Convenience — Apple Watch's killer feature

A lot of the post-game analysis surrounding the Apple Watch event in September centered on the showcasing of a list of features rather than the presentation of a clear case for why people need it in their lives. There was no iPhone-style "are you getting it yet?" moment or iPad-style "better than both" argument. Yet the neither of those devices really sold based on those pitches. The iPhone had us at the interface and the iPad at the experience. Because of that — because we've seen amazing interfaces and enjoyed incredible experiences already — the Apple Watch will have to have us at something else. And that something else will be convenience.

Before the Apple Watch was announced I wrote that I hoped it would excel at doing four things:

  • Logging: Collecting sensor-derived health and fitness data via HealthKit.
  • Controlling: Serving as an interface for accessories, especially home automation, via HomeKit.
  • Authenticating: Making, for example, mobile payments via PassKit (or whatever Apple replaces PassKit with).
  • Alerting: Relaying priority notifications.

Apple did all those and one better:

  • Communicating

With the Apple Watch, we'll be able to keep track of our steps, buy something with Apple Pay, pause or play our Apple TV, and let our family and friends know that we're out there and thinking of them.

Since most of those things are backed up by frameworks like HealthKit, WatchKit, PassKit, and HomeKit, we'll be able to do whole lot more as well.

We'll be able to share our stats with our coaches, show our boarding passes at the gate, choose the next power-up card we want to play, and turn off all our lights when we go to sleep.

All without needing to pull our iPhones from out of our pockets, purses, bags, or go get them from off the table or across the room.

Logging. Controlling. Authenticating. Alerting. Communicating.

These are all important things. They're things we need and want. But they're also brief things. They're intermittent and unpredictable things. They're things that the Apple watch will be able to do more efficiently — maybe even better.

I've told many of these stories before:

  • My mother wants an Apple Watch so she can get the iPhone 6 Plus, leave it in her purse, and not have to worry about missing messages or calls.
  • My sister currently uses a Pebble because her hospital's paging system runs on the iPhone but she doesn't want to carry it with her on rounds.
  • A friend who jogs is dreaming for the day he can leave home without having to carry his phone or his wallet.
  • A friend who's in meetings all day and can't check her phone — because, rude — is looking forward to the taptics triaging for her what's really urgent.
  • A buddy who's all-in on home automation can't wait to say "Goodnight, Siri!" and have everything lock down and turn off for the night.

That's how it works. Smaller, more personal things don't have to be as powerful or functional as bigger, less personal things. The iPad doesn't have to do as much as the Mac. The iPhone doesn't have to do as much as the iPad. The Watch...

When the iPhone launched in 2007 it wasn't fully independent. It required a computer but also enabled us to do things without going running back to our computer. Over time, it gained its independence and now we can do so many things some of us don't need to go running back to our computer at all any more.

The computer remains bigger and more powerful, but the iPhone is more personal and more portable. It's the best device there is for what it does because it's the device we have with us.

The Apple Watch will be the same. It will depend on the iPhone at first, but it will let us do just enough of just the right things that we won't need to go reaching back to our iPhones as much. And over time, who knows?

The iPhone will dominate for years to come, but the Watch will be even more personal, more portable, and it could end up being with us even more.

The Watch could be better at all the small, short, repetitive tasks that add up to a lot of time and effort. With short look, a long look, a glance, an extension, an app, it could be better by giving us just enough, and giving it to us just in time. And without having to reach for our phones.

"Saved you a click" is something of joke. "Saved you a reach" won't be.

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.

  • Great article Rene. I think you need to get this to Apple. You've done a better job of explaining the why than Apple has (so far).
  • I agree. Sent from the iMore App
  • Good observation. I totally agree. He was able to analyze and summarize in just a few paragraphs something that would have been nice to hear in the keynote. Very informative, Rene. Thanks.
  • Apple has provided far more information that what was in the keynote. A keynote is time limited and this one was especially. All you have to do is look at Apple's site for this sort of information.
  • good read.
  • I was so excited for the apple watch but then Tim Cook mentioned charging it every night. My excitement turned to disappoint. I think I'll wait until the second generation but it's going to be tough to resist. The black sports edition looks killer Sent from the iMore App
  • Charging every night is one of the least concerning things, I think.
  • I use Pebble and i don't have to charge it for at least 4 days. Going back to charging everyday will be a big concern for me. The pebble does almost everything the Apple watch will be able to do expect NFC iPay payments.
  • Charging every day is the cost of a color screen and radios. Can't have everything :(
  • True .. I still prefer not to charge every day .. maybe with iWatch 2.0 will come 2 or more days of battery life.
  • I seriously doubt it given Apple's record with mobile. We could have iPhones and iPads with at 3 days charge by now if battery life was Apple's priority (at least 48 hours). Thinner and lighter is their goal, and will be all the more with the Watch, I believe. Eventually we'll get longer battery life, but I don't think for a few more years. But I would be very happy to be proven wrong!
  • I have a question not about charging Rene but about the GPS in the apple watch so, my question is that if I jog without my iphone but with only my apple watch would it track the distances that I've ran and can it track the locations that I've ran like from a map?
  • Can't answer on the Apple watch, but note that the Fitbit surge has independent GPS built in that will give you pace realtime and let you map your run on a map. So it's possible apple watch has, but that duplicates what's in the companion iPhone. Like you, an independent GPS is a key feature for me.
  • No GPS in the Apple Watch.
  • Perhaps if Apple didn't have such an aversion to OLED screens, they could squeeze some more life out of the thing. My LG R watch has one and I get almost 2 days of battery life out of it. OLEDs on a watch make perfect sense.
  • Agreed, I get almost 3 days on my Sony smartwatch 2
  • Technically all smart watches can do what the other ones do. In reality do you not think the massive number of apps that will undoubtedly come for the Watch will mean you can realistically do a lot more with the Apple Watch? Remember there were over 3000 iPad specific applications for the launch of the iPad, before anyone could buy them (not even developers).
  • In the days of wind up, you had to wind daily, sometime twice a day. I agree charging nightly, or once a day is a way of life now. I see no problems. It is "do I really need one" aspect. I stopped wearing a watch a long time ago. Again it will come down to the watch functions, and your needs. Great article.
  • Charging daily is only Apple's way of life. Ipad, iphone, now watch. There are better products out there.
  • Only with the iPhone you have to charge it every day but not with the iPad. Sent from the iMore App
  • Omonja, that is good there are other products out there for you.
  • Better products, like?
  • And it was awkward and inconvenient, and we got over it almost a century ago. Do we really have to go back in time for the sake of pretty design?
  • If you want to use it to track your sleep it's kind of a bummer...
  • You buy two so you have a day watch and a night watch. I'm sure they will sync smoothly, making it so easy to switch off from one watch to another. Will that be an unacceptably expensive solution? To some people. But the people who own several watches by choice won't be bothered by it.
  • The barging in such a small battery will probably only be a very short time. Maybe the time I a shower. Where you should take off the watch anyways because of the heat. Sent from the iMore App
  • Charging not barging. Sent from the iMore App
  • The heat? What about the wet? Is it waterproof?
  • Hole for the speaker, so it's water resistant. Cannot be dunked in water.
  • Tracking sleep with current tech is a sham, even in Apple Watch. I once compared it to a sleep study I had, and it was way, way off - no correlation at all.
  • There is no sleep tracking on the Apple Watch. At least it was never mentioned during the keynote or on the website last I checked. I think it is expected that you will charge the watch at night so sleep tracking is not a sham on the Watch because it doesn't exist. BTW I had a sleep study done too and I never understood how any watch could compare to that and track my sleep in a meaningful and accurate way.
  • But if it's charging at night how will it track sleep and be used as a silent alarm that doesn't wake my wife? This is a big concern for me. Sent from the iMore App
  • That's true. I hadn't even thought of that. Sent from the iMore App
  • Depends on charging time. Could charge in the evening before bed, wear to bed, use as alarm clock. Get up in the morning, plug in to charge while getting ready for day. Wear for the day.
  • I don't understand why people don't like 1 day battery life. Why not just charge it at night with your phone? Sent from the iMore App
  • I think one day battery life is fine. Anything more, and it won't be part of your daily routine, so it's likely to die before you remember to recharge every few days. I have this issue with a mantle clock today, because it runs down at odd times.
  • Seems like a good option for some people.
  • With continuity I don't need to have both my laptop and cell phone on me around the house or school. I can do my school work on Mac and if I get a phone call, answer it then and there without the need to take my phone out. Continuity is what gives me convenience now. For the prices they are asking for that Watch, I really fear how long their shelf life will be–I might as well by a good Swiss watch at those price points and not have to worry about obsolesce.
  • Sport is only $350. Even Edition will be less than the 5 figures most even poor-quality Swiss watches go for.
  • Excited for the Watch, but I don't think its right to compare it to multi-thousand dollar watches, as its useful life will practically only be a few years.
  • Why not? If the value of the  watch to me is telling time and taking my vitals. Why would I not want to keep it for 5-10+ years. Regular watches keep value depending on the craftsmanship and connection you feel with it. I have known people to where wrist watches long after it has stopped working. For them it becomes a piece of jewelry. If the high end  watch is solid gold and sells for 5k there would be a subset of people that would wear it as a standard watch. Apple is pushing it as a watch and fashion accessory first. both things that we keep for a long time. Even if we do not wear them everyday
  • But you do not KNOW the useful life will only be a few years... What if Apple had a program to trade in the $10k Edition watch (making up a price here) for just $200 when a new version comes out? Apple could easily recycle the materials, or possibly even just swap out the innards over time.
  • I have a question. For the one about running. If it is using bluetooth, unless you run relatively short distances, wouldn't the watch stop working? I mean yeah if you want to use it as your fitness tool it will collect the data, but I have a $90 Nike+ watch that can do that... Not seeing the draw for it in that regard.
  • It'd be like taking a wi-fi only iPad out for a run. Local stuff still works, connected stuff no longer updates. You can still log your activity, listen to music, use Apple Pay, etc.
  • So does this mean that I can run with only the watch and using gps to track my runs?
  • This is my biggest concern... and unless something has changed, I'm certainly positive the answer is you will need to bring the phone. The watch doesn't have built in GPS.
  • I’m not at all sold on the case for the Apple Watch. I’m not saying that no one would get anything out of the device, but in my particular situation I don’t see the value. I could write an article length reply on the reasons, but (sort of) briefly: Re: logging. It doesn’t do anything my phone doesn’t already do, with the exception of heart-rate logging, and… who really needs 24/7 heart rate logging? Unless you have a heart condition that requires it, this is not terribly useful information. If it could do blood pressure measurement, that would be a whole different story. And as a side note, the HealthKit integration is something that isn’t that compelling to me, primarily because HealthKit has proven to be a huge disappointment. I leapt into it with both feet once iOS 8 launched, only to discover that 1) the iOS 8 Health app has virtually nothing in the way of data analysis. Interested in your average systolic/diastolic blood pressure over a period? Health doesn’t know. Are there any daily patterns to your blood pressure? Health displays all the blood pressure readings for a single day on a single spot, so you can’t see. This would be such a big problem, but… 2) Health is Data Prison. It’s the roach motel of information: data goes in, but it doesn’t come out. If you want to do any kind of analysis at all, you would need to get the data into some kind of spreadsheet… but there’s no “export to Numbers” feature, nor does there appear to be any App Store app that will do this (it’s a sore spot for me because I have hypertension that’s proving very resistant to diet, exercise, and medication, and is requiring a bunch of measurement and analysis to figure out what’s going on). Controlling: I have a small house and minimal electronics to control. For me, home automation would be about avoiding the necessity to walk to the light switch, and I’m not spending a bunch of money for that. So the watch doesn’t help me. Authenticating: my phone does this just fine, and uses a thumbprint vs. a passcode. Alerting: 1) phone does this, and 2) my life is not so busy that I require something to tap me on the wrist to respond right now. Communicating: The cost/benefit ratio seems out of whack here, as you’ll still need to carry the phone on your person, or else not be able to communicate. To my knowledge the Watch doesn’t have much in the way of internal radios. The bottom line here is that to me, the Watch’s main function seems to be to avoid the need to take your phone out of your pocket, and I’m just not spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars for that. Some people will buy the thing for the fashion of it, and some because they will have more use for the functionality than I would. I’ll be interested to see what the sales figures actually are for the device, once it comes out.
  • Agree. For that price, not worth it at the moment. Now that could change, but for me the $349 price tag isn't worth it. Maybe with gen 2 or 3 that will change
  • $350 works out to $1 a day over the course of a year. Most people would pay $1 a day for convenience, if they understand it in those terms.
  • Unless I have the option of paying $1 a day that doesn't really matter. It's still an up front $350 investment on a product that truly isn't worth that much. We trick ourselves into thinking it is because it's from Apple and the little tasks like pulling out a mobile device and answering a call or viewing a text have apparently become too cumbersome. Sure I can view a text but typically I need to respond then as well in which case I'll pull my phone out anyway. I think the majority of people don't truly NEED this product. But of course they all WANT it and will spend the $350. I just don't see how it's worth it as of now.
  • You can do what I did, when I first saw the watch announced and knew I wanted not only the watch but a much better camera I looked at what I already owned and sold stuff, I have 250.00 already towards the watch and by the time September comes round when my contract is up I will figure out where that last 100.00 and tax will come from.
  • I will pick one for sure(sport edition) as I love to jog/run. Rene - Thanks for another great article! Very well explained. Sent from the iMore App
  • Don't be lazy, don't get what you don't need. Sent from the iMore App
  • Don't be lazy, don't get what you don't need. Sent from the iMore App
  • They need an app to deliver a gentle tap on the wrist when someone has more money than sense.
  • Need is such a subjective term. Who needs a watch? Glance at the sun over your shoulder, or look out the window, or check the clock on the wall. The Apple Watch is about fashion and convenience. If you don't care about either, it's not for you.
  • Forget about the charging nightly (which will be an annoyance, and render sleep monitoring apps useless), an  Watch is useless to me as long as it's so dependent upon having your phone on you as well. The gym on-base is right down the street from my house; I don't even bring either of these big ass phones with me now. Definitely not bringing them to the track, either. As far as the watch itself, I have no doubt that it will be very nice - overpriced, sure (subjective), but it will sell. The key, determining whether it's destined to fly or flop, remains the developers and what their imaginations let them do with WatchKit. A few good "Aha!!" apps and these things will fly off the shelves. Twitter, fish drawings, and "share my heartbeat" won't cut it. I have faith in iOS developers - they've been carrying the brand for years and to the top. I think I'll be sitting this watch thing out, though - at least Round 1. Sent from the iMore App