Smartwatch, Dumb Idea: The Apple Watch
The Apple Watch is here! Has yours arrived yet? Mine hasn’t, but that’s because I haven’t purchased one. I wanted to be impressed by the Apple Watch, I feel like it was made for me. I’m one of the few people I know in my age group that still wears a wristwatch. I love mechanical watches. They are beautiful, intricate, and extremely personal. As a life long tech nerd, I am always searching for ways technology can enhance my daily life. Wearables was set to be the next frontier for tech but no one has done a great job at showing us how. There is incredible functionality on display in ResearchKit, and props to Apple for making it open source, but I can access most of it on the phone. The narrative that Apple has been in decline post Steve’s death is one I’ve never got behind. The evidence to back up the claim was always sketchy and I thought it was a irresponsible way to paint the company.
The Apple Watch, however, represents the first signs of an unsure Apple (the car chatter does too, but you know… rumors). When I look at the Apple Watch I see a “me too” device. This is Apple leaning solely on their brand name and impeccable design and engineering chops to sell us a device it doesn’t seem sure it can convince us we want. Many have lamented the way you interact with the device. I’m not so hung up on that and it seems that after spending some time with it, the people who shouted the loudest about it, aren’t either. It may not be the most intuitive device in Apple’s history but it’s not rocket science, people will figure it out.
What I am hung up on is how ordinary it is from a functionality standpoint. There is nothing the Apple Watch does, outside of a few gimmicky drawing and heartbeat sending gags, that the competition cannot do. The design is better, sure, but that isn’t enough when the market isn’t certain that they need this kind of device in the first place. It doesn’t help that the Apple Watch is incredibly slow at doing the myriad of things it does.
Apple and Google claim they are solving an epidemic present in the smart phone age. People are always pulling their phones out of their pockets to check them. By putting notifications and quick actions on your wrist they lessen the incentive to pull your phone out. The problem is that’s not the actual problem. The problem, which they don’t want to solve and perhaps can’t solve, is with the desire to pull your phone out. It doesn’t take me very long to remove my iPhone 6 from my pocket—perhaps that’s not the case for you crazies who wield that 6 Plus monstrosity. I can whip my phone out in about 1.5 seconds. I can swing my wrist to my face in a quarter of that time. Sure that’s an improvement, but now I’m just looking at my wrist like a bozo all day. The act of looking at your wrist during conversation is historically insulting. “Oh, I’m sorry. Am I boring you?” The best thing Apple has ever done to combat the real problem with smartphones was create the Do Not Disturb feature. The second I go into a meeting or date I stick my phone in Do Not Disturb mode. It’s a fantastic way of focusing your attention on the now.
I’ll say a few words on the gold Apple Watch Edition model. It’s a joke. The problem with calling the Apple Watch a luxury item is that its value is not tied to its creation or timelessness but its functionality. Its functionality is the same regardless of which model you buy and that’s sure to be iterated on yearly. It’s not an heirloom item. It’s not handcrafted by some old bloke in Switzerland who spent thousands of hours putting 495+ screws in the right spot. It isn’t riddled with gold or diamonds or really exclusive for that matter. It’s a bunch of chips in a fancy case and it will be a bunch of old chips in a slightly older fancy case next year. You don’t get to call yourself a luxury watch by dipping your semiconductors in gold and charging $9,000 more for it. The pricing overall for the Apple Watch isn’t tremendously egregious but it is problematic. It is the most expensive non-essential accessory in the world of tech. You can easily spend $1,000 dollars, which is more than the most expensive iPad, for a device that doesn’t do half as much. It’s a bit of an arrogant proposition. The Apple Watch is only a little bit more than Google Glass was. It’s not as obnoxious because it doesn’t live on your face. It solves some of the same issues that Glass did, just not the important one, and that’s kind of a shame.
Here’s a video review courtesy of the best tech site in the world, The Verge.
Originally published at www.blog.romanmf.com on March 10, 2015.