by Zachery Jensen
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Why I Will Wear the Apple Watch2015-04-02 00:00:00 +0000
Swift Hacks #12015-03-09 00:00:00 +0000
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Why I Will Wear the Apple Watch

When I learned of the Apple Watch I had not really given any thought to such a device. I only knew what existed did not have the capability to deeply integrate with my technology platforms of choice. So I took a while after the announcement to realize why it would be desirable to me.

The fact is, before anyone explained this—as has recently been done on the Wired article about Kevin Lynch, Dye, and Ive’s goals for the device—I realized that it would represent exactly the things I do with my phone that made me hate the idea of phones growing larger. Even iPhone 6, not 6 plus, seems far too large to me for a phone. This is partly because I’m a semi-minimalist. I don’t want to carry more than needed with me. It’s a burden. However, the bigger issue is the size itself causing more and more difficulty getting my phone in and out of my pockets, especially while sitting; causing more difficulty interacting quickly with one hand or in situations where my grip might be compromised. It hit me in January that the watch would represent all of these quick, short, low investment interactions that made a large device frustrating. In anticipation of this usage, I actually traded my iPhone 6 up for an iPhone 6 Plus. I sold my iPad. My intent was to merge my uses of these devices and adopt the Apple Watch into the set. iPhone 6 Plus is no longer a phone to me. It is truly my pocket computer, the true center of my digital universe.

To see even more emphasis on my perception of the purpose of the watch directly communicated to Wired and others makes me feel especially confident that I will be a very happy Apple Watch owner. My #1 use for the watch is just what is advertised: getting all my notifications and glance-like information directly from my wrist, just as I have found the time of day for most of my life. I can check the weather for the next few hours as well as my schedule to see if I can fit in a bike ride and it will take all of a glance at my wrist, maybe a swipe or two. And if in that moment I suddenly need to address some other matter (like, say, it’s my turn at the grocery queue earlier than anticipated) I don’t have to do anything to recover full use of my hands. I’ll have absolutely zero concern about properly replacing my giant phone in my pocket and not dropping it. I can simply forget about what I was doing and continue on with what matters.

Sure, it seems like nothing until you realize that a highly connected person such as myself, such as most of you reading this, will pull out their phone over 150 times per day. That is not a made up number. That is based on a study by Nokia that is already over 2 years old. The number is probably higher now and probably much higher for people who are more connected than average. Think about it: 150 times per day, maybe 200? Two hundred chances to accidentally toss your phone across the room; o accidentally miss your pocket and drop it on the floor; to accidentally smear that sauce that was on your finger but you didn’t know it was on your finger all over your screen and in the cracks around your home button. (We can rinse off our Apple Watch and not violate the warranty while the same can not be said about the phones.)

Now 200 times is a lot, but the interactions we’re talking about are usually short. However, there is a far bigger chance you’ll be sucked into a distraction of little importance if you “already have the phone out, may as well dig in.” In doing very little, the watch will do a lot. It will help us mentally filter and prioritize incoming information and, without even blocking notifications (which I suggest you consider doing, really consider what notifications actually matter to you,) you will probably respond to fewer. I know I will. I know my own nature.

So you’re potentially saving an enormous amount of time, not just 200 × 3 seconds per day. You’re potentially saving 50 swipes through Facebook or Twitter that did not need to happen at all. You are potentially stopping 100 separate pull-to-reloads of your Inbox because that is what you do when you unlock your phone: mindless, manual checks for the latest updates. Instead, just relax and trust the watch to inform you of what matters. I mean, definitely configure your notifications such that this is possible, but, still, no more polling, guys, seriously. Just stop.

So that’s my #1 biggest hope for the watch, that it will fulfill that expectation. After that, I have a number of smaller expectations. For example, in my crappy old car with an aftermarket stereo that supports bluetooth, it’s often very hard to navigate to the content I want to hear without retrieving my phone. But, the only reason I ever even use bluetooth for audio—and accept that massive drop in quality—is so I don’t need to get the phone out. If I get it out, I’m going to dock it and plug it in and have full audio quality and UI. But that takes time, a series of tedious actions, and another mental burden. With the watch, I should be able to kick off my music, and hopefully even podcasts and the like depending on how well the relevant apps support the watch. At the very least, I can pick a playlist when, for whatever reason, the phone’s audio playback state is so lost that I can’t even trigger a shuffle all without arguing with Siri.

Another thing I look forward to, controversial as it may be, is recording my thoughts in the shower. Yes, I will shower with my $1,100 Space Black Stainless Steel watch and take that risk. No, I don’t expect to do much with the watch there, but, activating Siri and asking it to take a note should be doable and that’s all I need or want. Well, that and the time. I am notoriously bad at taking short showers.

I am actually a pretty regular user of Siri for a certain narrow set of use cases mainly revolving around reminding myself of things later. I add to reminders lists, some for shopping and some for actual tasks that are pulled into OmniFocus automatically. I’ll be able to do that even more conveniently now. When it comes to successfully implementing task management, every tiny bit of overhead or barrier to your system that you can remove, the more likely you are to use it and reap the benefits. Even just 1 second less effort increases that chance I’ll actually make a reminder for something. And hey, I won’t have to carry the phone around at home anymore. I have WiFi. I won’t need pockets. I can laze about in my knickers and still have full on Siri reminder-taking goodness. “Hey siri, add pants to my buy list…”

I’ll be writing an app for the watch as well. It won’t be original. It probably won’t even be the best, but, it will be fun. It will be a childhood dream, in a way, to be writing software for a computer on my damned arm. But more importantly, it will scratch an itch of mine. It will actually be useful. It will be dead simple. But, on any other device, it would be too simple to justify its existence and my effort. Better to just use a notepad type app that’s more general than spend that much time for such a narrow use case. But, not now. Now it will be perfect.

I certainly plan to make use of notifications, a tap on the wrist, in a contextual manner. I expect to use just about every aspect of the watch except the fitness sensors only because they don’t really fit into my life. I cycle regularly, about 2 hours per week during this season at high levels of effort. I use a cycling computer (Garmin Edge 810) that’s far better than any phone, watch, or band at what it does and have no intention of replacing this. It pairs with a dedicated wrist-band HR monitor and sensors on the bike and all that data is streamed together and eventually poured into Strava. I don’t use Strava’s iPhone app for ride tracking purposes anymore either. However, all this data eventually makes its way into Apple Health. So, assuming that is the One True Source of info about your health and activity throughout the day, I’ll still benefit from the activity monitoring features to some degree. I’ll also benefit from the standing reminders, as science in recent times has shown very certainly that sitting too long is a huge burden on your health and I’m a Software Engineer… I sit way too long. I don’t care about step tracking, as conversely, science has shown no real benefit to merely walking about. Sorry guys. But even small amounts of vigorous exercise has huge benefits, and when I’m not cycling, I do have some backup exercises that the watch can be used to track.

I will use the watch to remotely control my Apple TV and my Hue lights. I’ll take notes in Evernote. I’ll tick off tasks in OmniFocus. I will probably interact with notifications/glances from a number of other apps. I’ll be lied to frequently by Dark Skies! (Just kidding, it’s correct like… 70% of the time and I live in a challenging location for what it is trying to do.) And since this area of technology will finally get real attention thanks to the Apple effect, I expect a number of other uses, hopefully all very short interactions, that I will get from this device over the coming years.

I keep seeing people downplay the life changing nature of this device. I am sorry you have such a boring tedious life that can not even be remotely impacted by such a pervasive set of capabilities, but, if even 1/5th of what I’ve listed works out as I expect, my life will be noticeably improved. It will be objectively changed. “Life-changing” does not require your entire life be redefined to be true. It can be as simple as never forgetting a shower thought, ever again.