Apple Watch — First Thoughts

Instead of embarrassing myself with any kind of grand Apple Watch critique, here are my first impressions.

1. Over 2 million variations

This can’t be stressed enough. For an object that will be strapped to your wrist every waking moment of the day, it has to look good. While what “looks good” is subjective — customization is the objective behind all of the faces, colors, bands, and three editions. What I hate, you could be smitten with. Until I get to use one hands-on, I’ll be sitting here on the fence in regards to the industrial design. On that front, it would be better to read what Mr. Benjamin Clymer says about it. He knows watches.

2. Extremely frictionless communication

There are two buttons, with one dedicated to pulling up a list of people you interact with. Press the button, tap on a person, and choose your communication channel.

3. Non-text based messaging

Words are powerful, but their value is only realized when they are read. They can be read silently, or spoken out loud; the former relying on sight, and the latter being restricted by the person’s current environment, social norms, and hearing ability. In addition to the normal channels of phone, email, and texting (emoji included), Apple touts four unique channels for the watch: sketch, walkie-talkie, tap, and heartbeat.


Sketch

Having a shared custom visual language between two people reminds me of cave drawings. Rudimentary, but they did the job.


Walkie-talkie

Integrates well with the sound-bite feature in Messages coming up with iOS 8. Now we can all be Dick Tracy.


Tap

On the iPhone, custom vibrations can already be set per person and per notification channel — a handy feature that let’s me know who is contacting me through a vibration pattern. Expanding on this and coming up with an exchanged physical vocabulary will be something to keep an eye on. Tapping on someone's shoulder is nice to get their attention, but never their wrist.


face_heart_large.png

Heartbeat

This last channel can easily be thrown into the gimmick bin at first. Exchanging heartbeat tempos as a form of communication isn’t normal. This only happens in interpersonal communication when we hug, check someone’s pulse, and… I can’t think of any more. Putting two fingers on the screen to start the heartbeat transmission (this feels like some weird E.T. fan fiction), is how we already take a person’s pulse — so it’s a somewhat natural interaction. It’s just flipping the script, so instead of feeling someone’s pulse, it’s being sent. Coming up with strong use cases would be fun, but that'll be for another time.


4. Fitness tracking and recommendations

If something isn’t measured, it’s a crapshoot figuring out how to improve it. After something is measured, there has to be feedback; actionable steps to improve certain metrics vital to success through coaching. The first generation of quantified self gadgets got good at measuring aspects of human health, but they never leveraged that data to map out how to better oneself through coaching. Gamification helped, but only to a certain extent.

The Apple Watch seems to nail the measuring aspect (aside from sleeping data), but the coaching side might be a bit lean. Imagine a real-life personal trainer at the end of the equation, adding a human element in the interpretation of the data, rather than just algorithms. Having a holistic picture of a person’s health is much better than just a snapshot. the iOS app Health is a giant leap in the right direction, especially with the ability for these records to sync with a patient’s healthcare physician. Gamification is thrown in there too, but what’s more interesting is why they decided on that design of the shield-like badges.

5. The “digital” crown is a familiar interface given a new task

Humans. like. circles.

The “digital” crown is no exception. I’m curious what the ratio will be to how much it gets used compared to the touch screen for navigating on the device.

6. Pay is the quiet revolution

The boring story is that the Apple Watch can be used in meatspace to pay for items. The interesting story is how Apple is finagling their way in between the banks, credit card companies, consumers, and merchants. This isn’t Google Wallet, this isn’t Coin, this is a system that easily straddles both the past and the future. How fast it will expand outside of America will be interesting to watch.