Wearing Apple Watch
You've been there before.
Dinner. A restaurant. Friends.
For every person that sits at the table, there's one smartphone face down next to their plate. At opportune lulls in conversation (you know them), people look down and flip those babies over to "see what's happening." This whole process takes some time and then the conversation resumes. Rinse, repeat.
Smartphones are good at keeping us notified, but their depth can be distracting. So what if we replaced checking the phone's lock screen with a quick and simple glance at our wrists? Is it possible that changing how we approach notifications could improve our lives?
One month of Apple Watch
Last month, before I went to the United States for a week, I priced myself an Apple Watch. While the general tone (including my own) in the office had been negative toward the watch, I was naturally drawn to it in the same way I was drawn to Ubuntu Phone – curiosity. When possible, I prefer to make observations personally instead of borrowing from others, and being a mobile engineer specialized in iOS development is plenty of justification to make the purchase. The watch was not available in Denmark at the time, and I had given up on the idea when I found out it was also currently unavailable in Apple Stores. I flew to the United States.
Halfway through my stay, fate intervened, and I got an email happily notifying me the watch was available in Apple Stores. The next day, I drove into the city to make the purchase.
After briefly shopping through the models I could actually afford, I settled on a 42mm Space Grey Apple Watch Sport. After 7% sales tax, the price came to $426.93 (≈ 2902 DKK). While it seems like a lot of money (and it is), getting an Apple Watch in Denmark would have cost much more as it is currently only available secondhand at inflated prices reaching almost double this amount.
I got in my car and started unboxing and setting up the watch. I wasn't going directly home, and I wanted to get the experiment moving before I met a friend for coffee. After a brief setup process that went off without any problems, I suddenly had an expensive gadget that I had no idea what to do with. I was missing that "life-changing feeling" one gets after unboxing a brand new camera, phone, or other gadget. There was no way to immediately and actively use it beyond customizing a few settings and the watch face. It just sat on my wrist and told me the time and temperature.
It was, indeed, a watch.
"That guy who bought an Apple Watch"
My girlfriend, still in Denmark, soon received the news via a Siri-dictated text. "You're that guy who bought an Apple Watch," she condescended. I laughed it off with the idea to test it out anyway. She, of course, did not have to wait in line while others bought watches for twice what I paid. I resolved to wear it and use it regularly without actively revealing its presence to even my most tech-savvy friends.
I went the rest of the week with no one noticing its presence on my wrist unless I was actively faffing around on it. Like a normal watch, checking the Apple Watch is roughly the same wrist motion despite the need to actually move your wrist to illuminate it. Each day, I whittled away at the notifications the watch would deliver to me until I had reduced them to only the most relevant or particularly interesting ones.
Soon after, I was headed back to Copenhagen and finding myself wandering airports with various bags and items hanging off of my person. At the same time, I started noticing the watch was getting more useful. I was easily glancing at my upcoming departure and the time without digging my phone out of my pocket. Messages would filter through naturally, and I could answer them later or reply to the "Have a nice trip!" messages with a quick reply "Thanks!" Otherwise, only the most interesting notifications were coming through, and not every pocket vibration was grounds to go after the phone.
It was also then that a few people began to notice the watch. A flight attendant noticed it during beverage service and complimented me on it. A colleague noticed it on my first day back at work, and a friend noticed it straight-away over coffee. I didn't really need to check it for them to notice either, and luckily, the reactions were not 100% visibly the "this guy" kind.
The watch face I quickly stuck to was the less than traditional-style digital face called Modular. It has five complications which I set to the date, the weather, battery-level, alarm indicator, and remote time zone.
I love the time zone complication because I really feel like I live in two of them. There's Central US and Central European time which are typically seven hours apart. And while it isn't particularly hard to add or subtract seven hours from the current time, it is a two step process that involves finding the time first and then math second. Now I just look at the watch.
7:40 PM in Copenhagen, 12:40 PM in New Orleans
The same is true of the weather. Anyone who lives in Denmark will talk your ear off about the weather. Knowing the weather situation is key here. Previously, I would have to dig my phone out and hit up Yahoo Weather. Now it's just there. That is something, at least.
Having the watch has definitely uncoupled me more and more from my phone. I am much more likely to leave my phone in another room or at my desk while wandering around nearby instead of always placing it in my pocket.
Time, notifications, calendar alerts and the like are my primary uses for the watch. However, there are a few nice apps I regularly use. Instagram is pretty nice. I can scroll through the latest posts and "like" the good ones. I also use the Lumy watch app now and then. The massive difference in the length of the day between parts of the year here makes it a nice tool. The airline apps I use range from terrible (Delta) to OK (SAS) to great (United). Incidentally, the ranking of those respective airlines' apps for iPhone is actually opposite to the quality of their watch apps.
The requesting of and arrival of an Uber car.
I think the most useful non-social watch app I have is from Uber. I can request a car straight from the watch, and when it arrives a few minutes later, the watch tells me and I walk outside.
So far it's impossible to view or send Snapchats from the watch. Sometimes I wish I could at least watch them.
I'm aware of the fact that some people view wearables as simply one more gadget that has the capability to further remove us from our "here-and-now" social interactions. That most certainly could be the case, but that doesn't have to happen. I've made considerable efforts to keep my phone in my pocket when sitting down to eat or converse with others. The watch is there to tell me the time and to tell me if an important message actually does come in. Used properly, a timepiece wearable can be a valuable piece of technology.
I don't necessarily believe everyone should go out and buy an Apple Watch, but I think it's possible to find good ways to use new technology – ways that are well-grounded and not annoying to the rest of the dinner party.