September 9th, 2014 was an exciting day for Apple fans. After many years of refined and polished iterations of their existing products (iPhone, iPad), the company announced a new product in a new category – Apple Watch. It’s a smart watch, but made specifically for your iPhone. It has fitness tracking, it has messages, phone calls, mail and music. All in a tiny device on your wrist. “It’s only what you dreamed of as a kid!” Tim Cook exclaimed, beaming on the Apple Keynote stage. And it is. Many of us growing up watched movies and TV shows that explored this concept – a computer where you can communicate, find information, and consume content on a small screen on your wrist.
The watch came out just last week on the 24th April, and so far reviews have been positive, but slightly reserved. The general perception appears to be that it’s something that you want, not something you need. People had this perception even prior to release. They wanted the Apple Watch, but didn’t know what drew it to them, why they wanted it strapped to their wrist. After some use with the device, I’ve concluded that once you accept the idea that this is simply an accessory to your main iPhone, that it isn’t a “primary device” for sending or receiving content, that the Apple Watch is the single greatest and most convenient add-on to your iPhone.
We’ve all been in the scenario at our lunch break, where some of our close mates take out their phone as it buzzes in their pocket. Or even if it doesn’t buzz, they feel the need to check their phone every now and again to make sure they aren’t missing anything. It’s a terrible part of this new generation of technology we live in – being anti-social in a social environment, to be talking online to the people that aren’t with you, as opposed to the people that are. With the Apple Watch, that issue suddenly disappears. One might say, “But now people will be looking at their wrists all the time!”. In discussions with friends who own the watch, and my own personal use, this simply isn’t the case. And there’s one simple reason why – the incredible haptic feedback built in to the Apple Watch.
Jony Ive and his team at Apple worked on this for a very long time – how to notify the user without making their arm shake spontaneously every time. It turns out they got it right, because notifications for messages, calls, and other apps, are subtle, discreet, and non intrusive. I never once felt the need to raise my wrist and have a look if I was in a social situation. Sure, I can if I want to, a quick raise will tell me in a matter of seconds, but the vibration motor was so subtle that I didn’t feel the need or want to. Additionally calls can be muted by simply covering my hand over the watch face. And if I feel the need to quickly reply, I can decline and quickly choose a short message like “I’ll call you back” or “I’m busy, talk to you later”. Conversely, when you’re on your own, it’s fantastic way to quickly glance and reply to messages, answer phone calls, or read tweets when you’re on the go. Time yourself when you’re trying to beat your personal best when exercising, check the weather quickly, or pay for something with Apple Pay. It’s hard to describe without trying it yourself, but having everything so easily accessible on your wrist makes many tasks so much more enjoyable than on your phone.
The whole idea of the watch is that it’s an accessory to your phone – you glance at it for messages and calls, check meetings, or simply check the time. Not to say it can’t do more. Fitness enthusiasts can use it for tracking and music playback – just pair the watch with your wireless earphones, and you have a controller on your wrist when you’re at the gym. Boarding passes for your trips around the world. Maps to navigate around a foreign city with subtle vibrations when you need to turn left or right. Even use it as a remote for your Apple TV, or when you’re doing a slideshow presentation at work. It has additional benefits like this if you’re one to utilise technology to its fullest. But even at it’s core, Apple Watch is a brilliant piece of hardware to compliment your phone, to perhaps stop that awkward phone checking that’s become so ubiquitous, and to get on with your life in a more functional and productive way. You should buy one because if you love your iPhone, this is the best possible accessory to compliment it and take full advantage of the Apple eco-system. Plus, it’s simply fun to play around with a new toy, especially in this new category from the fruit company. It feels like Apple has validated the smartwatch market with their own spin on things, and the future looks ever brighter for this young and growing market.