Smartwatches. Somehow they’re a new thing, even though they’ve been around for a while. To be fair, the Apple Watch will definitely bring a mostly-techie technology into the mainstream. Hooray, Android Wear and Pebble owners, we’re about to be ‘not weird’ anymore.
So, if you decide to get a smartwatch, how will you be affected?
You’ll look at your phone a lot less
Currently, when our phones are in our pocket and we get a notification, we have no way of knowing whether it’s a text from a friend, an email from a colleague, or a spam Twitter mention. All these notifications require us to pull our phones out. We’ll check out the notification, act on it or ignore it, maybe open up a few apps, have a few microinteractions, and put our phones away.
With a smartwatch on your wrist, the notification interaction is much different. You can glance, decide if you need to act on it, and if not—which, in my experience, is most of the time—just keep going aobut your day. You don’t need to pull your phone out of your pocket, and you don’t end up triggering that reflex that makes you open up a random app every time you pull your phone out.
Over the course of days, weeks, months, this is a lot of time you’ll get back. It’s nice not feeling forced to pull out your phone every time it buzzes. You’ll be able to use your phone on your own time, which will probably still be a lot but at least you’ll have control over when that is.
I’ve found this new experience very similar to when I first started using Pushbullet. When I’m on my laptop and I receive a notification, I receive it on my laptop’s screen. I don’t have to check my phone and get pulled into its multitude of time suck apps.
For apps, the users’ ability to glance and dismiss a notification means that notifications need to be important and/or relevant. Unlike the phone, where a user can tap on the notification and open the smartphone app directly, being able to see the notification and decide whether or not it’s important enough to act on makes it much easier to dismiss the notification and forget about it altogether. Side note, if your app is sending out unimportant, irrelevant notifications, I would advise you rethink your notification strategy.
You might actually use voice UI
When it works, voice is a great interface. I set reminders, make notes, and perform quick searches with voice all the time. Saying, “OK, Google. How much does a blue whale weigh?” is a lot easier than typing out a search.
With search, you’ll be limited to searches with straight-forward answers. At first, at least. The watch may be able to take care of trivia-type questions, but if you need to do some real research, you’ll need a bigger device. Browsing websites is borderline unusable, and smartwatch screens just aren’t big enough to accommodate reading longer texts. Here’s a shout-out for the early adopter web devs who start supporting sub-320px widths.
One big asterisk around voice is that if you’re like me, you’ll only really use it in private. Personally, I feel a bit strange shouting commands at my wirst or phone when in public. I don’t necessarily want the world to know that I need to be reminded to buy laundry detergent next time I’m at CVS. And, because my slight social anxiety towards talking to inanimate objects is stronger than my desire to keep my phone in my pocket, I’ll just pull out my phone and type my reminder privately.
Your expectations for new consumer products will be reset
First things first, smartwatches aren’t new. The Apple Watch is not the first smartwatch, they’ve been around for a while—see: Pebble. Android Wear devices have been out for almost a year. The public just hasn’t paid attention because Apple is the only company with any sort of marketing strategy (I love you, Google, but get a real marketing team).
So, we’re at a place where the Apple Watch is the first real smartwatch in the public’s eyes. Expectations are all over the place. Will it change our lives? Will it crash and burn? We’re stuck in this weird, made up world of sweeping black and white statements about new tech. Nothing can do well, it must either revolutionize or fail. I think that’s going to change, or at least cool down a little, after the release of the Apple Watch.
I have no doubts that the Apple Watch is going to sell extremely well. It will sell more units than any other smartwatch out there by a mile. Unlike the iPhone or iPad, though, the Apple Watch will not be a required device for those bought into the iOS ecosystem. The Apple Watch will do well. It won’t fail, but it won’t change the world, either. It’ll live happily in the Apple product line, reminding anyone about to make a wild claim about how to-be-released product XYZ is going to fail or change the world that a product can just do well.
I only have anecdotal info to back this up but I think it checks out. I have a smartphone. If I lost my smartphone, I would be very upset. I have a smartwatch. If I lost my smartwatch, I probably wouldn’t get another one for a couple months. I don’t need it. It’s a fine device and I’m happy I have one, but sometimes I leave it at home because I just don’t feel like wearing a watch.