Apple Watch is a watch in the same way an iPhone is a phone, which is to say almost not at all.
That could be why so many people are misunderstanding the importance of this product release, and dismissing it with a simple: “No one wears a watch.” It is also why I feel compelled to do something I haven’t done since I stopped writing a tech column for the Trenton Times almost 20 years ago. I am going to make a prediction.
So’s you don’t think I’m only this guy you’ve never heard of before blathering on, let me tell you one prognostication that landed with a thud when I first made it. A long time ago I wrote that some day, in the very distant future, video might even be conveyed directly to your computer and that you could essentially watch any show or movie whenever you wanted. (I’d link to that column, but, sorry, everyone back then was absolutely certain people would never read stories on computer screens.)
Now, finally, my prediction: Apple Watch, and its progeny, really are going to change everything.
I am predicting this having never touched an Apple Watch (I think only Madonna has). I did, however, crawl out of bed at 3 a.m. to order one on the first day they were available. It should arrive by May 14, or I shall most surely die.
But I’ve been reading about the watch in a compulsive way, a way I haven’t followed a product launch since, maybe, the Macintosh Plus (1986).
I want to stress that I am not recommending that you buy an Apple Watch. I think there remains a 50 percent chance that we are looking at the beginnings of Skynet here. What I am saying is you will buy one eventually. Certainly by 2025.
Wearable computers, as this category of things is called by proto-nerds like me, were always going to happen eventually. Some smart watches and fitness bands had even begun to make in-roads, only to be utterly destroyed by the initial pre-orders of the Apple Watch. This all happening while essentially no one had even touched one of these things.
When they begin arriving today, folks will quickly discover a world that is in many ways waiting for the Apple Watch. (I simply refuse to write “The Internet of Things.”) (Too late.)
I know this is corny, but let’s map out a possible day with the Apple Watch.
6 a.m.: Watch alarm goes off and notifies your house to turn on the coffee maker and turn up the thermostat and brings up an alert with your first meeting displayed.
6:05 a.m.: You say, to no one but your watch, “Hey Siri, cancel my first appointment and notify the attendees.”
8:30 a.m.: Watch locks front door of your house as you leave, turns off lights and lowers thermostat, unlocks your car and enables its start button.
8:40 a.m.: Watch swipes the pay pad at Starbucks for your morning latte.
8:45 a.m.: Watch swipes you through your transit turnstile (or into your work parking lot).
9:00 a.m.: Watch swipes you into your job.
9:30 a.m.: Watch taps your wrist with the signature tap that identifies your spouse. You glance down at the text, then tap one of the suggested responses.
9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.: About 900 tiny watchie things happen.
5:01 p.m.: Watch swipes you out of work and sends a text to your spouse that you’re on your way.
You get the idea. Now, remember that you did all this without fumbling for a phone, a credit card or ID badge. (I don’t mean you’ll stop using your phone. I just mean these types of tasks won’t require it.)
Are you convinced I’m making up technology here? Well, I’m not. Using my iPhone 6, I already buy Cheetos way too often at my office vending machine with a swipe of my phone, and a touch of my finger. They just taste so much better when purchased that way. That’s Apple Pay, which, not coincidentally, began taking hold well before the phone’s release. With Apple Watch, you will usually be able to skip the fingerprint step, because the phone will stay authenticated as long as you are wearing it, with a single finger swipe.
My mouth waters at how good the Cheetos are going to taste when I buy them with my Space Gray Apple Watch Sport!
Now let’s move on from these things I am certain will happen, fairly rapidly, to areas where I am less certain.
The Apple Watch will, initially, function largely as an accessory to your iPhone. It will meld seamlessly into the beautiful and vaguely terrifying “Apple Ecosystem.” When hitched to your phone, it will ferry texts and emails to your wrist and make it possible for you to make telephone calls on your watch, which would be so cool if anyone still made phone calls.
I figure there’s roughly a 50-percent chance that the watch will stanch the flood of intrusive and often inconsequential distractions that I believe are leading our over-wired world to a kind of collective insanity. I think/hope that new software, as yet unwritten, will permit the watch to learn when to disturb us, and when to let us dwell entirely in the physical space we are evolved to live in. Or, it will be like wearing a firehose of inanity on your wrist, and people will simply move from the constant phone-fog in which they dwell into a new, more toxic constant watch-fog.
Oh, goodness — what happened to the guy who so breathlessly predicted all those wonderful things all those years ago? He’s still in there, just sadder and wiser. Still, my mind turns to the most intriguing functions of the Apple Watch: The ones that aren’t yet even imagined.
Wearing an always-on, location-aware, biometric-responsive electronic wallet will, certainly, place a gigantic target on our backs for marketers. I think retailers already know we’ll tolerate that. We’ll maintain that vaguely worried feeling we all have when some advertisement on our phone seems to know us a little too well. But the insane convenience of the thing will outweigh all those privacy worries. Cringe.
The 25-year-old computer geek in me tells me there are some amazing developments in front of us with the watch. Could these little devices, by knowing where we all are, somehow bring us closer together in the physical world? What would these apps look like? (Not Tinder or YikYak!) Apple Watch’s “send your heartbeat to someone” function is creepy and hokey but it evokes some of these possibilities, while also making you want to walk off a bridge. I think/hope great things could happen in this unimagined space. I can’t write about it here, however, without appearing insane. And that’s the opposite of what I’m going for.
Oh, and … we are Borg. Resistance is futile.