Critics have charged that it's ugly, expensive and useless, but the musician says he's got a vision and he's sticking to it.
It has been called garish, ugly and doomed but the musician Will.i.am thinks fashionistas will persuade Americans to love his $475 iPhone camera accessory.
The Black Eyed Peas star is preparing to launch his i.am+ foto.sosho iPhone cases, which are worn around the neck, in the US despite scornful response since they debuted in Britain.
The 37-year-old rapper, who doubles up as a technology entrepreneur, said he had anticipated a major new trend – the marriage of technology and fashion – and that critics were out of touch.
“The people who are saying that are the ones who don’t influence culture. The influencers say different,” he told the Guardian, speaking on the sidelines of the Macworld/iWorld show in San Francisco this week.
“You can’t worry about all tastes. You have to worry about the right tastes. And those right tastes influence those who are next in line to be influenced, creating a movement, an aesthetic, around wearable technology.”
Will.i.am’s i.am+ company launched the foto.sosho, its first iPhone accessory, in the UK last December, retailing exclusively at Selfridges in London. The device clips around the iPhone 4 and turns it into a high-powered camera. It has a keyboard, interchangeable lenses, a built-in flash, photo editing, filters and makes it easier to share and tag photos.
The C.4 model, which sells for £199 ($320), is black and relatively discreet. The white V.4 model, which sells for £299 ($475), has gold trim, a “vintage look” and vocal detractors.
“Looks like it was scraped off the bottom of Liberace’s shoe,” said CNET.
“Will.i.am showed up at Macworld today, and yep, he was wearing his stupidly expensive iPhone camera case that you will never want to own,” said the otherwise Apple-friendly blog cultofmac.com.
The rapper, who is passionate about technology’s power to transform lives, said the first batch of 2,000 cases which went on sale at Selfridges just before Christmas did “fairly well” but did not offer figures. “We weren’t looking for a home run. The home run was getting it into stores. And so by that, we did fantastic.”
His company is working on versions for the iPhone 5 which will go on sale in the US by summer. “I’m really looking forward to the 5. And then our iPad mini one will be out Christmas this year.”
He said critics of the device – he sported the bling version during the interview – were too square to appreciate it. “Now you go to fashion week, and fashion week folk are, wow, I want that. Can you make that in alligator skin?”
The plan was to “seed it to the right cultural influencers” in the same way the makers of Beats headphones confounded sceptics. “People said those won’t catch on, they’re too big. Boy were they wrong.”