The Apple Watch – A Tale of Two Experiences
August 17, 2015
Recently, I was lucky enough to be given an Apple Watch as a present. With the hype and anticipation surrounding its release, I had been sold on the Apple Watch as the defining piece in the battle for wearable technology. My experience, however, wasn’t exactly what I had expected. After the initial excitement and novelty had worn off, I found myself struggling to adjust to using it. Both functionally and aesthetically, in my humble opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the Apple Watch. But using the device just wasn’t coming naturally to me; even after a month of wearing it I wasn’t comfortable. I couldn’t figure out why – although I loved showing it off to friends and colleagues, I didn’t feel like there was any benefits other than a bit of showboating.
With constant media speculation that it was a flop, I started to wonder: what were the bigger pieces at play that have blocked or slowed the watch’s success? I settled on two separate points that were driving my lack of interest.
Firstly, I feel that there is a growing battleground for our attention and the Apple Watch exacerbated rather than subdued the battle. I found myself unable to ingest another ‘nagging’ device into my already attention-sapped life. Although the watch wasn’t delivering any ‘new’ information, it did feel like there was an information flow overload. It was another tech device buzzing me every few minutes with tidbits of information that I was already accustomed to reading in my own time, when I felt the need to look at my phone. I strongly felt that it was the doubling up of information that I pushed back against first. If we think of attention as a commodity - where I simply don’t have any more to spread around - the watch didn’t prove worthy of my attention because the content didn’t do anything new or exciting for me.
A great quote from Herbert A. Simon an American political scientist, economist, sociologist, psychologist and computer scientist best sums up this tension.
"...in an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”
- Herbert A. Simon
Secondly, the success of the iPhones and Androids of the world are to a large degree down to the consumer-built apps for them, apps that are built by consumers for consumers, satisfying real world needs or desires. Apps that help us escape, control, or in some way shape or form, impact our lives. A smartphone is only as good as the content that has been developed for it. I had convinced myself that it wasn’t working so I sought out an expert opinion from a friend who I knew was still wearing the watch.
Enter Rob Ward, Director and Co-Founder of www.annexproducts.com. A tech junkie in every aspect – Rob is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the world of gadgets and anything digital.
“I’ve enjoyed the Apple Watch so far and I feel this is partly due to having reasonable expectations. I already liked wearing a watch so the Apple Watch didn’t have to convince me to put something on my wrist, on that front I was already sold. I think the wrist is a great spot for small amounts of information that are needed at a moments notice i.e. time. For the past few hundred years, time has been the “killer app” that’s moved watches from the pocket to the wrist. I think the Apple Watch will need to go one better than just time, but as the apps evolve we will see simpler and simpler apps that use machine learning, geo location and ‘time’ to deliver the exact information we now need at a glance. For instance, if we’re standing at the same tram stop we do every morning and we glance at our Apple Watch, chances are we really need to know when the tram will arrive, not the actual time. When apps get to this level, it will be less about scrolling through Instagram or Twitter, or showing off the watch to friends, and more of a seamless interaction that will be so natural you won’t realise the value until you accidentally leave it at home.”
So with content and apps still in development, there doesn’t appear any standout benefits to using a smartwatch over a typical watch or even just your smartphone at this time. The Apple Watch’s core purpose is simply functional (e.g. telling the time) and will remain so until Apple or other smartwatch developers can create an emotional dependence on the technology through content. Until this occurs and increases our natural inclination to rely on it, interacting with the smartwatch won’t go anywhere close to changing our behavior and, in my eyes, will remain a novelty.
Moreover, it’s hard to get excited
about a timepiece when virtual reality and empathic threads are on the verge of
significantly altering how we see the world and interact with one another. In
light of this newer, more exciting digital real estate, it's easy to see the
Apple Watch being simply washed away with the tide of new innovation.