The watch

The Apple Watch on my wrist.

The Apple Watch on my wrist.

Yes, I bought the watch.

As an HCI researcher, I couldn’t resist knowing: what’s this thing good for?

I’ve worn it for 24 hours now and found that’s it’s good for many a small thing, but no big things. For example:

  • As someone who often has a day full of meetings at random times and places, the killer app for me is being able to glance at my wrist to see where I’m supposed to be —without awkwardly pulling my phone out in the middle of a meeting. It’s hard to overstate how valuable this is to me. It turns the social meaning of pulling out my phone to check my calendar from “I’m checking email/browsing the internet/texting a friend/and generally disinterested in this conversation” into a brief glance that means “I think have somewhere to be, but I’m listening”.
  • When I’m driving, I frequently have thoughts that I’ll lose if I don’t write them down. This creates a critical dilemma: do I grab my phone and try to have Siri transcribe it, but risk my life and a traffic ticket, or risk losing the thought? With the watch, I can dictate thoughts hands free with a quick flick of my wrist and a “Hey Siri, remind me to…”. This is particularly handy for OmniFocus, where I externalize all of my prospective memory.
  • Text messages are much less disruptive socially. No more loud phone vibrations or accidental sounds to disrupt my coworkers. Instead, the watch tells my wrist and I glance down briefly.
  • This is the best UX for Uber. “Hey Siri, open Uber”, tap the request button, and wait 5 minutes. Yes, you can do it on a phone, where you can get far more information, but I’m usually using Uber in unfamiliar places where I don’t necessarily know how safe it is to pull out a big bright iPhone and tap on the screen for a minute. This makes me feel safer.
  • This one is completely idiosyncratic to me, but I absolutely love the Alaska Airlines glance view, which simply shows a countdown until the number of days until my next flight. I hate flying, and somehow, being able to quickly see how many more days of freedom I have before I climb into a tiny box and suffer sinus pain, dry air, and cranky people, gives me a sense of freedom and appreciation for being a land mammal.

So far, everything else is of little value. I don’t like reading Twitter on the device and certainly don’t want to feel every tweet on my wrist. I’m active enough and haven’t ever wanted any device to support exercise. I get way too much email to want to triage on the device for very long. Most of the third party apps aren’t that useful yet (although as companies learn what information and services are most valuable to their users, I believe they’ll improve in their utility).

As a 1.0 device, it has all of the problems you might expect. It’s slow at times, while it talks to my iPhone. The navigation is model clunky and inconsistent. Sometimes Siri hears me say her name, sometimes she doesn’t. These will probably all be ironed out in a version or two, just as with most devices.

These issues aside, if you look at the list of benefits to me above, they fall into some unexpected categories. I thought the value to me would mostly be getting information faster, but most of the value is actually in reducing friction in social interactions and a sense of safety in various situations. This is not a device to get digital stuff done. It’s a device to get digital stuff out of the way.

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