The Apple Watch

Posted on May 8, 2015

As an early adopter and tech aficionado, I have used a few smart watches in the last two decades. I owned a Pager Swatch in 1993, and a Timex Datalink in 1994, and my curiosity arose when I saw a wristband offered for the iPod Nano in 2010. It seemed then, that the so-called iWatch was not very far.

Now we know that Sir Jonathan Ive and the Apple Design Team started their work on a new product category that year, and when Tim Cook announced the release of the Apple Watch in the Fall of 2014, I got seriously excited about the possibilities the watch will offer, and how it will change the way we communicate. Enter 2015 – and Spring Forward.

As a Marketing Professional, I am amused by the way the opinion of the press has shifted – from the naysayers and doubters right after the Spring Forward event – too focused on the Edition’s price point and not understanding the choice element that makes the Apple Watch so personal; followed by the critical analysis and rough estimates on the numbers of pre-orders; and then finally the realization of product quality and well thought-out capability and delivery on function and design, as the Apple Watch sets a new standard in wearables. Read the interview in the New Yorker with Jony Ive and the ‘shape of things to come’ and you know the man-years, thought process and sheer design energy spent on making this device the best it can be.

As an Apple Brand Advocate, my clients, social network and friends were looking to me to give them feedback and a review on launch day. So I pre-ordered a Stainless Steel Watch with Black Sport Band at 0:02am PST on April 10th. Not on release day, but two workdays later I held the coveted package in my hands. I emailed Tim Cook about the temporary loss of magic, but the last week and a half proved that the magic is still there … and then some.

Setup was quick and pain free, I read beforehand that some people spent an afternoon setting the device up. Mine was operational within minutes, and after a quick selection of which glances – the quick app preview shown by a swipe up – were to be displayed, I was on my way. Literally, as the Apple Watch kept me moving. The activity app, paired with the sensors of the watch, keep a tight protocol on workout, standing and movement habits. The initial calorie goal set at 550, I walked, stood and moved like a heavyweight boxer. And as the sun settled on the horizon, I made my last dash to reap the rewards of a first activity circuit completed. My lowest heart rate so far has been 39, and my highest 131 – the readout always readily available in a daily, weekly or monthly overview in the Health app on the iPhone.

I embraced the change from phone notifications to tactile watch notification quickly, and am still astounded how well the hand-off works. Writing in Messages or Mail, you’ll get the notification on the MacBook. Browsing Facebook on the iPhone, you’ll get the Messenger ping right there. And with no device at hand, all notifications default right to the watch. Brilliantly taking advantage of the existing Apple infrastructure! Well played, Sir Jony, as he is now also design head for UI at Apple.

A designer by trade, I am infatuated with great UI design. The embodiment of function into a small space, mastered with intuition and grace, and garnished with customization – that’s the watch faces on the Apple Watch for you. A Force Touch – no midi-chlorians involved – on your current watch face reveals preferences and customization options, as willed by the design team. What might be perceived as limiting at first makes great sense, as you want to keep the great look of the watch face while choosing the complications – elements like date, moon phase, or world clock – to be added for quick access to the corresponding apps. Some watch faces are adaptions of chronographs or plain timepieces, some are curiously different, and some are outright cute. The Mickey Mouse watch face has a special place in my heart, as I owned an analog Micky Mouse watch in the early Seventies. Currently, I use the ‘color’ watch face with a white dot circle and hour marks, a Made in Germany monogram, current temperature, date, activity meter and time in Essen, Germany. That the second hand moves smooth and continuously like on my Rolex Oyster Datejust is just an added bonus, not a necessity.

While the number of generic apps supplied by Apple already outshines competitors like the Samsung Gear or the Moto 360, the “real” watch apps coming this fall likely will bring the breakthrough for the Apple Watch and even higher sales. For now, third part apps are only projecting a UI window on the watch, while the true processing takes place on your iPhone 6.

[Time to stand, the Apple Watch tells me. I will be right back.]

The battery definitely lasts longer than the 18 hours announced, after as many as 20 hours of use I often have between 38% and 45% left on the watch battery, and 70% to 75% at the iPhone. Curiously, the Apple Watch makes me use my phone and itself less often, freeing up my time and my hands. A quick glance during a conversation is not impolite, nor does it interrupt the communication flow and attention towards the conversation partner or -partners. In fact, the watch delivers the perfect way for triage– deciding what to ignore, what to postpone and what to take care of right away.

The Dick Tracy factor still has not lost its charm, taking a call on your wrist, setting appointments and recording reminders with astounding precision – and despite of a German accent – is just not getting old. Four decades ago I owned a plastic Spy Watch, with sundial, mirror and Morse code. Now I carry the world’s knowledge via Wolfram Alpha, Wikipedia and Siri with me at all times, and I can use Apple Watch and iPhone as a periscope to look over walls, around corners or behind me. In a few weeks, I will be able to signal my darling wife with taps, my heartbeat or rudimentary scribbled sign language – while not a necessity either, another added bonus. In due time, I see my clients tapping me – and (hopefully) sending me happy emoticons.

I know the product Apple Watch will be a success, as will be the category. Despite of the somewhat botched release I still root for Apple, and can’t image my professional nor personal life without their range of products. It is Apple’s combination of design genius, engineering capabilities, and marketing prowess that creates feelings of attachment to a material thing within their customers.

Do you need the Apple watch? No, not really, as it is “just” an extension of your iPhone. But you know you want it. Because, in addition to its design beauty and excellent performance, it gives you back something most precious: Your time.

And it is telling it, too.


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