It took me a few minutes to get used to using the Apple Watch. At first I came at it as though it were an iPhone that Apple had shrunk down so it could fit on my wrist. Since, intellectually, I knew what pressing the digital crown and the hardware button would do, what tapping icons and the software buttons would do, that's what I did. Then an Apple representative sent me a tap message. I saw it. I felt it. And I stopped.
Demo areas aren't real life. The product you're experiencing isn't yours. It isn't connected to your accounts, it doesn't have your data, and it isn't set up to your personal tastes. You're also surrounded by people and noise, you have limited time, and you want to try out as many features as you can. It's tough to keep the context in mind, to set your expectations accordingly, and to try and extrapolate a product's demo to its real-life usage. It's what leads to day-of reaction stories that are sometimes very different to week-in review pieces to months-in review pieces.
The Apple Watch, so interconnected as it is with the iPhone, made this especially true. It made it so tempting to just hunt and peck around, to try to get at everything. Then, as I said, it very literally tapped me out of it.
The digital crown and the button aren't directly analogous to the Home and Sleep/Wake buttons on the iPhone. Force Touch has no analogue on the iPhone (at least not yet). Trying to use the Apple Watch like an iPhone works about as well as trying to use an iPhone like Mac. (Or trying to use the original iPhone like an old-school BlackBerry or Treo.)
Yes, you can go and seek out all the features if you really want to. Apple made it possible. But the watch really wants to bring those features to you.
Think of it like the difference between iOS 7 and iOS 8. In iOS 7, if you wanted to edit and post a photo to a new social network, you had to take the photo, switch to an editing app, open the photo, make your changes, save it again, maybe repeat the process in another editing app or two, then go to a sharing app, open the photo, and post it. In iOS 8, you just have to take the photo, apply the photo extensions, tap the share extension, and you're done. Likewise, you can answer iMessages in a banner notification and pull down a calculator widget no matter where you are.
You can still do things the old way if you really want to, you can still hunt down features, but iOS 8 fundamentally changed the way things work — it decoupled interface and switched the interactivity model from pull to push. It made you stop having to go track down features and started bringing those features to you.
The Apple Watch does the same thing, only more so. You're not really going to access messages by pushing the digital crown, spinning it around the carousel, tapping the icon, and then typing something out. You're going to get a short look, decide if it needs your immediate attention, and if it does, reply right from the notification. You're going to raise your wrist, say "Hey Siri", and send a message right from there.
Notifications and, to some extent Siri, not icons, are going to be the primary portal to apps and activities.
If deeper, longer-form interaction is needed, you'll absolutely still be able to do it. You'll be able to tap and spin and swipe and otherwise move through glances and apps and do almost anything you want to do. You'll even be able to use handoff to continue an especially deep or time-consuming activity on your iPhone, the same way you can handoff from your iPhone to your Mac today.
That's the advantage of Apple staging convenience and complexity. You can do more with an iPhone than ever before, but you still can't do everything you can do on Mac, and some things you certainly can't do as efficiently. You can do a lot of very important things, however, and do them even more conveniently. And that means you don't have to go running back to your Mac as much as once did.
With the Apple Watch you'll also be able to do a lot, but not everything you can do with the iPhone. You'll be able to do some very important things, however, and even some unique things, even more conveniently. And that'll mean you won't have to go reaching for your iPhone as much as you do now.
That one little tap on my wrist in the demo area reminded me of all that, and reoriented me as well. The experience I was having wasn't "first run" it was "first play". It was what most people will do when they strap on their Apple Watch for the first time — you'll play with everything, all at once, as much as is humanly possible.
Then you'll stop playing with it and just start wearing it. You'll stop working for it and it'll simply start working for you. And it'll be yours, connected to your accounts, set up to your tastes.
The Apple Watch isn't an iPhone any more than the iPhone is a Mac. Computing has moved from the server room to the desktop to the laptop to the pocket and now onto the wrist. Every time that's happened, every time it's moved to a new, more personal place, those of us who were used to it in its old place have become slightly anxious, we've become subject to our own expectational debt.
Yet every time, over time, we've come to not only accept them, we've come to depend on them.
I have no doubt, for me, the same will be true of the Apple Watch.
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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.