Today was Apple’s big watch announcement, and it’s been fascinating following the reactions.

Pundits had been fairly split on prospects for the watch, leading up to the event, which to many seems like a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.

After all… many people stopped wearing watches because of mobile phones, so a watch that needs a mobile phone to work properly, does seem somewhat redundant.

But that would be missing the essence of what makes the Apple Watch different, and today we got our first real look at the software of the Apple Watch, which is ultimately what we’ll be using on a daily basis. For the first time I can see how the Apple watch will be both useful and even addictive to large numbers of people.

The popular criticisms of the watch so far have been…

Battery life is not long enough (at 18 hours)

During the announcement Apple said two things – that the battery is good for “all day use” and it lasts for 18 hours.

The Twittersphere reacted to this contradiction, with jokes like “Apple shortened the day to 18 hours!”

The point that perhaps could have been made better is that the Apple Watch is a smart watch, and like a smart phone, needs to be charged nightly. 18 hours use is therefore more than enough for most people, assuming you sleep more than 6 hours a night. Apple could have shown this off with a ‘nightstand / bedroom’ video. Come to think of it… an included ‘night stand charger’ might be a very good idea.

Either way, it’s not going to be an issue for most people, and people will work around any battery issues, as they do now.

Why do I need an Apple Watch?

This is perhaps the biggest question that needed answering.

For me the biggest takeaway, as obvious as it sounds, is that a watch is always on your wrist. Think about this for a moment, and take a second to think where your phone is right now.

Perhaps you’re reading this article on it, in which case the example doesn’t work particularly well, but it’s easy to see that with the possible exception of trigger-texting teens, most of the time a phone is not in your hand, nor do you instinctively and instantly know where it is.

It’s in a pocket, a bag, somewhere in your house, under papers, etc. We all know it can take us a few seconds (or longer) looking for our phone. That’s where the watch comes in.

Think of all the beeps we hear from our phone – text messages, notifications, voicemails etc. Now imagine that with a simple buzz to your wrist, and a quick glance of your eyes, you can see what it is immediately, and whether it needs attention.

The example Apple demonstrated of receiving a Like notification on Facebook, on your watch, was a particularly illuminating example of how the Apple watch could become useful and addictive for people.

With the announcement that you can take a phone call on the watch – it has a microphone and speaker – along with new information that this will work even if your phone is out of Bluetooth range (it can be used on the same Wi-Fi network) I see now how people will use this… a lot.

Again, if you’re not immediately sure where your phone is… you can still take the phone call. How many times have we all scrambled for our phones to narrowly miss a call, or get the call answered (but flustered) in the process? With the watch this won’t happen any more.

Other hooks for people – it’s all about the software

Apple have clearly recognized that a watch is a more personal (fashion accessory) than a phone – it’s why they’re offering a myriad of style combinations. But more interesting I think is this idea of customizable watch faces. A smart watch can literally take on any face you want. Apple showed off several faces today including a Micky Mouse animated kids face, a digital display, and an elegant minimalist classic version. Presumably 3rd party apps will offer many more variations. This aspect will be fun and in some ways an improved version of a personalized ring tone. You can change the face (and strap) for different occasions.

Instagram shows that photos (via stream or notification) will work on the watch – which for me might be enough to go on Instagram more often. It would be nice to take photos with the watch – again for the ‘where’s my phone / quick – take a photo’ moments. Sadly this isn’t possible.

The demonstration of Shazam on the watch shows another application for instant use. How many times have you struggled to get your phone out in time, to capture a song?

I’m not a big fan or user of voice recognition, but a friend today was excited at the announcement you could dictate messages and emails via Siri into the watch. For quick replies I could see how this may be useful for people.

The reminders feature looked to be pretty cool too. Saying “Remind me when I get home to do XYZ” could be really useful if you get into the habit and process of doing so. I don’t do it with my phone, but I could be more inclined to do it with the watch.

In general the idea of raising your wrist, and whispering into a watch seems cooler than dictating into an outstretched phone. The former has that that ‘secret agent’ feel, and I have a feeling we’re all going to be feeling a certain ‘everyones a secret agent’ vibe soon.

A ‘killer’ app, not shown off, could finally be the ‘where’s my family / where’s my friends’ app. It’s surprised me that there hasn’t been a real breakout in this genre, although there’s lots of options for phones, and with the watch this idea somehow feels more personal and reliable. Something you might be more open to perhaps? Basically it would be great to glance at my watch and see where my son is, and (opt in) friends too.

Apple Pay (on the watch) is another killer app in the making I feel, no more fumbling around for phone/change/wallet at the counter. Also, the idea of using your watch as your keys is a sleeper hit too I reckon, once people get over the ‘steal your watch to rob your house’ jokes.

And finally the health apps, which got a high profile focus that was well deserved. No doubt of huge pride to TC and team, the idea of health tracking apps for specific conditions or diseases, and crowd sourcing research data is properly game changing.

In summary I’m left more excited about the watch than before. It reminds me of the first iphone, over-thick, but still really new and exciting. I can’t wait for a few generations to shave 3/4 of the thickness (I do prefer a slim watch), but that will come.

In the meantime I feel that the watch will have enough ‘small, subtle improvements’ to our lives, that it will be a hit. It reminds me of my experiences in Japan – where the little things in life are made just that little bit easier – muzak that turns off just before an elevator door opens, train doors that open where you expect them to, guest slippers at every house you visit.

Perhaps the Apple Watch will be like a nice pair of slippers, once you have it on and get comfortable with it, you might not want to take it off.

 

 

 

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