Jamie's Blog

Lessons from a life of startups, coding, countryside, and kids

Is the Apple Watch ‘good’?

Edition red leather large

So Apple finally announced their watch and everyone can claim they predicted it. As a piece of design, it is pretty nice, much cheaper than I’d have expected and will be sure to gather a fervent following of fans. To be honest, I think the design is bulky and not something I’d like to see on my wrist but… that’s not the point.

This is only the first Apple Watch and whatever rough edges, limitations and criticism exist today are going to be worn away over the next few months, years and product iterations. The first iPhone was frankly shit but a few years later we had the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 4 was around the corner. It didn’t just grow as a device, it grew and dominated and led an entirely new category. And that is what I’m concerned about.

Watch out for this watch

The Apple Watch doesn’t just watch. It doesn’t sit passively on your wrist telling you the current time. It’s not a passive device at all. You can interact with it, load apps onto it, receive notifications on it, feel your partners heartbeat. This is a needy kid that you strap to your wrist so you can play with it and give it your attention when it cries (or thumps you on the ulna & radius).

We already have too many distractions from our phones. Push notifications for every email, mention, like, fave, pin, payment, comment, calendar entry, chat message, code change, friend request. You can barely begin the process of thinking about a problem before your phone chirps, buzzes and displays some enticing morsel of information.

For years my phones have been in perma-silent mode unless I’m expecting a very very important phone call that I can’t miss. This happens maybe twice a year. I’ve also taken to putting my phone on my desk with the screen facing down — no brightly lit screen to interrupt my brain. And headphones help to ignore the buzz of the vibration. I could be much much better at this though. I still get notifications on the laptop, and some still necessarily escalate to my phone. Would an Apple Watch help or hinder this process?

The Apple Watch is certainly going to add to our notification overload. Now this interruption source will be attached to us. Not something that can be easily put in a pocket, turned upside down or left in our bag. It’s there, with us, touching us, always visible in our peripheral vision.

Now, don’t get me wrong: this vision of being constantly connected is a very very attractive one. Hell, even as I write this I can imagine buying an Apple Watch in a few years. But just because we want something doesn’t make it good for us (oh, chocolate! omnomnom). Most of us have already proven that we can’t manage these devices. We don’t control them, so they control us.