At my core, I've always been a gadget geek. Gadgets are distractions, enhancements, delights: They give you something to occupy your time with, a way to learn someting new, or a building block to make your life better. As a kid, I'd carry around any gadget I could get my hands on — garage door openers, Tamagotchis, compasses, binoculars — as an adult, I've largely replaced that compulsion with an iPhone.
But the iPhone 6 is a solitary gadget: When you're interacting with it, your gaze is averted from the room's events. You become immersed in that 4.7-inch screen. It's like a good book — while immersion can be wonderful and introduce you to new worlds and ideas, it's not the best when hanging out with other people or trying to multitask in the car, for instance.
I want a gadget with the power of an iPhone but the presence of a much smaller, less obtrusive gadget. And I'm hoping that gadget will be the Apple Watch.
Can we have a society?
The iPhone is mentally too obtrusive and physically butts into conversation — even if you only want to check a movie time or pull up directions to your local theater, chances are you'll end up on Twitter or replying to an email. Something like Google Glass is even worse — you never know when someone's paying attention to you or the LCD screen between you.
The Apple Watch is — I hope — the best sort of compromise. It's a gadget that's on your skin, but not constantly in your face. It uses subtle, differing notifications depending on what information is being presented, some of which don't even require you to lift your arm. And it's single-stream — there appears to be no way to easily multitask on the Watch, which could mean that getting directions will actually be getting directions, not getting directions and checking Twitter and answering email while you do so.
There will likely still be people fiddling with their Apple Watch as much or more as they currently do with their phone. But for me, I hope the watch cuts down on my phone screen dependence — sometimes you just want to be available for notifications without having to pull your device out of your pocket to see who's talking to you.
Bringing voice to the forefront
I also suspect that the Watch's lack of keyboard will keep people from hammering away at it as they might an iPhone or iPad. With Siri, Apple's voice-controlled digital assistant, as your main form of quick and detailed interaction, you have to keep your queries succinct and to the point.
Of course, this also requires Apple's Siri software to perform a little more reliably than it does on your iPhone. It should help a little bit that you'll be able to trigger Siri by lifting your watch to your face, but I'm hoping that part of the Watch's introduction next week centers around Siri's vocal improvements and smart queries for Apple's wrist-based device.
Add in HomeKit's voice-activated triggers and the potential for more voice commands, and Siri could be a major part of how we interact with the Watch.
On the iPhone, apps like Yo have tried to monetize our need for poke-based conversation — sometimes, you don't want to hear about someone's day or what their significant other said; sometimes you just want to let them know you're thinking about them, or say hi.
The Watch helps allow you to stay in touch without having to put in a phone call or write a letter. You can send a little drawing; you can send your heartbeat; you can quickly reply to text messages using Siri or pre-worded phrases. It opens up the opportunity for connections you may not otherwise have the time for on a daily basis.
I do wonder how effective the Watch will be with traditional text messaging — I've had some ridiculously epic Siri misfires while trying to dictate messages before. Without some major improvements to language processing and more tapping into your often-used typed phrases, I don't doubt I'll have similar interactions on the Watch. Bottom line: I think it'll come down to just how good those quick-reply message options are.
But you also don't necessarily ever have to send traditional texts on the Watch. You could send drawings, or emojis, or heartbeats. It's a little nugget of joy, something you can dash off quickly while in a meeting or in another conversation. As a reply to a traditional text, it's a nice way to let the other person know that you've seen what they have to say without having to spend lots of time composing a reply.
The touchless future
We already know you'll be able to use the Watch with Apple Pay, and September's event made mention of unlocking hotel doors with the device, as well. To me, this is step one of a much bigger plan on Apple's part. I theorized back in September about using it to unlock car doors, and Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said as much in an interview with the Telegraph. What about your house locks, or your Macs?
Or go a different tack: What about using the Watch to track your relative arm movement? Could we someday have software, for instance, that uses arm positioning while playing a cello to transcribe music to an app on your iPhone? The possibilities for a touchless, interactive future are incredible.
Wishing, hoping, and reality
We'll know a lot more about the Apple Watch in the next month or two after we've gotten our hands on it — whether it truly reduces the noise or it just adds another random gadget to the mix. But I'm hopeful. To me, the promise of the Apple Watch in my life is huge. Whether it delivers on that promise, well — we'll just have to wait and see.
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