I am on my third Apple Watch.
I have wanted to like Apple’s approach to wearables, and through two different tries — a Day 1 Series 1 and a Series 3 — I found the experience to be continually clunky, ugly, and constantly in search of a problem that one of its solutions could fix. I wasn’t working out particularly much at the time, and if I’m honest, I believe the problem was that Apple for several years managed to sell a device that they had not quite worked out the utility of.
Wearables are a unique product because they seem like they’d be useful on paper, but in practice fail to provide anything “new” to your life, and thus eventually get discarded. I use an Oura ring to track my sleep and my heart rate (most of the time, though it doesn’t work so well with Hydrow), and the biggest reason I use it is because it’s really easy to forget you’re wearing a ring on your finger. Adding a watch, or an armband, or some sort of other kind of device to your person makes you intimately aware of it, which means that you both have to justify its use and remember to use and charge it every day.
As a result, I’d argue that only Apple could have brought the Apple Watch to market, because it needed at least six years of “people are going to buy this because it’s Apple” to find a contiguous reason to exist, along with watch app developers working out what it is one can do with your wrist that doesn’t suck.
And, most importantly, it seems that they’ve finally realized what the Apple Watch is — it is a remote control, a lifeline and a portable version of the notifications tab on your phone. Regarding the Apple Watch as something you pick up and “use” was ultimately Apple’s biggest issue — this is not a device you should be paying significant amounts of attention to, but a way of extending your digital life externally. The Apple Watch no longer feels like a device trying to be a shitty iPhone, but an extension of one — something you can use independently to access the things that matter at a particular moment, but not something that will endlessly attract your attention.
The Apple Watch has become a product that is the physical manifestation of notifications, one borne of the fact that the functional use case of the watch has been killed by the phone itself. We do not check the time because we are continually reminded of it any time we interact with a screen — it’s genuinely difficult if you’re using the internet to avoid knowing what time it is. However, the actual motion of checking the time is something that resembles notifications — we don’t really interact with them so much as we choose to take action (or inaction) based on their existence, much like we do the time.
As a result, the current form of the Apple Watch — and I’d argue any smart watch — is one that actively rejects your interest. It is entirely task-focused — you do not spend time with it, you do not focus on it, you do not sit staring at it for hours. It is the first device I’ve owned that wants you to ignore it, at least until you need to. And even then, only for a few seconds.