Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Apple Watch Is Time, Saved

I swear this is the last Apple Watch thing I’m going to post before Monday’s event, but Matthew Panzarino has put something really good together that I just have to share:

People that have worn the Watch say that they take their phones out of their pockets far, far less than they used to. A simple tap to reply or glance on the wrist or dictation is a massively different interaction model than pulling out an iPhone, unlocking it and being pulled into its merciless vortex of attention suck.

One user told me that they nearly “stopped” using their phone during the day; they used to have it out and now they don’t, period. That’s insane when you think about how much the blue glow of smartphone screens has dominated our social interactions over the past decade.

I think there’s something valuable here, but also something very telling: we don’t have self-control. When our phone buzzes, we can’t just leave it in our pocket or purse. We must remove it to see if it’s anything important, and if it is, to act upon it. A smartwatch removes the part where you must remove your phone, which means you can see the importance of notifications as they arrive, and deal with the ones that are important right away.

But what are we doing that gets so interrupted by a pending notification?

Are we talking to someone? A smartwatch is not really any better there; it still looks a bit rude if you’re constantly checking your wrist throughout a conversation.

Are we reading a book? In that case, a smartwatch would certainly make it less cumbersome to respond to a notification, particularly in an age of giant phones.

Perhaps the generic smartwatch, as exemplified by all of the Android Wear devices out there, isn’t the best example. Perhaps, in typical Apple fashion, the user experience sets the Apple Watch apart from all the other smartwatches out there.

I do have a quibble with this part of Panzarino’s report, though:

For now, the iPhone is a dominant business for Apple and the smartphone is a domineering force in our daily lives. But one day something will come along to destroy it. And, as Apple has expressed many times in the past, it is willing to be the one that finds that thing. With the Apple Watch, we could be seeing the beginnings of that process.

Perhaps someday, the Apple Watch could do the impossible: it could make you stop using your phone.

Not to be shortsighted, but the smartphone is kind of the perfect convergence device. It’s small enough to take everywhere, but big enough to comfortably watch movies on. It combines constant communication with always-available information. For many people, it’s all they need, everywhere. Reading the news on a smartwatch would be uncomfortable at best; integrating a camera would be impractical, not to mention a little creepy. Photo editing? Forget about it. These are things everyone uses their smartphone for.

But the smartwatch will do things the smartphone never could. One day, it will be able to operate entirely untethered from a smartphone, so you’ll be able to track your exercise — including GPS tracking and streaming music — without lugging your phone with you. You’ll be able to use your phone a lot less. It won’t be banished entirely for most people, I don’t think, but you’ll use it differently. And that’s very interesting.