Does an Apple Watch have a place in your life, and on your wrist?

Apple has today concluded an event they called “Spring Forward” – a somewhat odd name given that Apple does have a large number of customers for whom autumn, not spring, is just beginning, and our clocks are falling back.
The event was quite substantial. Those of us who follow Apple news have known that the thin shiny new Macbook with its single connectivity port has been in the works for some time, but there was some mystery surrounding whether it would in fact be announced today, or be held back for WWDC in June.
While some are concerned about the single port, the new notebook is an addition to the existing line-up, not a replacement for existing models which have also received a little bit of upgrade love today. For the road warrior, the new Macbook lightens the technology load a little, and most hotels offer Wi-Fi now.
It was thought we might see an Apple TV hardware refresh today. That didn’t eventuate, although the existing box has seen a price reduction, suggesting that a refresh may be imminent.
Research Kit was an announcement I wasn’t expecting, and I think it’s a wonderful initiative. The more data one can gather about symptoms, the easier it is to establish a pattern. The easier it is to establish a pattern, the more focussed some of our great minds can be on advancing medicine and improving quality of life. It’s easy for us to be cynical about all sorts of things these days, including big corporations and their motives, but to me Research Kit is a great initiative that really can change lives for the better.
The device most people tuned into the keynote to hear about, of course, was the Apple Watch, and the rest of this post is devoted to that.
From the outset, I’ll put my cards on the table and say that yes, I will be buying one, or rather, Mosen Consulting will. For me, it’s a business expense and a no-brainer. It’s in my interests to be thoroughly conversant with its use, so I can assist my clients who will ask for help. Would I buy one if it were coming out of my household budget? That’s a more complex question, and I’m not sure a compelling enough case has yet been made.
VoiceOver is activated on the Apple Watch with a triple-click of the crown, and you can configure accessibility settings in the Apple Watch companion app that is a part of iOS 8.2, released today. One assumes it’s possible to hear VoiceOver’s output through the Apple watch’s speaker, and possibly by pairing the watch with a Bluetooth headset, although at the time of writing this post, I’ve not been able to confirm that.
That brings me to my first misgiving about Apple Watch. When you want to know the time, it talks. I wear a Braille watch at present. I like my Braille watch. When I’m in a meeting, or broadcasting, or recording an interview, I can check the time with my Braille watch, and no one knows I’m doing it. I even have an advantage over a sighted person. A sighted person can be seen to glance at their watch, but if I keep my hands under a table, I can check the time as often as I want, and no one’s any the wiser.
Talking watches, on the other hand, are irritating. I’ve chaired many meetings with a large number of blind people in attendance, a number of whom periodically check the time with their noisy watches with ghastly voices. If you can pair an Apple Watch with some kind of headset, you’ll be able to hear the time in privacy, but it won’t be as effortless as checking your Braille watch.
That said, I wouldn’t put it past Apple to have found some cool way of conveying the time using haptic feedback, either now or in future. If that happens, then that’s brilliant, objection gladly withdrawn.
Of course I’m well aware that an Apple Watch is a computer on your wrist. It tells the time, just like an iPhone makes phone calls, but like the iPhone, the function we consider core to the form factor is only a minuscule fraction of what it can do. With an Apple Watch on my wrist, I can check my notifications, take calls, send text messages, pay for purchases if ApplePay ever gets to this country, play music, and a whole lot more.
But wait, I already have a device that does all those things, and it’s called my iPhone. My iPhone is in my pocket everywhere I go, and indeed it has to be when mobile for the Apple Watch to get its smarts. As a consumer, would I pay a minimum of USD $350 for another device to charge and take care of, that puts on my wrist what’s already in my pocket?
There are of course some unique things the Apple Watch can do. Using the Apple Watch as your hotel room key is wonderful, and I would find that really useful. I presume this is using some sort of NFC capability, so there’s no technical reason why such functionality couldn’t also be made available in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which have NFC that is presently locked down to Apple.
There are some great health-related features, many but not all of which can already be achieved with the iPhone. There are many wearables that can offer similar functionality, but I don’t think any are fully accessible to blind people in the way Apple Watch is.
You can send people your heartbeat, which is kind of cute I suppose. You can get tactile feedback about notifications and directions in the Maps app, so for travelling when you want to keep your ears free to listen to traffic, that could be useful.
There will be a wide range of apps for the Apple Watch available when it launches in April. I was reading this morning that Zello will have a walkie talkie app for the watch. Kind of nice to have that functionality on your wrist, especially if you’re working with a bunch of people at a conference.
But again, with a few minor exceptions, much of the functionality that makes Apple Watch exciting is the same functionality that makes the iPhone exciting.
Since I purchased my iPhone 6 Plus with its outstanding battery life, I seldom use my iPad. I find that the iPhone 6 Plus gives me enough juice to get through the most demanding of days with plenty of battery remaining, which was my primary reason for using an iPad when I travelled. So I’m struggling at present to conceptualise the value Apple Watch might add, beyond the cool factor.
If I were a woman who wore clothes that didn’t contain pockets large enough to accommodate an iPhone 6 Plus, and stored my iPhone in a handbag, I think I would be much more excited about the Apple Watch. Bonnie keeps her iPhone in her handbag. Sometimes I call her when she’s in a noisy environment, and she doesn’t hear the phone. If she were wearing an Apple Watch, the phone would ring on her wrist or I could even give her wrist a gentle knock by way of the watch. I would really appreciate being able to get in touch with her reliably and consistently. So, maybe our household budget needs to try and accommodate one Apple Watch.
But it’s something I think we will all need to consider carefully. We only have so much money we can spend on technology. When you buy a completely new kind of product, you’re essentially making a commitment to spending money every few years. Technology wears out after a while and is no longer being updated, so one has to think of these things as a new line item in your budget, not just a one-off purchase.
Since I’ll be buying one anyway, I’ll certainly share my thoughts here on the blog. It may be one of those cases where once more information trickles out, once it’s been in my hands, or on my wrist for a while, I’ll wonder how I lived without it.
How about you. Are you going to be in line to buy an Apple Watch? How do you see it improving your quality of life or productivity? Or do you see it as a device that just duplicates what you can already do with the technology you own? I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

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11 Comments

  1. Lulu Hartgen

    I think the case for and against the Apple Watch has been fairly stated here. As for myself, it’s something I would find very useful indeed and I’m looking forward to getting one. I was particularly glad to hear it works on wi fi so when I’m at home I won’t have to be in Bluetooth range of the phone to use it effectively.

    For various reasons, mostly health related, I’m getting less out of my iPhone as time goes on. I sometimes find it hard to hold so I don’t bother to look at notifications as often as I should and end up missing things. I have the handbag problem too, I often don’t hear it ring when I’m out somewhere and if I do, by the time I’ve extracted it from its pocket in my bag it’s stopped ringing. To be able to receive notifications, texts, even calls from my watch is going to be very useful to me indeed. As for all the other cool things it can do, well, I hope we get Apple Pay soon, that in conjunction with the watch will be great and never having to use another of those awful cards on a hotel room door would be fun too. The last reason I want one is perhaps the least important, but is a reason none the less. Having spent a lot of my life wearing some ghastly plastic piece of tat on my wrist, or a braille watch about two inches across, it’ll be cool to wear a watch that looks like everyone else’s.

  2. Travis R.

    The ability to tell the time silently is something I like to do also. I am hoping that the haptics can be used to do this and its either already built in or someone will make a clock face app to do it. It will partially depend on what the abilities of the haptic engine are. Apple has said “tap” more than once. But can it also localize the tapping? If so then many more messages can be conveyed easily such as tap on left side for hours, right side for minutes. Etc. Or perhaps tap as you trace your finger around the screen in a circle, similar to the Tissot Silen-T watch.
    As I heard about the digital touch and the example of sending a drawing I thought “how silly.” Reconsidering, this could also be useful if we could send touches instead of drawing. Perhaps the digital touch already can do this, if not hopefully someone can take the digital touch concept and make this work for touch. You may be asking why do I want to tap someone? I see this as being a useful silent communication tool. Perhaps you work out a code with a sighted person and they can provide you information silently that hey the door is to your left. Taking it further perhaps Morse Code, or something similar could be used by a deafblind user and someone providing interpretation of the environment or a speaker. I think, at least for me, learning a vibrating code would be easier and quicker for me to learn than full tactile sign and quicker to train a new or temporary helper, for example.
    So for me, the practicality of an Apple Watch will come down to what are its true abilities, especially after clever and creative app developers have had some time to experiment. And, it may take Apple Watch 2.0 for some of this, more than once there has been a large increase in abilities from 1.0 to 2.0 of a device. Here’s hoping for new and better things.

  3. Torie

    I can’t decide if i am wanting one for the cool factor or if i really need one. I will of course be looking at one just to see what it’s like.

    I guess my main reason for wanting one is, i do a lot of walking, and even though i use the runkeeper app on my phone, it’s a faph sometimes to get it out of your pocket to see how long a walk took you. I have been looking for a talking stop watch for a while but can’t find one so that would be my main reason for wanting one.

    I however am a bit concerned about the thing that shows you how many callories you’ve burned and the fact that it will tell you if you’re not getting enough exercise. It does sound cool in a way, but what if you have issues about weight for instance. I suppose you could turn it off if you needed to.

    The research kit does sound awesome and could help so many.

    I can’t wait to see one up close and personal 🙂

  4. Rich Cavallaro

    For me, I will 100 percent be buying an Apple Watch. I do have an iPhone 6Plus, but really am excited to get it on the the first version of this new form of accessible smart watches where one can get information on ones wrist. Notifications like getting messages on your watch, being able to use Siri, all the health related tasks not to mention all the apps coming out, some very cool stuff!!

  5. Derry Lawlor

    I would like one of these watches not sure if the budget can handle it yet, the tessot silent T is a watch I already hasve and it gives tells the time with vibrations, when you run your finger around the galss, so sure yes it can be done.

  6. John Lipsey

    This is a difficult choice for me. It sounds really cool, and some of the features such as tactic feedback in maps would be great, but I’m not finding it overly compelling for me personally. However, given that one of my job functions is to teach customers with accessibility needs, I feel I should have a watch purely so I can use it in a wider variety of situations that the store environment would allow. It’s tough, and I’ll definitely be spending a fair bit of quality time with a watch in the store before I make the final decision.

  7. Mel Griffiths

    Jonathan and Lulu between them voiced how I feel about the Apple watch. I want one because it’s cool and mainstream. I think the handbag reason also is a good one as, like Bonnie, I sometimes miss calls in busy places. The drawback for me, like many is the not being able to find out the time discreetly, I too currently wear a tactile watch. I suppose I need to consider whether a watch that tells the time only is enough for me, or whether I could benefit from all the additional functionality on my wrist.

    Fortunately for me, my husband is totally itching to get his hands on one, so I’ll have the opportunity to have a good look at it before I decide whether it’s the gadget for me.

  8. Barry Abbott

    Once I learned that the Apple Watch would be VoiceOver accessible I determined that I would have to purchase one. To be honest in my case it’s more a want than a need. But I do find that I sometimes miss incoming calls when out and about so having a tactile vibration alerting me by wrist would be a real plus not to mention the many other possibilities.

  9. mitchell

    I just see it as a device that just duplicates what i can already do with the technology i own

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