When the Apple Watch was first announced, I was pretty sure I wanted one. But I recently started to use my Kickstarter Pebble again, just to see if a watch fits my personal workflow, and I’m now rethinking if I’m going to bother. How I use a watch doesn’t match what the device does, and what I expect (or hope) from a smartwatch isn’t what’s being delivered.
Regular User from 1977 to 2002
I started to wear a watch on a daily basis back in junior high (starting around 1977). I started with a basic “only tells you the time” Timex, switched to dual display watches when I went into the military, and stuck with dual display for years. When I did a lot of international travel, I had a dual display that included 2 digital times, meaning I could know the time in 3 different timezones. When you cross 12-20 timezones in a trip, have a customer in another timezone and want to know the time at home, believe me, this is invaluable.
But when EFA shut down in 2002, I started down the entrepreneur road, and stopped wearing a watch daily. In part it was about “freedom”, not obsessing about what time it was “right now”. But I also started to realize that I was surrounded by time information. In 2003, I had the time on my phone, my PDA, my laptop, in the dash of my truck, on my stove, and on the walls of my house. The time was everywhere, and it meant I didn’t have to wear a piece of jewelry to know the time when I was in my “home environment”.
Travelling was different. I would wear a watch daily when I was in transit or in another city, because I was in an environment where knowing the time “right now” was important. In transit in airports (for some trips, that could be 3-4 airports including my initial departure and ultimate destination), I usually kept the PDAs and phones powered off. I didn’t trust the airport clocks (if you could find any), so I kept the time on my wrist. I still do that today when I fly. Once at my destination, my day is regulated by the time, and knowing the time quickly (not having to dig out my iPhone) is helpful.
My Smartwatch Experiment
I backed the original Pebble Kickstarter because I was intrigued by the idea of a watch that was more than just “what time is it”. When my Pebble finally arrived, I wore it for a few days, then connected it to the charger and forgot about it. That was when the battery life was pretty abysmal. But it was still new, and it didn’t do all that much for me. It wasn’t compelling enough for me to change how I lived with a watch.
A couple of months ago, I fired it up and gave it another try. Battery life had improved immensely (i was getting a week out of it), and now all my notifications would appear on the watch. And that became part of the problem. I was getting so many buzzes on my wrist it became a distraction. Sure, I liked being able to see who was calling without having to mine out my phone. Knowing what e-mails arrived was good. But I also get a bunch of other notifications for news, sports and other apps that I find helpful, but I don’t need to know about right away (those don’t cause my phone to vibrate or make noise). Those I scan when I have some time. When my phone buzzes in my pocket, I don’t feel the compulsion to check it “right away”. When my wrist buzzes, it is more compelling to stop focusing on what I’m doing to check it, and that’s distracting (and at times, annoying).
But even absent the distraction issue, I find that once I take the Pebble off (which I usually do when I do a lot of typing, or when I need to charge it), I don’t bother putting it back on again. I forget about it. I just don’t miss having the time on my wrist when I’m in my home environment (working at home, meetings around town). Again, for my personal workflow, a watch of any kind just isn’t important for me.
Not Sure I Want One
Because of that, I’m not sure that I want an Apple Watch now. It would be another bit of jewelry cluttering up my desk. Would I wear it when I travel? Probably not. I have a couple of different “watch only” watches that I would rather wear when flying (because I don’t have to remember to put them in airplane mode and I’m not worrying about battery life). When I drive, I have the time on my dashboard, and it’s more comfortable not having something on my wrist.
I won’t pretend that my experience applies to some broader market. There may be others out there that think and feel the same way I do. This may or may not mean the Apple Watch (and other smartwatches) are going to be a niche product. I’m a market segment of 1, with no way to extrapolate my thinking outside that market segment. There may be others that find an Apple Watch, a Pebble Time or other smartwatch invaluable. I just don’t think I’m one of them.