Apple Watch for me

I’m one of those people who backed the original Pebble and lived the smartwatch-enabled life for over 2 years now. In that sense, I’m intensely interested in the Apple Watch not so much as some kind of dumb tribalism behind various platforms (or software idologies) but evolution of the wearable in the populace.

My alma mater formally started a wearable computing department the year before I graduated, and I graduated a long time ago, by 2015 standards. So gargoyles ala Snow Crash (to date myself further) is not some strange thing for me. What was more strange was people walking in campus with a neck-and-chest strapped platform so they can use their Macbook Pro 17″ laptops while walking between classes. That’s real dork in a school full of them.

The Apple Watch, by all 5-6 reviews I’ve read yesterday so far, seems just like a very fancy but less functional Pebble. It does beg the question as to what is the point of the smartwatch, and that’s a question all makers of smart watches ought to answer to an extent. And this is where I think that will, at least in the first iteration or so, determine which one is worth buying.

The first thing about the reviews I’ve read is that many of them precisely struggle with this question. It’s rather unlike the iPod and iPhone and iPad launches where the use cases are pretty compelling. A big portion of Apple’s success is in its way of marketing things beyond the technical specification an d use cases; what makes luxury desirables worth a lot of money and got people to buy them is behind the Apple Watch’s DNA. That alone is something both besides the point of the first smartwatches and a core part of why Apple’s personal electronics business is so successful.

“Very fancy” is already a desirable. In that sense the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch. But of course to a nerd like myself (as opposed to the average internet commenter) it’s not just a spec sheet, or how smooth and how it tempts me to rub my face on it, but how good it is at satisfying use cases. Pebble (especially with the current iteration via Android Wear APIs) is actually the best game in town. People may think the Moto360 is actually the best game in town, but none of those people actually own one. The commenters I’ve read that did all thought it lacked something, which most reviews (and more importantly, sales numbers) agreed. Not a surprise for anyone following the scene, because anyone who knew smartwatches know it’s just too nascent, and only one watch line came anywhere close to nailing what a smartwatch was initially imagined to be. No Pebble bias here–just ask any long-time smartwatch user whose smarthwatch ran out of battery and was wearing a useless thing on their wrist.

It’s both exciting and frustrating to read these apple watch reviews. For one, they tend to be flipping the flags for prime-time reviews of prime-time gadgets, with pull-quotes that mean nothing but obfuscate the real value in their reviews. I understand it, that’s the business of writing online professionally (as I sometimes do). It’s exciting because all these reviewers are trying hard to verbalize the value prop behind smartwatches, and I care more about that. A lot of praises for the Apple Watch across all the reviews I’ve read hedged against a non-smartwatch, which means the Apple Watch doesn’t actually differentiate from the Pebble or even Android Wear items. Or it was comparing how this or that use case is improved by not pulling your phone out of your pocket. It (vague pronoun here as I don’t know if I meant Apple Watch or Apple Marketing) was making a case for smartwatches, much like how iPhones did for smartphones, that it ought to be purchased and used. It frustrates only because these articles pose no good comparison with the Pebble, if any other smartwatches.

But i think it’s a good thing. If wearables are to be economically successful, I hope it’s because of the utility they provide and it makes our lives better, regardless of what drawback there may be. To have a big splash in the category is good for everyone, even if you may not be interested in wearable computing at all, or even if you are an Android/other/troll/etc.