Short Impressions Of the Apple Watch

I received my Apple Watch at night on April 24th, and I’ve been using it for a few days now.

Instead of going into the features side of things and discussing common issues like battery life, I would like to go into the behavioural side of things. That is, how my behaviour changed due to having a window to my iPhone always on my wrist.

  1. Always being able to quickly check the time is really, really nice: I actually noticed this half a year before I got my Apple Watch when I resumed my decades long habit of wearing a watch (a mechanical Swiss watch). I had stopped wearing a watch when I started to pick up our new-born baby. Now with the Apple Watch, I have a strong incentive to keep my watch on at all time, whereas with the Swiss one, I took it off when I got back home. This makes it just more convinient.
  2. Taking phone calls on your wrist is simply natural: When you are wearing your Apple Watch, incoming phone calls will show up on your watch. You will immediately see who it is from, and whether you want to immediately respond, or you want to call back later. If you do want to respond, instead of frantically pulling your phone out of your pocket, you can simply respond on your watch. This is much more natural and leisurely. If you decide that you want a bit of privacy, then you can take your phone out of your pocket at your own pace, while still on the line, and then use handoff from the iPhone lock-screen to transfer the call to your iPhone. I am convinced that anybody who takes several calls a day on their iPhone will appreciate not having to rush to pull it out from their pocket or bag.
  3. Dictating your messages becomes your preferred way of texting: On the Apple Watch, you simply have no choice unless the prepared messages or emoji are suitable enough. Once you do it however, you realise how good the voice recognition is. The result is not 100%, but it’s easily comprehensible to the recipient. If it is an internal message, it should be just fine. Then you realise that you could use dictation on your iPhone as well, and you start doing this more often. It’s much faster than typing.
  4. Clock faces are not just appearance. You change them depending on the task at hand: With the Apple Watch, the complications on the clock face are also the most convenient shortcuts to apps on the phone. For example, tapping the calendar complication takes you to the calendar app. Tapping the temperature complication takes you to the weather app. If you don’t have these complications, accessing these apps requires flipping through your glances (you are likely to have many), or going to the app list screen, scrolling to find your app, and carefully tapping the right one. Since you can only put 5 complications on a single clock face at maximum, it then makes sense to use different clock faces depending on what you are doing. For example, if you are cooking, you could use a clock face that has the timer complication. If you are at the office with a lot of meetings, you could use a clock face that can accommodate the text of the next meeting (Utility or Modular). At night, when you have no further appointments, you could switch to the Simple clock face and get rid of all other distractions. The Simple clock face, when pared down to the bare minimum, is also nice because it doesn’t light up your surroundings when it accidentally lights up in the dark when you are say in bed or in a theatre.
  5. You stop browsing Twitter: I think this is huge. With my iPhone, I would simply pick it up when I was bored and if I didn’t have any notifications, I would still quickly browse Twitter to see if anybody had said something interesting. However with the Apple Watch, you realise that you don’t really have an excuse to stare at your phone and you therefore lose the chance to go to Twitter. And as for the Apple Watch, it really is not suited for quickly scrolling through long lists. I sense that Apple Watch will teach us to prioritise what is important from what we just do to kill the time, and as a result, we will kill the time less and less. This has implications for the services that have a low S/N ration and I expect it will force Twitter to provide us with better tools to filter our noise from our Timeline.
  6. You stop worrying about missing calls: I missed calls all the time. A buzz in your trousers isn’t really that noticeable when you are walking for example. Women who keep their phones in their bags, I’m sure, miss calls all the time. The Apple Watch changes all this. You won’t miss calls or important notifications. You no longer have to worry about this. This is super important to the people who care about these things, and I think there are quite a few of us.
  7. You can now keep your phone in silent mode: Because you can feel your notifications at a tap on your wrist, there is no more excuse for you to attract unwanted attention to yourself with funny sounds when you receive a phone call. You can keep your phone in silent mode and receive notifications discretely. This is great for women who keep their phones in their bags, and who have to keep their phone call tones on. Of course, you would also want to keep your watch silent too.
  8. You will learn to tap slightly below your target: iOS devices have always registered taps slightly above the point where your finger makes contact with the screen. This is intentional, and I think it is a result of actually testing how users touch what they think they are touching. I think Android does this too, although some early devices missed this. Now with the Apple Watch, the touch targets are much smaller and your taps have to be much more precise. I found myself intentionally tapping a bit below the targets because my habit on my iPhone had been to tap a bit to high (so that the actual point of contact hit the target), and I found that my taps weren’t registering on the Apple Watch. This is something that I suspect quite a few people will have to adjust to. After the adjustment however, hitting even the very small buttons becomes very accurate. It also trained me to hit my iPhone buttons better.

Update

Added items 7-8 on the list.

Apple Watch: Mostly Used As A Watch

Even if you have a phone in your pocket, it’s really convenient to have the time on your wrist. And if you do, you’ll use it all the time.

This is something that I had suspected ever since I started wearing a wristwatch again after a 7-year hiatus (ever since my first child was born and I had to carry her all the time).

Well, I thought, that might be just because I spend all my youth wearing a watch all the time. It turns out, people who say “I’ve never been a watch person” also find that it’s a good idea to be able to tell the time.

Here’s Steve Kovach from Business Insider.

But I mostly use it as a watch.

Getting notifications on my wrist is great, but I find that I mostly use the Apple Watch like I’d use a normal watch: To check the time and date. Everything else it can do is just gravy.

Of course I don’t have nearly enough data to prove that a significant proportion of people will feel the same. I do think however, that there are signs that simply being a great watch is actually one good reason for people to buy an Apple Watch.

How Popular Will Smartwatches Be?

A while ago, I tweeted why I felt the tech pundits that suggest that you don’t need a smartwatch when you’ve already got a smartphone, are totally wrong.

Naofumi Kagami 加々美直史さんはTwitterを使っています eric analytics BenBajarin One difficulty in analysis is tech community biased towards people who can pull out phones during work

view on Twitter

The point is that whereas many people who write or comment about tech have a job where it is acceptable to pull out their smartwatches quite frequently, a large proportion of the population spend their work time directly in front of customers and are therefore unable to do so.

For example, think about waiters and waitresses at a restaurant. How would you feel if they were staring at their phones and if they didn’t notice that you were trying to get their attention? Or how would you feel if you were riding on the subway and the driver, who is responsible for your safety, was peeking in his smartphone?

There are plenty of jobs where glancing at a watch is acceptable, but staring into your smartphone isn’t.

You could easily add other jobs where a smartwatch will quickly become a necessity and not just a convenience. For example, doctors working inside hospitals have to respond quickly if one of their patient’s condition suddenly deteriorates. They carry phones with them at all times, but it’s vital that they don’t miss a call. Rather then having a vibration in your pants which can sometimes be hard to notice, it’s much better to have a tap on your wrist.

Similarly, sales reps will also do much better if they quickly respond to emails or phone calls from customers, and so missing calls is not an option. For this very reason, many Japanese employees keep their phones in their shirt pocket and not in their trousers, because it’s much easier to notice a vibration on your chest. This will no longer be an issue if you are wearing a smartwatch.

Also lacking from the discussion is women who often carry their smartphones in their bags and not in their pockets. They don’t want to miss calls or important notifications either.

The list goes on and on. In fact, you get to the point where you really start to wonder why smartwatches didn’t take off earlier, before Apple announced that it was entering the market.

The way I see it, there has always been a very strong need for glanceable notification devices that could be worn, especially for professionals, despite the lack of interest from the tech community. The true mystery is why none of the non-Apple products could deliver on that need. Somewhere, there was a block. Maybe it was the inability to quickly respond to that notification without pulling out your smartphone. Maybe it was because such devices didn’t match a suit from a design standpoint.

Whatever the reason, it seems likely that the Apple Watch has overcome the block and now we will see a flood of people recognising the benefits of notifications coming to your wrist. This is why I am optimistic about Apple Watch sales, and sales of smartwatch sales in general. I would be very surprised if Android Wear did not start to sell briskly, although it may take a product iteration or two.

How Will The Apple Watch Affect Tech

Here is a list of some of the things that might happen if the Apple Watch and similar Android-compatible wearable devices start seeing strong sales.

  1. Some early reviewers are saying that their usage of their iPhone decreased when they started to use the Apple Watch. If this indeed is how Apple Watch users will behave, this will huge implications for digital marketing. Marketers will have to think of ways to appeal to consumers on their watches, which will have very different characteristics from smartphones.
  2. Not only does the Apple Watch not have a web browser, it also seems to lack any HTML rendering. Emails are rendered as text, which means that any emails that only include the HTML component are not going to show any content. This suggests that text and good copywriting is going to increase in importance whilst visuals are going to be less important. Another possibility is that we will see a lot of emoji even in the promotional material send by corporations. This is actually the preferred way that Japanese companies send email messages to their mobile subscribers so we have precedence here.
  3. This could reverse the strong and accelerating trend towards graphical and video content that we see on social networks. We might revert to simple text messages (with emoji). This really is like going back to the Japanese i-mode days.
  4. The Twitter client sucks if you are following a lot of people and you have them organised in lists. In fact, since scrolling through large lists is not as comfortable or as brisk as on a smartphone, it would be particularly unwieldy if you have a lot of follows. Twitter has a serious problem on their hands and they might bring back lists to the centre stage, or they might start heavily curating your timeline.
  5. This also has implications on how shopping sites might be structured. Shopping sites can no longer use large lists of merchandise to show their goods. I am not confident that current recommendation algorithms are good enough at filtering content for use on watches. Interestingly, the Apple Watch is not a plus for e-commerce retailers but could be a huge boon for brick-and-mortar stores which can use iBeacon-based location data to send customers exactly the right message at exactly the right time.
  6. Basically, you can’t scan through a lot of content like you can on a phone. The content has to be pre-filtered or curated.
  7. The Apple Watch, because it does not have a web browser, is absolutely Google-free. It’s surreal to say this after a decade of Internet domination by Google, but it’s true.
  8. Being browser-free is going to change the way content and merchandise is discovered. Since you can no longer use SEO tactics, you will have to resort to having your message proposed through a native advertisement or a social endorsement (a retweet or a like). That is, unless you have a brand or a cause so strong that people will have installed your app.

I foresee a lot of changes coming. Some are even quite disruptive to the current Internet juggernaughts.

Of course, this totally depends on the Apple Watch being a huge success, and on customers preferring to use the watch more than their smartphones if there is the option to do so. Whether this will be the case is still an open question, but I would like to end with the thought that if you have an Apple Watch, you are more likely to keep your iPhone in your bag or on the table, instead of your pocket. Having the Apple Watch on you at all times will definitely distance you from your iPhone.

Android on Feature Phones

There has always been a big difference between Android and iOS web usage. One explanation has been that many Android users are actually using their smartphones in basically the same way as a feature phone; that they are used mainly for texting and voice, and not being used too much to connect to the rich Internet.

Now, in Japan, feature phones are transitioning to Android.

What an Android/Feature phone hybrid might look like

On March 3rd, 2015, I commented on a Techpinons article by Bob O’Donnell, giving a description of a fun Android-based feature phone that was recently announced in Japan.

Just to give you some ideas, let me talk about a fun phone that we have in Japan.

A Flip-phone / Smartphone hybrid!!

It looks just like a flip style feature phone, but the keypad also works as a trackpad so you can freely move a cursor around on the screen. It runs Android 4.4 on a quad-core CPU, doesn’t work with Google Play, but messaging apps like LINE run OK. It has a full browser, HDR, WiFi and LTE. You can download apps from an app store run by the carrier (in this case, KDDI). It also comes preinstalled with a maps app, which is, you guessed right, created and owned by the carrier. It even has an office suite!!

You can tether to your tablet, if you really feel like using a boring flat slate. It actually has some Continuity-like features to work together with tablets like tapping on a phone number on your tablet will make your phone dial the number.

So Bob, is this the kind of thing you are looking for?

http://www.sharp.co.jp/products/shf31/

When you run out of ideas, you should come to Japan!

Rationale for the transition

This Nikkei article does not have much in terms of news, but it explains how moving to Android is not really about features, but more about development costs.

Common wisdom is that feature phones are easier to create. That may be true if you are Nokia and you created phones that were sold in huge numbers worldwide. However, with the rise of Chinese manufacturers and the drop in smartphone component prices, this will not continue to be true in the long-term.

Who uses feature phones anyway?

One thing that the Nikkei article gets wrong is that feature phones are not used predominantly by older people.. In corporations for example, there are many people who use a combination of feature phones and tablets. Feature phones have longer battery life, and because the flip design allows the microphone to be closer to your mouth, they are better suited if your primary usage is voice. In many ways, the Android/Feature phone hybrid that I talked about directly addresses these users.

What does this say for Android usage?

These Android/Feature phone hybrids will not be used as smartphones and will not contribute to Android web usage much. Importantly, they will not contribute to Google’s ecosystem and they will not rely on Google services. In fact, it is likely that they will not be able to run the majority of Google Play apps.

WhatsApp Disrupting SMS

The Economist made the following tweet suggesting that WhatsApp was disrupting SMS. 

This is totally the wrong way to look at things. 

The better way is to consider messaging apps disrupting social networks and collaboration tools. That’s actually what’s discussed in the article

In fact, what’s notable about messenging apps is not how the displaced SMS, but instead how slow Internet giants like Google and Facebook were to come up with their own versions. 

As for SMS, well that was a consequence of carriers owning the network stack and the application stack. As soon as phones could access Internet protocols directly and build apps on that, hence uncoupling the network and the app layers, it’s days were numbered.  SMS was disrupted by the mobile Internet. Similar things have happened with voice over IP, even from the Skype days.