On Apple Watch — Thoughts before launch.


Since its initial unveiling in September 2014, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Apple Watch and how it will both fit into my life and how it could potentially change the way we interact with technology entirely. I’m going to try and put those thoughts here for your perusal.

(This is mostly because it’s difficult to fit all of this in tweets, but also because I’m sick and tired of repeating the same points again and again. This can now serve as a central point to forward people to when they ask for my thoughts on Apple Watch.)

Leave the iPhone in your pocket

Apple Watch is, first and foremost, an accessory for the iPhone you carry with you each and every day. It connects to the iPhone using Bluetooth and WiFi and a lot of the heavy lifting involved with app logic and computing will be done by the Ax processors in iPhones before being passed to the S1 in the Apple Watch to display the outcome.

Some have questioned this symbiosis, wondering why they would need both an Apple Watch and an iPhone. Some seem bemused that the Gen 1 Apple Watch isn’t replacing the iPhone entirely. I see the two working in tangent to deliver a couple of things.

Longer Battery Life

It takes a lot less power for an iPhone to run some app logic, send the result to the Apple Watch through Wifi or Bluetooth and then sleep, than it does for it to do all that same communication with a crisp Retina Display and bright backlight running at the same time.

It takes a lot less power for the Apple Watch to receive app logic and outcomes from the iPhone through WiFi and Bluetooth and display those on a power friendly OLED display, than it does to do all the calculations on its built-in processor.

When you mix these two things together, you have two devices both doing what they’re very good at. What would be limitations on their own (a large, power drawing screen and a small, power-sipping processor), work together to give you a benefit — longer battery life.

Fewer Interruptions and The Ephemeral Power of Quick Notifications

This point may sound counter-intuitive at first, but I don’t think it is. We all check our phones from time to time throughout the day. Whether we’re walking through the city and wondering what the time is, sat at our desks waiting for an important email, or we’re chatting with friends and checking for notifications between sentences.

Each time we currently check our phones, we dig through our pockets to get the phone out, we unlock it and we check for notifications. This alone is enough to distract or break a conversation. But what happens next has the power to truly kill it.

Once we’ve gone through all the effort of getting our phones out and unlocked, why wouldn’t we check Twitter or Facebook to see what’s going on? Why wouldn’t we get distracted by that little red mark on Candy Crush asking us to do another level?

The Watch gives us a quick way to check for a notification, just tilt your wrist toward you, without all the distractions and temptations that lay beyond the lock screen of our phones.

In a recent interview, Jony Ive brought up a very powerful point that struck a chord with me and that I don’t think many have thought about before. If you wear a watch (Come on… at least one of you must have one…), take a quick look at the face and then go back to reading this. Can you remember what the time is? I’d be very impressed if you can!

When it comes to quickly checking the time on our watches, with a glance, we’re only really alerted to the true time when it works against us. We note when we’re running late, and we respond. If time is in our favour, we think no more of it and continue going on with what we’re doing.

Now take this and apply it to the notifications and glances on an Apple Watch. Those quick interactions, a slight nod to the notification, soon become ephemeral to the extreme. If they’re nothing to worry about, you go back to what you were doing and likely forget what the notification even said.

If the notification or glance is showing important information, like you’re late or there’s a family emergency, you’ll react just as you would when your traditional watch made you aware you were running late. You’ll take notice.

When Apple talks about keeping time, I’m sure they’re not just talking about keeping track of time using a highly accurate watch. I think they’re talking about the time you’ll be able to reclaim through quick, ephemeral interactions compared to the temptation and depth of the iPhone experience.

Health and Fitness

Most of us could do with moving more. Modern life has us sat at our desks or on our comfortable sofas far more than is good for us. Apple Watch works as a way of removing the excuses standing between you and a better version of you. One that stands up more, moves more, and hits your goals more. It’s like having a personal trainer or coach on your wrist, willing to tap you when you should be moving more.

Now, many people wouldn’t buy a device that’s just for fitness. Or, you’d find that wearing something that’s so limited in use could get tiresome or cluttering, so you give up wearing a FitBit or Nike FuelBand. Apple Watch brings all these fitness features, by default, to a device that does so much more.

Whilst there are those who will turn these off, I hope that many won’t. A world where we all get up and go a bit more is a much better world.

Intimate Communication

Text. It’s the very medium that allows you to read these thoughts as they’ve poured from my brain, but it’s kinda bad for a lot of things. It’s nowhere near as intimate as a simple touch, and it doesn’t have, for the majority of people, the creative flexibility and expressionism of drawing.

Digital Touch, Apple Watch’s revolutionary new communication method, is a super cool way to send a tap, heartbeat, interactive emoji or simple drawing to a friend or loved one. Using the Taptic Engine and touchscreen, you can communicate in a much more emotive way. A more personal way. As Apple says, a more intimate way.

I am incredibly excited to see the new ways of interacting this brings. The Facebook poke is no longer just a text notification, it becomes an actual poke on the back of your friend’s wrist. That’s pretty cool!

The Future

Apple Watch is a glimpse at the future. One where a device that knows you intimately, but keeps your information private, interacts with the physical world around you.

Already, there is the potential to:

  • Pay for good and services just by holding your wrist to the terminal. No more fumbling around trying to find your card or remembering which pocket of your jeans or purse your iPhone is in.
  • Unlock your home or hotel room by passing your Watch in front of the door. No more routing around for keys.
  • Get warned when your vitals are abnormal. A wearable device laden with sensors could identify possible conditions or issues long before they become apparent.

I can imagine a world where the Apple Watch acts as a way of identifying you to all of your Apple Devices. An extra layer of security above and beyond a password or TouchID. Or where your car can know your destination from your Calendar, by interacting with Apple Watch, and preload it into the GPS system.

Yes, much of this can be done with the block of aluminium, silicon and glass you have in your pocket. But it becomes so much more convenient, personal and accessible when it’s on your wrist.