The Apple Watch 'WOW' moment

Apple Watch and Apple Pay
Apple Watch and Apple Pay (Image credit: iMore)

"How do you want to pay for that?" "VISA." Tap. Beep. "Wow, that's amazing. Is that your watch?" Smile. "Boarding pass?" "On my watch!" Scan. "Wow, that's incredible! Apple Watch?" Nod. "Here's your coffee!" Scan.""Wow! I've gotta get one of those!. "Want me to pay for gas?" "Nah, I got it." Tap. "What is that, magic?"

Long before Watch was even announced, I began to wonder about what I'd want from Apple on my wrist. Convenience was my killer feature. If Watch could save me from having to reach for my phone in order to do a few important, frequent, yet simple things, it'd be the equivalent of my phone letting me leave the house without my computer.

But convenience is a hard feature to demo in the wild.

When iPhone first came out, it was cool but it wasn't some abstract coolness that made people's eyes light up. It was the specific coolness of pinch-to-zoom in Photos or Maps, or Cover Flow in iPod. Those were immediately, undeniably cool.

When Apple Watch first came out, I had trouble finding a similar demo. It didn't help that Watch wasn't a minimally delightful product in the same way as iPhone. Apple introduced it with a bevy of features which made isolating one as the go-to demo harder: Mickey may have made people smile but it didn't make them want to immediately rush out and buy.

With Watch Series 2 and watchOS 3, Apple found their focus in fitness. The product still does a lot more, of course, but the messaging and advertising has been all about those rings and workouts.

For all the greater clarity and coherence, though, the Activity Rings and Workouts still don't make a great demo. Don't get me wrong — I love closing all my Activity Rings every day and the motivation that the new sharing features provide, but if you just show those rings to people they don't get it at a glance, not like they did with pinch-to-zoom.

Then, over the last few weeks, something started happening. I went to to Apple Pay for lunch at a local restaurant and instead of the man saying "Wow!", the man behind the counter held up his own Apple Watch. Instead of the woman at Air Canada gate being shocked when I scanned my boarding pass, she held up her Watch to show me she'd just gotten one too. Instead of the guy at the Starbucks drive through thinking my Apple Watch was cool, as he reached out to scan my digital card, I saw he was wearing one of his own.

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By some estimates, Apple sold 5.6 million Watches over the holidays — a quarter where Watch was and remains bafflingly constrained. That could bring the total number of Watches sold so far to a 25 million. I'm sure the new fitness focus and campaigns had something to do with that and I'm sure when people use those feature they love them.

But Apple Pay and Wallet? That's the "Wow!" moment. That's the demo I'd been looking for and the one that's been right in front of me this whole time. It's what my friends, who recently go Apple Watch, are messaging me all excited about. It's what the guy at the coffee shop counter loved when I stepped up, tapped, paid, and was on my way while the person beside me was still counting out cash. It's the magic.

Fitness is cool. Fitness is fantastic. Fitness absolutely makes our lives better. I love the first and latest ads Apple's done for Watch around fitness. But I can't help but wish for a really great Apple Watch ad centered around Apple Pay and Wallet next.

Paying at retail or at a drive-through or while jogging past a corner store. Getting your movie tickets, boarding your plane, or picking up your loyalty points. I'd even fold in opening the door to your hotel room and unlocking your Mac. An ad like that, done with the usual Apple panache, would make the convenience of Watch manifest.

Apple has succeeded in making paying for things not just cool but fun as well. Paying for things. Fun. That's something to show off.

My guess is we haven't seen a lot of this yet because the U.S. has only just begun to adopt tap-to-pay technology. That'll change, though. And as it does, I think we'll see a lot more of those "wow" moments, and Apple will sell a lot more Watches.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Can't pay with a tap. Need to tap tap to pay. Been using Apple Pay since the Beginn on phone and watch and it's really great. Pro tip: once using Apple Pay (where available), you won't really use your credit card any more. Do yourself a favor and ask your bank to send you a replacement credit/debit card without the tap-to-pay antenna in it. It will make you invulnerable to live sing card detail due to scanning scammers.
  • I really don't like watches. Could you just imbed a chip in my arm? I always lose my phone and wallet. I would never lose my hand.
  • Biometric implants may seem like science fiction, but in the next couple of generations all newborns will receive sub-cutaneous implants. This will at first be met with outrage although it will be the saviour of our species. This information in these implants will be required to stem genetic degradation brought on by thousands of years of placing our consciousness in to younger versions of ourselves. I find myself laughing at my own version of what is to come. I believe by the end of the twenty first century we will be in awe at our technological advances. Huberious will be mankinds downfall and the information in our children's genetic make up will be its savour. TIME WILL TELL.
  • Just wow.
  • Exactly. Sent from the iMore App
    Actually, a couple of beers may help tell as well. Lol
  • Implants that contain info? You are insane. I dont need to give the government another way to track me. No thanks.
  • Another option is to use a wallet that blocks the scanners.
  • He meant tapping the watch to the reader. Not how many times you tap the alt button on the side of the watch.
  • Tapping he watch to the reader is not necessary.
  • It's normally easiest to tap your watch lightly onto the contactless reader as holding your arm close without touching the reader is often more finicky.
  • I have used Apple Pay many, many times, but in the 18 months I've had the Apple Watch, I've never used it there and have no desire to. In most of the terminals I have used, it would be awkward to hold my wrist up to it. I have thought about using it for boarding passes, but paper was just easier for me because I didn't have to mess with the watch or phone.
  • I'm the same. I have only had the watch since the S2 came out in (4 months) and in that time I only used it for Apple Pay a few times, mostly because of the awkward angle of turning my arm around to get the watch to the scanner. For whatever reason, I had more difficulty getting it to work, too (position/placement?)
    I guess I should try using it more, but it just seems easier and more reliable with the phone, especially in places where I've never used Apple Pay before and I'm not positive if it's going to work.
  • Because the paper just magically appears?
  • Pretty much the only awkward time I have using the Apple Watch is at drive-thru fast-food places where having us driving n the left side of the road means my Apple Watch arm is not the arm closest to the window meaning I have to reach my arm over my body to pay unless the attendant passes the terminal to me to scan (which is incidentally more secure than giving them your card which they might surreptitiously tap on a skimmer without your knowledge). Other than that, most shops have the contactless terminal in an easily accessible location thanks to the ubiquitous penetration of PayPass across Australia. Incidentally, I've also had zero success using Apple Wallet on my Watch to scan my Boarding pass when getting on planes in Australia. It's pretty much impossible to fit your arm under the scanners they use at airports here in Oz. Having the boarding pass on my iPhone works a treat though and is a lifesaver when you're on a trip where you can't print out a paper copy ahead of time.
  • Ok, so you had me at "paying for gas." Do most gas stations accept this? Or should I just keep an eye out on the pumps I frequent to see which ones in my area do?
  • From their podcasts, it's apparent that gas stations in Canada have this. In the US, at least where I live, I've never seen one yet (but I hear a few exist.) In particular I really want to use Apple Pay at gas stations because they're famous for having been hacked with skimmers (sometimes inside the pump where you can't see them.) I personallly can't wait for more gast stations to have this.
    I discovered that I can use Apple Pay to access my Bank of America ATM now (instead of my ATM card.) I love it. I also hope that it's more secure than cards that again, can be skimmed.
  • Varies by gas company. Ultramar always has it. Petro Canada too, I think. Esso (Exxon) has their own FOB fastpay system and doesn't take tap-to-pay... so I avoid going there.
  • In the USA, most gas stations are not yet set up to accept this because they have been slow to make the investment in new NFC POS terminals and they don't have to before the end of 2018. In our region, it seems only Meijer has upgraded their pumps to accept NFC.
  • It actually varies. For some reason a lot of gas station NFC readers error out with Apple Pay but work fine with cards O_o.
  • I have exactly the same experience Rene - I continually see people's eyes widen and get the "Wow" and "that is so cool" comments when I tap and pay with my Apple Watch. (not so much have I seen the person on the other side of the counter with an Apple Watch though - yet) Here in Australia, contactless payments are ubiquitous so much so that many times now I've left my wallet at home (sometimes even my iPhone) as I've been 100% certain I'll be able to pay for things with my Watch. Even Vending machines - no problem. It really is the killer app - so much so I just cannot understand why Apple hasn't shouted this from the rooftops in advertising.
  • I'm in Australia too and whilst support from the banks is limited in terms of which ones offer Apple Pay, the flip side is that I can use it pretty much everywhere. Sent from the iMore App
  • In Australia we've had tap & go credit cards for several years. The easy payment scenario is our everyday normal. So there is no Apple Watch payment "wow factor" for us. Although I can understand René's excitement.
    My tech-savvy friends & I can't see the point of Apple Watch. It can't function standalone without a companion iPhone. So it's an expensive iPhone accessory (or heaven forbid, just a fashion statement). We all have the holy trinity of Mac, iPad & iPhone. Some of them are seriously geeky guys who love their tech toys but no-one wants the Apple Watch.
    My friends who want to count their steps etc. have FitBits.
    Sorry, but we see no compelling "use case" for Apple Watch.
  • I wasn't sure whether I would benefit from the Apple Watch before I bought it, but Apple have a good track record with releasing new products that are genuinely useful, so I took the plunge and bought the first one when it came out. I soon began to realize how satisfying it is to be able to see notifications by just lifting my wrist, not just that but it's much easier to know if someone's tried to contact me if my phone is in my pocket. There are plenty of apps for it which allow a great deal of functionality given that it's a fairly small device on your wrist, and it's really easy to use. Of course, it is more of a convenience item rather than something which provides you with more functionality, but I've found that it has benefited me a lot. Still, almost 2 years on I'm using it and still enjoying it as much as I was the day it came out. I guess the wow factor is that you don't need to pull anything out your pocket (or your bag maybe if you're a girl), it's something that's on your wrist and only requires you to move your arm to the sensor to pay. Incredibly convenient.
  • Peter, you obviously have never tried using an Apple Watch to pay for things here in Australia as the ONLY times the person behind the counter has not had a "wow" response when I tap my watch is when they were looking away and didn't see me tapping my wrist or they have already seen me pay regularly already and they finally got used to it. The wow factor is easily as common as when the iPhone was first released in 2008 in Australia and everyone wanted to see my iPhone. Fumbling around in your tight pocket/bag etc with two hands to drag out your credit card,tapping and then putting it back in your wallet again with two hands and sticking it back in your pocket/bag has not in the slightest reduced the wow reaction people have to the convenience of tapping your wrist. Also, the Apple Watch does quite a lot of things completely independent of the iPhone - tap your wrist to Pay with Apple Pay, on-board apps, listen to music stored locally on the Watch, use the watch, timer and stopwatch functions, Monitor your heartrate, track your workouts and fitness goals etc and now with the Series 2 GPS. If you have wifi connectivity, without the iPhone you can also make and receive phone calls using wifi calling, control your home, use apps that support wifi, set and use reminders, use Siri for directions, sending iMessages and lots of other stuff. Pretty large amount of things the Watch can do sans-iPhone if you ask me.
  • I agree. Apple Pay is delightful on the Watch, and it works better/more consistently for me than on the phone. Might have something to do with it being smaller. I never know exactly where to position my huge 7 Plus on the NFC reader, but it's easy with the Watch. It really feels like living in the future.
  • You usually just position the back of the phone against the reader, and Apple Pay will come up on the screen. It should be close enough that you don't need to worry whether it's the top, middle, or bottom part of the back of the phone that's near the NFC reader
  • I've had the exact same experience! One thing I would add is the Mac unlock feature was one of the main features that drove me to switch from Windows to Mac.
  • Feels like magic!
  • Random thought re supply constraint: Is Apple "hoarding" OLED-making materials in advance of iPhone "8"? Sent from the iMore App
  • Unfortunately Apple Pay is still not available in The Netherlands. Even though we have the highest number of contactless terminals in the world. I think our market is to small for the amount of work Apple has to do with the banks. Also our banks are afraid to lose any control over their relationship with customers.
    When the Apple Watch came out I told my girlfriend: Just wait, in a year we can pay anywhere with our Watch. We are now 3 years on...
  • Apple Pay is still missing from a lot of places in Europe: It's a shame, I hope Apple are working hard to try to get this to other countries. I'm lucky that I'm in the UK and it's supported here, it's really great to use.
  • It's a function of Apple having to work with the banks on a country by country basis.
  • I absolutely love my Apple Watch and Apple Pay is my favorite feature on the watch . It works like magic only problem is Apple needs to find a way to show Everyone how Apple Pay works .My mom watched me do it and said I would love to be able to do that. I said you have been able to do this for over a year we set it up the day you got the iPhone. Fantastic feature especially on Apple Watch so easy, so safe.
  • Apple has tutorials available online, and tutorials that are held in their Apple Stores. There's plenty of resources out there, not just from Apple either
  • Boots on the ground — Apple reps going store-by-store to train cashiers so they can train the public?
  • But most people are not like us.Most people don't know About Imore or the Loop etc.Unfortunately they usually get there info from some news network and all they hear about is why did Apple only sell a 50 million iPhones or news that is not always true which is most of the time. The news does not show Apple Pay and it's not there job to its apples I get that but then they panic everyone buy saying something like your iPhone can now be hacked and usually they make it out to be much more than it is so they can get views or clicks it drives me crazy because then comes all the phone calls I thought you said I was safe with the iPhone?😡😡
  • The media always likes to put a negative spin on things. These days you're better reading trusted websites instead of watching the news on TV, if you want an accurate view of things
  • The definition of conformational bias, staying in a safe bubble. Websites want page clicks nothing more.
  • "No one reads 'dog bites man' but everyone reads 'man bites dog' " is an old cliche :)
  • True but in the USA Right websites blame Obama, Left websites blame Trump. Their audiences nod their heads in agreement, then bite the dog.
  • But there is a huge collection of us, some connected with the right, some not, that read BOTH sites, cull out the truth, and make informed decisions. I've seen that much more often with those on the right than the left unfortunately. It seems the left is much more into their "bubble" than the right is - just see what's been going on since the election. After Obama was elected (either time) there were no people or companies or major media outlets going insane and attacking the President, his family, or his policies before he even finished one week.
  • I actually don't go to a single place that I can't use my Watch and Apple Pay. I still carry my debit card just in case I need it , but I'm pretty sure I havnt used it in about 3 months or more.
  • It's harsh but it's the best way to get businesses to start using Apple Pay. I remember a time where a lot of places in the UK didn't take card so people had to pay cash. A lot of people didn't like this so they stopped going to places that didn't take card, so businesses had to adapt. There's probably not going to be the same impact with people wanting to use Apple Pay, but every little helps
  • We still have that at some mall food courts. I guess they don't want to pay the fees for the transactions. Since I don't cary cash almost ever anymore, I can't frequent them.
  • I also enjoy telling my watch to turn on/off lights via Home. Sent from the iMore App
  • I love that! Do it all the time.
  • I can do all of that by pulling out my phone! You all make me want to use Samsung Pay! It works everywhere there is NFC.
  • Which is far less convenient than just tapping your wrist on the reader.