As everyone must know, Apple announced their new wearable, the Apple Watch (which I keep calling an “iWatch”, which I gather is not its name).
They are said to run $300 and up (“There’s an Apple Watch for everyone”, at least for everyone with money to burn.) Bear in mind that it talks to your iPhone or other device, so this is an expensive peripheral for your other (expensive) Apple mobile device.
I haven’t seen one in person, but that won’t prevent me from commenting.
I have consistently wondered what wearables are for. So, what does Apple—the king of user centered design—think they are for? Besides extracting more money from the saps. The advertising and materials are actually not that clear on this point.
The multiple variations wrap the functions in different looks: ugly fitness tracker look, manly chronometer look, geeky app icons look, and so on. I didn’t see anything that looks particularly chic or “girly”, but what do I know?
Inside are a pretty standard bunch of apps which are already available on your phone. The main value added appears to be that it is on your wrist, and therefore “intimate” and “physical”.
“Apple Watch makes all the ways you’re used to communicating more convenient. And because it sits right on your wrist, it can add a physical dimension to alerts and notifications. For example, you’ll feel a gentle tap with each incoming message. Apple Watch also lets you connect with your favorite people in fun, spontaneous ways — like sending a tap, a sketch, or even your heartbeat.”
The last feature there is illustrated showing that you and your honey can pair up your watches to send private little love taps and kissy heart messages to the watch screen.
I’m not alone in wondering what this is for. Farhad Manjoo write for the NYT, “Apple Watch Displays Your Digital World, at a Glance”, suggesting what the main concept is. Well, not my world, of course, but I’m a stodgy old-style human whose world is mainly offline. But Manjoo’s comments go on to indicate that the device looks OK, but does nothing particularly exciting.
“[T]he watch will allow you to interact with the digital world at a glance, in a less outwardly antisocial way than you now do with your phone.” Which, as he says, is “hardly liberating”. And “[s]hould you really spend hundreds of dollars, let alone thousands, on a gadget to free you from the inconvenience of accessing your $650 smartphone?”
Kyle VanHemert writes at Wired.com a similar comment, emphatically wondering, “Why Does the Apple Watch Exist? Who Knows”. The watch is nearly useless for many purposes, except to let you receive notifications without looking at your phone, and knowing when you really need to get out your phone.
He comments that the aforementioned “less antisocial” and less distracting notification “could be a killer app”. Which, he points out, would be difficult for Apple—a prime purveyor of attention sucking devices—to openly sell.
I’m not enthusiastic about this or any other phone-tethered watch. Bear in mind that I stopped wearing a watch on my wrist long before I even had a mobile phone—it was just too annoying. And once my mobile device had a clock readout, I stopped using a watch at all. So asking me to go back to the bad old days of my youth, when I had this darn, ugly, uncomfortable, thing on my wrist, is a hard sell.
I shall probable wait for the real wearables, tattoos, stickers, and built into clothing.
But let’s watch to see if Apple can figure out what the Watch is for.