One Apple Watch, Please

Apple-Watch-Sport Space Grey

Ah, crap. I want the blasted Watch. I’m admittedly caught up in the marketing hype. I don’t need the health-related sensors and kickass magnetic straps — that’s all just icing on the cake that is vibrating notifications.

I’m not worried about too many notifications coming through because I’m selective about which apps are allowed to disturb me. I turn many app notifications off, and few are allowed to have banners, or even badges. However, for those few notifications I do care about, I can still miss the iPhone when it vibrates at my hip.

On the other hand, a vibrating alert on the wrist seems like it could grab my attention in just the right way. I also trust Apple to get this done in a way that doesn’t alert the entire boardroom that I just got a text. I think the Watch will have a nearly-silent haptic system that won’t echo like a phone vibrating on a desk.

I foresee the Watch being really useful for specific apps I already love using:

  • Due alerts would go off on my wrist, and I can complete or snooze them from there
  • Any task alerts like those from Evernote or 2Do could buzz me when a task is due
  • Transit app could probably ping me when the streetcar I’m waiting for is 5 minutes away (giving me time to walk to the stop)
  • Maps could be fun for quick, glanceable walking directions when I’m meeting friends at a new restaurant
  • Calcbot could be usable, but that might be a stretch
  • 1Password on my wrist could be extremely useful, since I never have my passwords at my PC
  • changing the song in the Spotify or Music app from my wrist will feel like the future
  • SoundHound and Shazam could be even faster to launch and identify songs

I’m also curious to see how owning a Watch will change the way I see my iPhone. I don’t think I’ll spend the majority of my time on the watch, but I think the phone will stay in my pocket much more while I’m at work.

“Buy this car to drive to work, drive to work to pay for this car”

I also want to address something that feels like pure marketing to me. I think the Watch does have a reason for existing, but it isn’t necessarily for spending less time with technology. I read TechCrunch’s fluffy piece about the device, and although it has some great insider information about battery life and how long-term testers use it, I don’t agree with the tone that Matthew Panzarino takes: that this watch is technology that can save us from technology.

I love tech and I use too much of it, but I don’t think we need to purchase new devices to save us from our current ones. I save myself from the myriad distractions on my phone by turning many notifications off, using Do Not Disturb mode during certain hours, and clearing most notifications from my iPad and Mac.

I see the watch as a way of interacting with technology in a different, more convenient manner. iPads go in bags, iPhones go in pockets. There’s something eminently more accessible and always-on about a smart watch that sits on your wrist — where the only thing that can cover it is a sleeve.

Lock-in

I’ve been playing with paper notebooks recently in an attempt to see what I could comfortably live without. I have a number of must-have iOS apps, but just in case I ever want to leave Apple for an Android device, I want to know that I can take most of my data and my habits with me, without having to drop anything because there isn’t an equivalent experience on another platform. The Watch certainly will not help that, and by buying into the Watch, I realize I’ll be further embedding myself in their culture.

The thing is, as frustrating as it can be to wait for Apple to fix things like the third party keyboards in iOS, or adding a more powerful file system to the iPad, there are some things that Apple does that nobody else is close to getting right. iCloud Photo Library and Handoff are some of the software features that only seem possible when software and hardware are seen as an ecosystem.

It’s those kinds of features that make me feel that it’s OK to be “locked in” to Apple’s system — at least for now.

Price

What I am most nervous about is the pricing of the Watch. $350 is the USD price for the starter aluminum watch with a polymer band, but how much will it cost to put any other kind of band on that watch? Or, if John Gruber is right about pricing, it may not even be possible to buy other straps with the base Sport model. You may need an Watch or the premium Watch Edition to “qualify” for better straps. I really hope that’s not the case.

Something about that proposed strap strategy doesn’t really follow. If buying a certain tier of Watch — Sport, Watch, Watch Edition — locks you into a certain tier of straps, then Apple would require you to present proof of purchase, or bring the actual watch to the store to prove which version you own. That just doesn’t seem like Apple. Their customer service can be so generous that they’ll repair a stolen MacBook if a thief brings it in (true story).

I’m also wary of starting another tech device upgrade cycle. I currently upgrade devices as follows:

  • iPhones every 2 years
  • iPads every 2 years
  • MacBooks every 4-5 years

I also get PC parts now and then for my gaming rig. Adding a watch to the equation every 2-3 years means yet another category to save for and spend on. I do think I’ll have fun with an Apple Watch Sport, but I also think its initial battery life — the unfortunate price of being an early adopter —will be what gets me to upgrade in the next few years.

##A Different Device Future

However, I’m also willing to give this device category (the “wearable”) a try because I think usage patterns could change drastically over the next few years. The next “ideal” tech combo could be a watch, a larger smartphone, and some larger-screened device that could be a tablet, laptop, or a combo of both. In that case, the number of devices I’d have would go down, and there would be room for a watch in the upgrade cycle.

In any case, Tim Cook (or Angela Ahrendts?) should answer a lot of my questions in two days time. We’ll see what the word is soon.