Many enjoy debate. Everyone has an opinion. Arguing in favor of your favorite technology is fun. But I'm not here to pen another tribute to or criticism of Apple's new Watch. Instead, I'm here to share my experiences using the new 42mm Watch with Sport Band in my daily professional life. I'll leave you to develop your own conclusions as to the Watch's value, and I'll try avoiding the disingenuous practice of leveraging dramatic adjectives and adverbs.
From the unboxing, I found the process of setting up and mating the Watch to my iPhone 6 fairly simple. The Watch walks you through the process. The only counterintuitive step is the fact that you begin by opening the Watch app on the iPhone. Normally, I would expect to perform the mating tasks from the new device itself, such as occurs when deploying a new iPad or MacBook Air.
Not having previously read much regarding how to actually use the new Watch, I found myself fumbling through its operation the first day. After my Watch shipped, Apple sent me a few email messages that included links to short how-to videos. I kept those email messages only because I thought I might wish to reference them later in an article. It turns out that I needed the quick instructions about how to select and customize Faces, enable the exercise app, access Glances, and navigate different apps. Following just a few minutes of training, however, I now find myself using the Watch like a seasoned professional.
Because there's been so much press, and because the devices are just hitting the street, people are actively stopping me and interrupting meetings to ask, "Is that an Apple Watch?" Make no mistake, the Apple Watch is the accessory of the year, whether you wish for that to be so or not. If you wear one, be prepared to talk about it, at least right now when they're so new.
Following one week's operation, the Watch is significantly reducing the dependency I possess upon my iPhone. I typically pack my iPhone in a messenger bag pocket. Digging it out requires disconnecting some serious Velcro and unzipping a pocket. No big deal, but perform the action a few dozen times a week and it becomes, on some level, an ergonomic consideration. The same is true when attending meetings with the phone stuck deep in my pocket buried beneath the conference table or desk at which I sit. Other than to accept a phone call, I'm finding that I really don't need to access the phone any longer.
Sitting at a table, with the iPhone buried in a pocket or messenger bag, I can decline calls with a single tap on my wrist. Simply covering the watch face silences an inadvertent inbound call (I am not the type to frequently silence my phone, as I then forget to re-enable the ringer, which angers family members and clients subsequently trying to reach me later).
We've all been in important meetings, too, when the phone starts buzzing or vibrating repeatedly with Messages and texts. Is a neighbor trying to alert me that my house is burning down? Is a client's server dead in the water? Or is my spouse only reminding me to pick up a child before returning home? With a single glance, you can confirm a message's nature and priority and determine whether a crisis is at hand or a response can wait. Certainly, I believe this is the Watch's most valuable feature, one I found helpful on my first generation Pebble, too.
Unlike the Pebble, however, Apple's Watch includes interpretation technology that reviews the messages you receive and displays potential relevant responses. Thus, I find myself repeatedly throughout the day acknowledging messages and returning responses that provide instruction, confirmation, and denials (Absolutely please do have an engineer perform a specific follow up task; No, I have not yet placed a specific equipment order; or Yes, the restaurant you're considering is acceptable for a client meeting) with only a tap on my wrist.
One evening, I was walking the dog when I received a request seeking to confirm the dates for an important weekend project. Because my phone was buried in a pocket, and I was holding the dog's leash with one hand, I tapped the Siri icon, spoke the reply, and tapped the screen to confirm and send the text message, thereby providing an immediate answer and eliminating any scheduling confusion with ease, without having to retrieve my phone, pin the dog leash between me chest and arm and free my other hand to hold and type a response on my smartphone. The Watch simply makes most texting and messaging easier.
The ability to view my Calendar on my wrist is surprisingly helpful, too. I needed to join a conference call in a meeting room. I wasn't at a computer, and I left my phone behind in my office. Of course, I didn't remember the telephone number to call to join the conference bridge. No worries. It's on the Watch.
When the conference call began running long, I began worrying whether I was going to be late for the next appointment. A quick glance and a couple taps on the watch confirmed the upcoming appointments. The convenience is compelling.
Like many professionals, I spend a lot of time sitting at a desk. Because I'm in an open office environment, noise-canceling headphones are common. Frequently, I'll find two or three hours go by while I'm working on a project. The Watch provides timely reminders to stand up, walk around, and re-energize myself. While you wouldn't think such reminders are necessary, I'm finding them enlightening. The process of being observed, the Hawthorne effect, is also resulting in my paying more attention to health and trying to perform more work (taking and placing calls, reviewing printed reports, etc.) while standing, moving around, and taking short breaks, which I believe are making me more productive, actually, because I don't feel as physically sluggish as in the past.
Lastly, I'm finding Apple Pay advantageous. I recently chose to duck into a quick service restaurant drive-thru for a stop I wasn't planning. When it came time to pay, with cars stacked behind me like planes waiting to land at O'Hare, I realized my wallet was in my messenger bag in the trunk. No worries. I used Apple Pay on my Watch to complete the transaction faster than I could have dug my wallet out of a pocket and handed over my credit card.
Does the Apple Watch have enough convenience for you to make the purchase? If not now, what would seal the deal?
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.