substantial value placed on the look of the characters.

      As for inputting text into computers and phones there are a myriad of methods including stroke input and handwriting recognition. I would think that merely observing someone wouldn't really tell you which method they were using. For a while I was using a handwriting recognition package that had a mode which accepted zhuyin.

    6. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: Please explain

      One way that stroke order does matter is in cursive styles of Chinese handwriting. If the strokes were made in a different order, because they're connected in those styles, the character would look completely different. Yes, the Chinese can read printed characters in which stroke order is not indicated, but they're very legible and well-formed.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Please explain

        @John Savard

        Yes but in that sense it's no different from any other cursive writing. In English the cursive stroke order is called spelling. Also the Chinese cursive is much more difficult to read somewhat like the cursive stylings of most medical doctors.

  4. Josco

    I found it interesting

    Regardless of some of the negative comments here, I found it an interesting story and it has furthered my minuscule understanding of Chinese people.


    1. Ribblethrop

      Re: I found it interesting

      Oh I see! A smartphone could never do this. /sarcasm

    2. Flatpackhamster

      Re: I found it interesting

      Well, quite. I wonder what it was about Friday morning that so upset some of the posters.

  5. ostr

    Maybe try confirm it with any actual Chinese person first?

    The meanings of each Chinese character is absolutely relayed on the finished picture, to comprehend it more accurately you then need relevant contexts, just like a normal English word on its own can mean different things.

    For the strokes, the geometric order of them is important because that basically decides the shape of the final image. But the writing order, as in the sequence of doing each stroke, means only different ways of people doodling that same Chinese character out.

    I don't know if I made myself clear - the idea is just the same in English. For example the English word 'ridiculous':

    The geometric order is where each letter should be in the word, such as 'S' should be at the end, 'L' should be at the left-hand side of 'O', change it, the meaning is different. And the writing order doesn't matter, write 'S' first or write 'D' first, as long as every letter is in the right place at the end, it is and means 'ridiculous', which is what I think of this article.

    And the rest of the crap that based on this in the article doesn't form a valid argument anymore. Also, I'm an authentic Chinese, and I'm still confused with that weird 'digital touch' thing.

  6. AppleGuyTom

    It's a medical device that tells time.

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