The geek community is buzzing with discussion of the upcoming release of the Apple Watch. Apple’s latest new “thing” is set to be released on April 24 with pre-orders starting in just a few short days on Friday, April 10. So how does the Apple Watch fit into the lifestyle of a geeky parent? Will it be a useful tool or yet another distraction?
I see the Apple Watch being a bigger technology disruption than the original iPhone was when it was first released. Before the iPhone there were smartphones on the market but they were not heavily used to stay connected in the way smartphones are used today. The iPhone really changed the way people looked at the utility of their phones. Then something really interesting and not that unexpected happened: people started using their smartphones more. The Apple App Store opened and developers started coming up with brand new ways to use this new technology that everyone was carrying around in their pockets. Now it is commonplace to see someone looking down at their smartphone just about everywhere you go. This is going to change on April 24.
Enter the Apple Watch. Some see this as simply a really expensive accessory for your iPhone and at its core that is exactly what it is. The Apple Watch must be paired with an iPhone. You can use some of the functions of the Apple Watch without an iPhone but in order to configure the watch you must first pair it with an iPhone and use the iPhone to set up the watch. So why would anyone need to buy something that has functionality that already exists on their iPhone? The answer to this question is the reason why the Apple Watch is going to be such a technology disruption…interaction.
Since June of 2007 the iPhone has been training us to pick it up and get sucked into all the various distractions of which it is capable. By design the iPhone is expected to be used for significant amounts of time. In contrast, the Apple Watch is designed for very short and focused interactions. It is designed to be quickly glanced at and then set aside and forgotten. When I say forgotten I do mean forgotten, because this device is now strapped to your wrist and will quickly become just another part of your arm. The reason this device is going to be so disruptive is because it is going to flip the current norm of interaction with technology on its head. Technology will take its first baby step in becoming part of you rather than something that is carried around with you. This gets us one step closer to the Star Trek world where doors just automatically open when you walk up to them and tea magically appears when you walk up to a wall on a starship and say “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot.”
All of this sounds really interesting, but what does it mean for a geeky parent today who is considering whether this newfangled Apple device is something worth getting? One word: freedom. As a parent, a smartphone is both a blessing and a curse. Being always connected to your family gives you extra peace of mind and security but it comes with the cost of distraction. Now you are expected to always be a simple phone call or text message away when you child gets a sniffle and goes to the nurse’s office at school or your child calls you because they are locked out of the house. However, this is the same device that pings you every time you are mentioned on Twitter or someone “likes” something you posted on Facebook. As a parent you can’t really afford to silence your phone. You have to take the time to at least pull the phone out of your pocket just in case that latest notification is a text from the school or from your child, and while you’re at it maybe you will just take a quick peek at your email or Twitter or your favorite website or …
The Apple Watch will sever the connection we have been making stronger day by day since June of 2007. Don’t deny it. Be honest, how many times a day do you just pick up your smartphone to only do one thing and that one thing is really the only thing you do? If you are anything like me the answer is “not very often.” Most of the time in that fraction of a second it takes for the phone to unlock and all those beautiful icons pop into existence on that retina screen, you see all the potential rabbit holes you can jump into and forget why you even pulled out your phone in the first place.
The Apple Watch is designed to keep you from using your iPhone. It isn’t designed to keep you from owning an iPhone, but it certainly has the potential to greatly reduce the amount of time you spend physically using your iPhone. A brand new interface, if you will. If there is one reason for a geeky parent to consider purchasing an Apple Watch it is this: the Apple Watch will help you stay more focused on what you are doing without sacrificing the “always available” nature of today’s connected world. It will allow you to be more present and in the moment with your family, but only if you choose to use it that way.
If you go overboard and sign up for every notification you can and pass them all to the watch on your wrist then it could actually make matters worse and distract you even more. The key is to set up the Apple Watch with just the notifications that you absolutely need, then save the rest for your iPhone. Now that you have an Apple Watch you can separate the critical notifications from the ones that are just nice to have. The “nice to have” notifications can now be relegated to silent and non-vibrating so they only show up on the “missed” notifications in notification center. No more phantom vibrations alerts from the iPhone in your pocket because you won’t have them anymore. Anything truly important will now show up on your wrist.
Technology truly becomes powerful when it simply melts into the background and it allows you to forget it is even there. That is how I intend to use my Apple Watch. It remains to be seen just how successful it will be in severing my physical connection to my iPhone. After a few weeks with the Apple Watch I will write a follow-up post here on GeekDad and go into detail about how you can use your Apple Watch to minimize distraction.