I am thinking of returning my Apple Watch
It should be stated that I am not a watch guy. The Apple Watch was the first watch that I have purchased for myself since the sundial watch I bought as a gag in the eighth grade. In my past life as an acrobat and a clown it was not very practical to wear anything on my wrists so the only jewelry I have worn with any regularity are my wedding and engagement rings.
I went with the stainless steel 38mm because it was smaller and even though I am built like a fireplug I think of myself as pretty dainty. I also preferred the midnight blue modern buckle to the leather straps that are available to the 42mm watches.
When I learned about the watch. I was excited. It is a new product, a new SDK, a new set of interfaces. I even built my first watchkit app without even having a device. I am hoping to write about that experience at a later date.
My watch arrived on Launch day April 24th. I picked it up from the UPS distribution center near my office in San Francisco and spent the morning giddily setting it up. I paired it with my iPhone, selected the apps that would move over to my watch and lovingly curated the notifications that would buzz on my wrist and fiddled endlessly with the watch face. It is a beautiful object. I love holding it and seeing the obvious care and heart that went into its design and engineering. It is in every respect the watch apple would build.
Using it, however, is just okay.
The Apple watch is a reverse iPod, it is beautiful but not obviously more useful.
When the first iPod appeared on apple.com in 2001 it was a completely new thing. It looked strange and people didn’t get it at first, but it was something I grokked almost immediately. Driving around the Midwest in the 90s usually began with figuring out what I wanted to listen to before hand. My friends were good at this, they had huge books of CDs that we would swap out and listen to straight through; I ended up leaving a single Blur CD in the stereo for months. But with an iPod I could shuffle all of the music I had all the time. The device itself was kind of dorky and white, but what it did was amazing. I had been an apple fan for years at that point, but the iPod turned me into an apple fanboi.
My week and a half wearing an apple watch has taught me one big lesson about watches. A watch is only secondarily used to tell time. Upon realizing this Apple’s whole advertising strategy around the watch suddenly made sense. The Apple Watch is not about utility, it is about the materials that make it up and the people who care about those materials. Watches are actually social signifiers more than time pieces, fitness trackers, or notification screens, they communicate the wealth and status of the wearer.
This makes me a little uncomfortable.
Over the course of my career I have been blessed to experience both mild success and bracing failure. I have been comfortable making a mortgage, and I have bene worried about how I was going to make the rent. I have been bone crushingly in debt and in my twenties had to move back in with my parents. I remember all of these times and have friends from all of these times in my life. So strapping a $600 signifier of my tech-ness on my wrist seems a little, and I hate to use this word, douche-y.
Vague discomfort is something I can generally power through. As a performer of any type one of the first things you must learn is the ability to give zero fucks about vague feelings of discomfort because show business is nothing if not discomforting. In the case of the apple watch I feel that have not been gaining enough utility to put up with the social awkwardness of actually wearing the thing:
Yes, I can tell the time (once I learned the odd little shake needed to get the time to appear).
Yes, I can track my activity. I am starting to agree with Paula Pound stone that fitness trackers only exists so that people will feel that getting up to get ice cream counts as exorcise.
Yes, there are third party apps. But the current state of the SDK makes them less than useful. The apps that have been created for the watch are not apps. They are tiny secondary screens for existing apps.
Watch apps being secondary screens instead of wholly new apps means that unlike when the iPhone it will be much harder to create new businesses or delightful new experiences just for the watch.
Steve Kovach’s review of the apple watch gets to the heart of the matter:
“The Apple Watch is best used as that: a watch. It’s something you check for a second or two and then put away. And in 2015, it’s nice to have a watch that can do more than simply tell time.”
However when a watch carries so much social baggage already, adding a few radios does not elevate it into a new category. It does not help the device be more useful or help us to create or do more. Watches tell the world about us, about what we find important and I am not sure my life is aligned with what the Apple Watch says about me.