The Apple Watch’s greatest superpower

Jeremy Olson
Sep 10, 2014 · 3 min read

After twenty-four hours of reflection, I think I get it.

Why is the Apple Watch such a big deal? Well, there are tons of really neat things about the Apple Watch. It is personal. It is intimate. It knows your heartbeat. It tracks your steps. It empowers emotional communication.

But, in essence, what are we really looking at here? After adding everything together, what is the Apple Watch’s game-changing super power?

One word: habits.

The Apple Watch can change your habits unlike any device before it.


It’s a watch. It’s there all the time, just a glance away. Right now to do any digital activity, you need to pull your phone out of your pocket or purse, unlock it, and then go about your business. While those first two steps may only take a few seconds, those seconds can make a big difference when it comes to habits. They might just be the difference between you admitting to consuming the calories of that snickers bar or logging that fifteen minute break to your timesheet. Making those activities within arms reach at all times may be just what you need to develop those positive habits.

The constructive activities that were just inconvenient enough that we didn’t do them on the iPhone, become convenient enough with the Apple Watch.

Sensors. The Apple Watch knows more about you than any device before it. It knows where you are and can pretty easily decipher what you may be doing. Who knows what future apps might be able to derive from the change in your heartbeat? The point is, the Apple Watch is so personal that it probably has a pretty good idea of what your life is like and what your current habits are — crucial for helping you improve.

Effective nagging. The iPhone can nag but it nags in an generic, loud, and obtrusive way. Apple’s haptic feedback can tap your wrist at multiple speeds and intensities. This opens the door to differentiated notifications — notifications that you don’t have to look at to understand their meaning. You get one kind of tap when Apple’s Maps app wants you to turn left and another kind of tap when the app wants you to turn right. In the same way other apps can create unique notifications that stand out from the noise and tell you: “you need to do x now” or “remember, you are currently doing x, is x what you want to be doing?”

For example, my time tracking app Hours could have a unique tap that reminds people every so often that they have a timer running. This kind of notification would be useless on the iPhone because it would result in a lot of obnoxious buzzing that may or may not mean anything related to your time tracking.

Combine convenience, knowledge of your current habits, and effective nagging and you have a lean, mean, habit building machine. I believe the killer apps for the Apple Watch will be those that take advantage of this unique superpower to make you a better person.

The Apple Watch is a new frontier for consumers and developers and I can’t wait to see how we can use it to, in grandiose but nonetheless literal terms, change your life.

    Jeremy Olson

    Written by

    Designer at Coda. Formerly: Founder of Tapity - Grades (Apple Design Award), Languages (App Store Best of 2012) & Hours (acquired).

    Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
    Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
    Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade