The Apple Watch seems to to end up in a similar situation. It allows you to get away from your devices and spend more time in the real world. Since it’s purpose is to shift the spotlight away from your devices and to your kids, job, or hobbies, you could end up at the end of the day wondering if it is really necessary. If you looked at it twenty times during the day for five seconds per use, that equals less than two minutes of total use. Two minutes of screen time on your iPhone could be less than one bathroom break. Those quick interactions allowed you to quickly answer or dismiss various tasks, but at the end of the day, your perception of how much you used your watch remains quite small in comparison to your iPhone.
Devices like the iPad and iPhone demand the spotlight. They earn their keep by holding your gaze and dazzling you with their digital prowess at accomplishing tasks you thought were impossible or out of reach. They’re so good at what they do though, people seem to leave the real world for a while. You can do a lot on an iPhone and a colorful world of never ending information is always just around the corner.
The intent of the watch is the opposite of the iPhone. It allows me to have a face to face conversation with my wife, play a game of pool with one of my kids after dinner, or go for a run, etc. We loved the iPhone because it brought the Internet to where we were. I love my watch because it allows me to be where I am. If it does its job well, it deflects the spotlight and recedes into the background.
As such, I have no problems heartily recommending the Apple Watch to anyone who asks me about it. It’s the best smart watch on the market. If they don’t know whether they want a smart watch or not, that’s their problem. But how would they really know unless they try it out? So yes, by all means, go buy one.
Why the Apple Watch is so good
The funny thing about Apple Watch reviews is that you tend to hear the same justification used by those who love it as by those who don’t. Those who are ambivalent about it might say something like, “It’s okay, but it doesn’t do much more then relay notifications.” If you ask someone like myself who loves having a smart watch and came from a different brand you’d hear something like “Finally! A quality watch that reliably passes along your notifications!” The same reality from two different perspectives. If this isn’t a big deal for you then you probably have never liked a smart watch in the past and you won’t ever in the future.
As much as I appreciated the ability to triage my messages and e-mail on my Pebble I couldn’t help but wonder why the upkeep had to be so painful. The watch was constantly losing its Bluetooth signal, and sometimes it simply refused to re-connect no matter what I did. I would resort to deleting the app and doing a full system wipe on the watch in those cases. That was every other week.
This is where the Apple Watch shines. For those of us who endured years of doing the Pebble finger tap dance to re-connect our Bluetooth connection, we appreciate the fact that we finally have a rock-solid device that just does what it’s supposed to. Even when you walk out of range of your iPhone and come back, it always snaps back into connection with no effort on the user’s part. Bravo! This alone is huge.
But that was only my biggest gripe. Here is the rest of the list of the shortcomings of my first smart watch:
1. Don’t alert everyone in the conference room I just got a text
2. Include a microphone so that I can summon Siri
3. Allow me to reply to messages
4. Let me put my music on it and play it over Bluetooth
5. Make it look better than a toy that came out of a gum-ball machine for a quarter
The Apple Watch eliminated every single complaint I had about my Pebble watch. It was almost as if Apple had read a blog post about all my Pebble pet peeves and made it their mission to tackle every one. My experience with my Pebble made me love my Apple Watch.
Those of us using Pebbles would have never said that we really wanted an App Store with tons of great third party apps. One, Pebblers have had that from the beginning. Two, we already knew the screen was too small to do much.
The developer community around the Pebble has really blossomed and even now is still better than Apple’s. I remember when I needed a stopwatch app for doing track workouts, there were at least thirty to choose from. They each had a different angle on what they could do. One for running laps at the track, another for counting swim laps, some had extra large text. Choose your poison.
But beyond that, we found that a smart watch is mainly for notifications and communicating in a pinch. Sure we could access Evernote on our wrist, but who wants to scroll a bunch of notes on a one-inch screen? Some things like accessing your grocery list at Walmart were awesome, but that is because you’re just doing quick one-second glances.
Showing your lap times at the track, grocery list at the store, or turn-by-turn directions all have quick glances in common. When you transition from a laptop to an iOS device, you don’t want to do much typing. When you transition from an iOS device to an Apple Watch, you don’t want to do much reading. I'm looking forward to more great third-party apps that facilitate those ever helpful quick glances. However, this isn't why I strapped on my smart watch in the first place and is more of a side benefit.
The Style Aspect
Finally, a smart watch that we can strap on with a suit or slacks and not feel like you want to hide it under your sleeve. I have a stainless steel 42mm watch with a Milanese Loop, and it looks great in the office and dazzling outdoors in the sunlight. I still get compliments on it about once a week from people who notice it on my arm. Guys don't generally spend a lot of money on jewelry. So for most guys, a watch is the one piece of jewelry that we get to splurge on. We don’t want a $99 piece of plastic. I don’t feel bad about spending $700 for a handsome watch that screams quality and craftsmanship. And now that my “jewelry” has a practical aspect, it’s all the easier to pay the price.
And when you are headed to the beach or the gym, the swappable band system of the Apple Watch is amazing. I used to take my Seiko off after work and put on my Timex Ironman for the gym. Now I can swap bands. Seriously, somebody in the watch industry should have thought about this like twenty years ago. To change from my stainless steel band to sports bands makes me feel like I got two watches for the price of one. Overlooking the fact, of course, that my $150 stainless steel Milanese Loop band cost as much as a Seiko and my $50 Sport Band cost as much as a Timex Iron Man.
In my view, a smart watch¬—though not necessarily Apple’s—is for everybody who can afford one. It makes staying in touch with friends and family easier. It prevents you from having your phone out at the dinner table. It helps keep your inboxes clean. It’s like brushing your teeth or doing push-ups in that you pay a small price up front for a larger benefit down the road. Glancing at your watch three minutes a day will save you an hour of frivolous web surfing or cleaning out your e-mail later.
Those who say it’s not for them are the ones who never get back to you and don’t read their e-mail. They say that they don’t need to triage their data on their wrist and that they don’t mind pulling out their phone when they need it. In practice, however, they end up either with their phone in front of their face all the time or leaving it in their pocket and letting all their messages and e-mails accumulate. A self-disciplined person needs a smart watch, but an undisciplined person does not. In a similar manner, a person who doesn’t mind being overweight doesn’t need a gym membership. It’s “just not for them.”