Find articles from my Blog Archive:

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Why I will be in the Q to purchase an Apple Watch

I’ve decided I’m getting an Apple Watch. My current watch has broken (no, really) and I’ve tried using my iPhone for several months as a timekeeping device, but it just doesn’t work for me. I hear the stories of millennials not having watches, but clearly I’m not one of them.

The way that things are designed and made are important to me. If I need something, I’ll often wait and prevaricate until the right thing comes along – rather than buy something quickly to “do a turn”. The world is full to the brim with badly designed and manufactured objects – they all depress me. When you find something that is just right, it’s an immense pleasure – like finding a rare jewel. So, for me, the sheer care that has goes into the Apple Watch manufacturing processes is very appealing. I have yet to see one in the flesh, but this looks like something that’s a bit special. And judging by the reactions of those who have actually touched one, I might be very right.

Most importantly, unlike the industries early attempts at smart watches, the Apple Watch isn’t a big black plastic macho hulk. I respect what Pebble did with their watch, but its physical design is just not something I would consider. I could make similar comments about most of the other competition – there are signs that the market is waking up, but most have a long way to go to match Apple’s attention to detail.

I appreciate that Apple offer two sizes for different sized wrists. I appreciate the variety of case metals and strap choices. And no, I’m not buying the rose gold version! It’ll be aluminium or stainless steel for me – I’ll make my choice when I get to see them in the flesh. And I’ll be choosing a strap material and colour to suit my personal style. Choosing an Apple Watch is more like tailoring than off-the-peg clothing.

I think the price is about right. If you’re an iPhone owner then the entry price of £299 is almost certainly less than you payed for your phone (if you bought sim-free like I did). It’s not cheap, but it is easily within reach for the target market. I’ve had two fitbits (one broke) – which is already 2/3 of the price of an Apple Watch. And an Apple Watch does much more than a fitbit, with a great deal more attention to style and design.

But what really fascinates me about the Apple Watch is its utility – what will I use it for? My dallying with fitbits fizzled out – I kept forgetting to charge it or put it on my wrist. I like the idea of a fitness band, but the single use nature of them means they aren’t central enough to my life for me to focus on. Can the Apple Watch become essential in the way that my iPone has?

I think the only way to make a device essential, and therefore train me to consistently wear it and remember to charge it, is for it to perform a multitude of important functions. Each on their own might not be enough to make it essential, but the combination does.

I can see the combination of Time, Health, Communication, Travel and Payment making this device essential in a similar way that my iPhone has become. Time will tell (no pun intended), of course, but I can see the utility.


I need a new watch to tell the time and Apple Watch does that. It has power-reserve mode, so even if the battery should be nearly depleted, it still works as a timepiece. Job done.


I want to track my activity with a device that does more than that. The Apple Watch does so, but also captures my heart-beat as well – which I find intriguing. Its haptic feedback engine can lightly tap me on the wrist when I’ve been sitting for too long – nothing dramatic, but something useful (maybe a good excuse to force in break in long business meetings that are running on). It does what my fitbit did, but it does more.

New forms of Communications

This is the one that completely fascinates me. The Watch includes entirely new ways to communicate without words. The ability to send my heart-beat to another, to sketch messages that are drawn on another’s watch, or to send a walkie-talkie style voice memo – these are all novel forms of communication.

I can tap a code on my watch that the haptic feedback engine then uses to silently tap against my friend’s wrist. The haptic tapping is truly silent and discrete - in a way that “silent buzzing” mode on a phone is not. I can think of so many meetings that are going to be made better by the ability to silently communicate amongst attendees: “three taps means this presenter is boring, lets find an excuse to get out of here” ;-)
"If I'm at a party and a guy is being super creepy, I can double-tap it and that'll be like 'come and save me, right now'! Girl-code taken to the next level!". First reaction of a woman using an Apple Watch.
Or, as Mashable put it, “sharing your heartbeat over Apple Watch is the new sexting”. Maybe, maybe not – but it feels like these new, more intimate (what is more intimate that something next to your skin), forms of communication might be significant in a similar way that SMS was all those years ago.

One thing is for sure – I don’t think I’ll be using the Watch for either phone calls or emails. It can do both, but I’m just not interested in using it for either. For me, its ability to communicate in new ways is far more interesting than its ability to perpetuate existing forms of communication.


Many iPhone app developers are adopting their apps to present a simplified Watch interface. As an amateur app developer I can speak from personal experience that it is relatively easy to adapt an existing app. The Watch as an app platform is a guaranteed success, even before its launch, simply because there are so many developers and apps that can easily be adapted.

A couple of examples have already caught my attention. I often use Uber. When I do so I stand in the street, iPhone in hand, watching the progress of my Uber car on a map. Uber are a launch partner for the watch and their new app allows me to leave my phone in my pocket and view the map on my wrist – much preferable.

Trip Advisor is a very useful tool for finding places to visit. I’m not a fan of its mobile apps - they aren’t particularly well built and rely too heavily on reuse of existing web content to provide a truly excellent user experience. But, they are an Apple Watch launch partner - and you can’t reuse web content on the device, so it looks like we might be in for a treat with a genuinely useful travel advisor on our wrists ,with a native UI.

There will be many more examples – the ones that will catch on will be those that capture an “out and about” usage, where leaving your iPhone tucked away in a pocket is a valuable convenience. The sheer volume of Watch Apps we’re likely to see means I will have plenty of things to play with.

Apple Pay

You can use Apple Watch to Apple Pay. We don’t have Apple Pay in the UK yet, but all the indications are that it’ll be with us by the end of the year. Apple Pay features in the “out and about” usage category for me - I don’t particularly want to pull my iPhone out to pay, so the ability to extend my wrist looks interesting. I know this isn’t going to change my life and its hardly a hardship to fish in your pocket – but I suspect it’ll become so convenient we’ll wonder how we managed in the dark ages of wallets and pockets!

None of these uses is, on its own, a killer reason to own an Apple Watch. But, I can see their combination making the watch essential by sheer volume of different uses. Being essential means I might remember to charge it and to put it on my wrist – for me that will be a key test. If it’s only semi-useful then it’ll quickly fall into disuse, but I don’t think that will be the case.

Early anecdotal reports from those who have used the watch are fascinating:
“People that have worn the Watch say that they take their phones out of their pockets far, far less than they used to. A simple tap to reply or glance on the wrist or dictation is a massively different interaction model than pulling out an iPhone, unlocking it and being pulled into its merciless vortex of attention suck. One user told me that they nearly “stopped” using their phone during the day; they used to have it out and now they don’t, period.”
Adopting the Watch will be an experiment, in the same way that ownership of an iPhone was in the early days. Many people will hold off, sceptical of the newcomer, in the same way that they held onto their Blackberries and professed the essential nature of a physical keyboard. But I’m not sceptical, I’m excited in the same way that I was excited by my first iPhone. I was in the queue to purchase the iPhone 3G on launch day and never looked back. The watch is cheaper than that iPhone was and looks like its had an order-of-magnitude more love poured into its physical design and manufacture. Only time will tell if these guesses are correct – but I’m placing my bets on the Apple Watch being a significant inflection in the way that we use technology.

No comments :

Post a Comment