Historically, I am not particularly horologically inclined. “I have a phone”, I figured. “Why would I carry a separate device to show me what time it is?” That changed when I started doing a lot of Scuba diving, and I started wearing a Suunto dive computer. While you’re technically meant to keep track of your dives using dive tables, I felt comfortable leaving my life in the hands of technology, and I realised: there was a point to that watch: By wearing it on every dive, it helped me avoid getting catching a nasty case of the bends.
A wrist-device that keeps you alive? Yep, sign me up. There was, however, a non-obvious effect to it as well: Wearing a dive computer when I’m away from the ocean is a Shibboleth; other divers recognise you by your wrist-wear, and would frequently strike up a conversation as a result. “I see you’re wearing the D6”, they would say. “Where do you dive?”
I felt as if I had stumbled into a secret society.
When Apple announced that they were diving into the world of wrist computing, I was skeptical in the extreme. Watches are jewellery, I opined, and vowed to never buy an Apple watch.
And yet, as I was moving to a new continent, some friends bought me some gift cards to the Apple Store, and I used them to buy an Apple Watch. The basic one; 42mm in size, bright blue band.
Great conversation starter, but…
If the dive computer was a great way to get conversations started, the Apple Watch took that to the next level. “Is that an iWatch?”, I’d be asked. After gently correcting the enquirer that it is, in fact, called an Apple Watch, and then agreeing that yes, iWatch would have been a pretty good name, too, the conversation invariably turns to whether it is actually any good.
And that is where the conversation gets a bit complicated…
If I were to lose my Apple Watch, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to replace it.
The Apple Watch is with me, on my wrist, every day. I use it quite a bit — mostly as a conduit to Siri, in order to set alarms, reminders and timers when cooking. I use it to track my walks and runs with Runkeeper, and the fact that it can show me what my next appointment is at a glance comes in handy more than a few times a day, too. As a bit of an internationalist, with my parents and sister nine and 19 hours ahead of me, respectively, being able to see multiple time zones at once is also really useful.
So yes, it’s undoubtedly useful, but the watch doesn’t really seem to have a killer app. Put differently: I could never quite figure out what it was for. Even after using it for six months, it hasn’t made it into my ‘front door’ routine: Keys? Wallet? Phone? If I’ve left one of those behind, I’ll run back upstairs to get them. My Apple Watch? Not so much.
A far more serious indictment, perhaps, is that if I were to lose my Apple Watch, I wouldn’t be in a hurry to replace it. If it were to break, I might take it to the Apple Store, but if I’d have to pay to repair it, I wouldn’t. And therein lies the rub.
In creating the Apple Watch, Apple has undoubtedly made an elegant piece of wrist computing, and having nabbed a 66% market share won’t have hurt Apple’s bottom line either. But it’s not a shibboleth. It’s not that useful. It’s not that exciting. And, even as someone who spends more than what’s sensible at the Apple store, it has failed to capture my heart.
As the rumor mill is grinding into action for a supposed late-March update for the Apple Watch line, I can’t help but wonder: If I can’t be inspired to replace it, could I be moved to update to the next generation?
Unless Apple find a way to up the ante with a proper killer app, signs point to ‘no’.