Random musings on the Apple Watch

I’ve now been wearing an Apple Watch for almost a month. While there are a ton of things both Apple and developers can improve upon, I must admit, really like my watch. It has already become an integral part of my daily life. Here are a bunch of random thoughts from the last 4 weeks of having a computer strapped to my wrist.

I’d say that I look at my phone about 40% less than I used to before I had the watch. I see this as a big benefit, especially given I have a bulky iPhone 6 Plus. My total time using my phone has probably only decreased by about 20% since the watch hasn’t affected my longer usage activities like writing emails. That said, not digging my phone out for those quick checks to see when my next meeting is or to see who messaged me is really convenient.

There are 5 major interface types: notifications, faces, glances, apps and Siri. I’ll describe my experience with each in relative order of usefulness.

Notifications are hugely valuable…or rather they have amazing potential as most apps aren’t properly utilizing them. When done right, properly timed bits of information are pushed to the user. An alert that a meeting will begin in 10 minutes or that my Uber is arriving are examples of useful notifications. The number of apps I allow to push info to me is much smaller than on the phone, but each push is much more powerful as I almost always look at it. I’d like to see more apps offer simple options of how to quickly act on the notification. For example when the Uber app pushes a notification that my Uber has arrived, it could give an option to reply that “I’ll be right there”. Apps that do notifications really well will be rewarded with very high user engagement.

Faces are also very valuable. They show important information to the user on the watch face such as time, temperature, stock price or activity level. A high percentage of my proactive usage (as opposed to my reactive usage to notifications) is with the apps I keep on my watch face. I generally use the modular face during the week because it offers the most sources of information, and switch to a more classic face during the weekends to allow myself to disconnect. Not only do I glance at the available info but I often click on them to get more info. For example clicking on the temperature to see the forecast for that day is extremely useful and convenient when planning for my day. One of the main things I’d like to see from Apple is the ability to add sources of data beyond the 12 Apple built options. This will give developers an extremely powerful ability to be front and center to the user all the time. Getting on the watch face will be like being on a user’s home page bottom tray — they are the services you use repeatedly throughout the day.

Most of my remaining 10% of interactions are with glances. These are the apps the user can have shown when the user swipes down on the watch face. I currently have 9 apps in my glances. They’re generally apps that provide useful information without having to pull my phone out of my pocket. Its kind of analogous to apps you keep on your home page, but not in the bottom tray of your iPhone. Too many more than 9 and it will become too cumbersome to access the needed glance as I’d have to swipe back and forth quite a bit to get to the right one.

Finally there are apps. By that I mean the group of app icons that are shown when clicking the crown. Anything on the watch that can’t be accessed in the time it takes to pull your phone out of your pocket is pretty much useless. Therefore apps are pretty much useless since its pretty hard to find the app you’re looking for and even harder to click on the tiny circular icon.

Siri has a ton of potential but I really haven’t used it much yet. In my few attempts it has failed pretty badly. There seems to be an issue with accessing my iPhone contacts so dictating messages doesn’t work at all — which should be the killer use case of Siri for the watch. Back at my days at Vlingo we used to salivate about how useful Vlingo would be on a connected watch given the extreme difficulty of stuff like typing. It will be interesting to see if Siri is able to capitalize on this opportunity to become a really prevalent interface.

The last month has solidified my belief that the Apple Watch and subsequently well done Android watches will be a very powerful tool for apps and services to connect with users. I think there will be limited watch only services, but rather the watch will offer some services the ability to reach beyond the phone and better serve their user. At Eniac we’re looking at a number of companies building platforms that are optimized for or at least heavily utilize the watch. I expect you’ll see us making some investments in this market in the coming year.

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