Watch Me Now: How I Came to Want an Apple Watch

When Apple introduced “Apple Watch” last September, I was more than a little skeptical. Here’s what I wrote back then:

“I usually don’t generalize but there are two kinds of people: those who wear watches, and those who don’t. This is going to be interesting to watch (pun) because anyone who wants to wear a watch, and has the money to buy a $349 Apple Watch, probably already has a fancy watch on his wrist, and if there’s one thing I know about “Fancy Watch Guy” it’s that he likes the watch he has now. I suppose we may see people wearing two watches at once. Otherwise there are going to be a lot of Rolexes gathering dust on the dresser.

The people who don’t wear watches have their reasons, and those reasons will still be there, Apple Watch or no. For example: I keep banging it on things, it catches on stuff, it’s too bulky, I’m afraid of losing it, if I want to know what time it is or to send a text message I just pull out my iPhone.”

(Here’s a link to the whole article, if you want it.)

I am pleased to announce that even at 52 years old I am open to changing my mind. And, when it comes to Apple Watch, I’ve changed my mind. Careful readers may recognize that, in September, I was making the same mistake with my assessment of the Watch as I did with the original iPhone. I was thinking “the Apple Watch is a watch, and I don’t need a watch” the same way I thought “the Apple iPhone is a phone, and I don’t need another phone.”

Of course I was wrong about the iPhone, and I was wrong (but am no longer wrong) about the Apple Watch. Both devices are both poorly named: the “watch” part of Apple Watch– that is, the time-telling part– isn’t the important thing, just as the “phone” part of the iPhone doesn’t describe 90% of what we do with it. I’m now thinking of the Apple Watch as “a super-portable computer/communication device that is always with me, literally no more than arms’ length away, that adds value to the iPhone and (by the way) also tells the time” in the same way that I now think of the iPhone as a hand-held computer/iPod/web browser/email machine/address book/camera that also makes phone calls.

If I look at it that way– that is, if I think of Apple Watch as a super-portable computer/communication device that is always with me, literally no more than arms’ length away, that adds value to the iPhone and (by the way) also tells the time– $349 for the low-end model is palatable. Three hundred and forty-nine dollars for a watch? Out of the question (for me). But $349 for a clever device that adds value to my iPhone, frees up my hands (because I don’t have to pull out my phone), and makes things a little more convenient for me, many times a day? And it tells the time? AND you can set the watch’s face to be an animated, toe-tapping Mickey Mouse (among many options, but why would you need them)?

Holy cow. I want one. I’m in.

Need more convincing? OK. As with the original iPhone, Apple’s made a bunch of apps that take advantage of the new hardware. Take a look at these Apple apps that come pre-installed on Apple Watch.:

  • Messages: Get tapped on the wrist when a new message comes in; raise wrist to read it.
  • Phone: See who’s calling. Mute by covering phone with hand.
  • Mail: Read your email. Delete messages.
  • Calendar: Get reminders on the watch face.
  • Activity: Simplified way to see whether you’re exercising enough (prediction: you’re not).
  • Workout: Shows statistics during cardio workouts.
  • Maps: Turn-by-turn navigation.
  • Passbook: Boarding passes and tickets and rewards cards, all on the wrist. Everything shows up when it should (that is, when you arrive at the airport, your airplane boarding pass appears, and when you pop into Starbucks, your Starbucks card appears. Not sure what happens when you pop into the Starbucks at the airport).
  • Siri: Uses the “Hey Siri” method of hands-free interaction (see my article about it). Makes it easier to use when you can simply say “Hey Siri, call Christian Boyce.”
  • Music: No speaker, but you can listen to songs using wireless Bluetooth headphones. Or, control the music on your iPhone.
  • Camera Remote: Use the Watch as a viewfinder and a shutter control for your iPhone.
  • Remote: For controlling your Apple TV.
  • Weather: Local weather, and weather anywhere in the world. (Clever graphical presentation– you’ll see.)
  • Stocks: Keep track of the Apple stock you just bought.
  • Photos: View your favorite photos, in miniature.
  • Clock Stuff: Alarms, Stopwatch, Timers, World Clock. Same stuff as on your iPhone but a little bit handier.
  • Settings: All sorts of settings, but my favorite is you can send a signal to your iPhone and make it go “bing” so you can find it (now that you’re not using it so much).

You can read more about the above, and see little movies about them, by visiting this page on Apple’s site. Note also that, unlike the original iPhone, Apple’s opened up Apple Watch to app developers, and many 3rd-party apps will be available on Day 1 (April 24th, 2015).

Apple Watch has to be paired with an iPhone. The description at the Apple site says “Requires iPhone 5 or later running the latest version of iOS” so plan on buying an iPhone at the same time, if you don’t have one that’s new enough. Interestingly, it turns out an iPhone is better when paired with Apple Watch. For one thing, Apple Watch brings Apple Pay to iPhone 5 and 5s owners (previously, you needed an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus for Apple Pay). I would bet there will be other interactions and I will tell you all about them once I get my own Apple Watch. It’s going to look a lot like this one:

Apple Watch home screen

I was thinking today about how we want everything, all at once. For example, we want our iPhones to be really small, so they’re really portable. At the same time, we want them really big, so they’re easy to use, with big screens and big buttons. But, no matter which size Apple gives us, the iPhone’s size is always a compromise– a trade-off between portability and usability. Apple Watch, as a companion to the iPhone, changes things. Now, instead of trying to make one device (the iPhone) simultaneously small and large– very difficult– Apple’s solved the problem by introducing a second device (Apple Watch). Very clever. And a lot easier than breaking the laws of physics.

Apple Watch can be pre-ordered from the online Apple Store April 10th, 2015. It will be available in the physical Apple Stores on April 24th, 2015, and if you pre-order on the 10th your Apple Watch might arrive on the 24th too. I’ll be pre-ordering on the 10th: Apple Watch Sport, 38mm case, white band.

And I’ll be thinking of it as a super-portable computer/communication device that is always with me, literally no more than arms’ length away, that adds value to the iPhone and (by the way) also tells the time.

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