I love electronic devices of every kind, but especially those that truly provide a solution to a given problem. My first professional gadget endeavor was to get away from paper; I used every available tool to record all of my pen-based notes into a digital record. As years, and now decades have passed, the goal of being paperless still remains elusive, but I am getting closer with tools such as Evernote and OneNote that sync to every platform I own. It’s not quite my personal vision of ultimate productivity, but we’re getting there.
Later, I developed a passion for the mobile computing platform – a la Palm Pilot. As tablets matured, I found myself happily typing on my Supercomputer mobile device of choice – efficiently, albeit awkwardly. In fact, I am writing this post from my tablet while awaiting jury duty. Now, finally, we are moving into the age of wearables – tiny computers that take the form of clothes, jewelry or accessories and aim to make us truly inseparable from our devices.
Last year, I purchased the Samsung Gear 2. This “watch” had potential, but its usability was really lacking. Its interface was clumsy (unless you had G.I. Joe “kung-fu-grip” fingers). Even more fun was the Pebble Watch, but no large-scale third party developer would develop on its 8-bit interface. It was also ugly, but it was at least a great dialogue starter at a bar (“Hi! I am a nerd! What’s YOUR sign?”)
The great common failure of all of those platforms is that they required me to evolve to use THEM. The Palm Pilot drove me to write in a new way to make the input work. The Samsung Watch was buried in embedded menus, and integrated poorly to its phone. Many other devices fall into the same category – even (gasp!) Windows 8.x. I MUST learn to use an entirely nonsensical user interface.
Rant Over. Now, finally I have my hands on the new Apple Watch.
Thoughts? Well, beauty counts for a lot (it’s stunningly beautiful,) but it needs to remain productive.
First, you need to understand this thing. It’s actually not completely intuitive out of the box – very uncharacteristic of Apple. Navigation is occasionally confusing and you quickly learn there are many ways to navigate within the small device. The crown dial on the side is a common means of navigation, and the Apple “swipes” made familiar in iOS also play a major role in moving from app to app. The tiny watch screen is a form factor new to Apple, and one that would fail miserably if it insisted on behaving like a giant tablet. I appreciate the design, but there is a learning curve.
I learned the watch on a business trip and quickly discovered how useful it was for me, and surprisingly, how little I was now reaching for my phone. In very little time, the interface began to feel intuitive, and now I am not sure why it seemed so strange at first. Interestingly, Apple sent me no less than three emails with videos showing me tips in 4 days. I don’t remember receiving that much assistance with the phone or tablet, but it was helpful while getting to know the watch.
The Apple Watch does require an iPhone for any applications that need cloud access. There are a few things that work on their own, including many fitness apps. The number of apps available for the watch is growing every day, and many are surprisingly useful, even if this is only Rev. 1.
Yes, you can use the watch as a phone. Doing so will certainly award you the “awkward stares of the year award” if you choose to carry on a conversation on your wrist. You all have seen someone in a public space use their speakerphone during a conversation; nothing says “pomposity” until you try that number on your watch. Trust me on this one. Enough said.
The watch does a fantastic job of providing you with alerts and notifications, everything from email, texts, news updates, sports scores and plenty more. In fact, there are too many notifications! You will need to fine-tune your synced apps and your alerts closely, as they have the potential to create significant distractions. Looking incessantly at your normal watch during a meeting is bad enough. It just screams “when is this meeting over?!?!” Now imagine looking at your watch 15+ times in the meeting. Not good.
This drives my last point. I love the information the Apple Watch provides, but the question that remains unanswered focuses on social protocol. Many of us are still distracted with our phones at very inappropriate moments (guilty as charged.) This medium creates very socially challenging questions that won’t be answered overnight. Someone asked me a great question: “Can you drive and use it legally?” I assume not as this would constitute distracted driving, but these are the types of questions that lie ahead.
Until these norms are established, just look for me in the corner, still looking for that ultimate productive device. For now, this watch is simply awesome.