Not having owned the Apple watch, it is premature for me to discuss the functionality. However, based on previews, videos, and descriptions, I can gather a general idea of what the product is like. A lot of people are speculating the future of watches. I can also say without a doubt that smart watches will completely revolutionize the watch industry, and in time, make obsolete many mechanical timepieces. There will always be the status symbol, feats of miniature engineering, and fashion statements made by the Pateks, Vacherons, and Audemars of the world. However, they lie in the super luxury category, and I see them as beyond the range of critical influence that smart watches can currently have on the market. At the same time, mechanical watch market, say between ~$100 - $2000 range, will significantly contract. Watches within this price range will exist primarily to provide diversity to one's accessory collection, but not to add true functionality to one’s life.
In spite of this prediction, I wouldn’t necessarily compare the outcome, as other writers have noted, to how iPods destroyed walkmans and other mp3 players because these devices were competing within the realm of technology, not style/fashion. Smart watches, I feel (in the near future), will be more limited as a fashion statement because the user interface and display function will establish their form, and this puts certain constraints around shapes, sizes and materials.
As I was watching clips of Apple keynote, I thought of a few questions about the Apple Watch from a Dad’s point of view.
- How childproof will the watch be? Can my child easily get into the main screen or is there a lock function?
- How easy is it for me to accidentally depress the home button when the wrist bends (not common but an annoying issue in bulky watches) when you are constantly moving your wrist to pick up your child?
- How strong is the magnet band in securing the watch? Will a quick tug from my child pull the watch loose? (I understand there are standard buckle options.)
- How can this watch potentially track and communicate with my child?
Any graphical display becomes a fixation for toddlers. I have no doubt that my two year old will find some way to climb up to the top shelf, pull the watch from the magsafe charger and hack her way into the apps. Apple probably thought about this issue. Since the solution is a matter of programming some sensory lock code to the interface, I know it can or have been solved.
This a small but gnawing issue I have with bulky watches with buttons on the side because they cane be accidentally pressed during the wrist movement. Moreover, it is uncomfortable carrying my child on my left arm when a large timepiece sits on the wrist or the strap buckle digs into my skin from the weight of the child. On a day when I know I will be out with my child for a long time, it is very possible I would forgo the Apple Watch since it is redundant to my phone. Instead, I will probably wear a lighter, thinner timepiece with a smaller face. When choosing between my monster Casio G-Shock and my simple Hermes Arceau for instance, I've almost always gone with the latter because it's just easier on my wrist while handling my daughter.
Not much to comment here except to state that the magnetic clasp looks really easy to use, but I worry as to whether a quick tug from tiny fingers will pull the watch loose and possibly lead to dropping the watch. I hope it won’t be a major issue, and there are always the dual-press clasp and the buckle strap options - less cool but more secure.
The possibility of tracking and communicating with my child is what excites me as a Dad. There are devices out there like the Sproutling (my favorite), the Owlet, and Sensible Baby that track the health and movement of babies and toddlers. For kids between 6-12 years old who may not yet be ready to carry around a smartphone but with whom parents feel a need to be connected at all times, having the kids wear a watch would be a great solution. The biggest issue for me with my child owning a phone at an early age is the access and consumption of inappropriate and excessive content. If parental controls exist and communication is limited to taptic feedback and voice message replies, a watch could be a great way to talk to and monitor your children without being too intrusive or causing a disturbance in public settings. What it comes down to is whether the watch can independently communicate without a phone. So far, with the first version, all indications point otherwise. Basic functions such as time and fitness tracking will probably work, but messaging and navigation may not. We'll have to see how the industry evolves to incorporate parental concerns.
The thickness of the device is something Apple certainly tried to minimize and will continue to do so in future models. However, the current dimensions will cause issues when Dads wear long-sleeve button up shirts because the watch will get caught under the wrist sleeve. If somehow, Apple can encapsulate the electronics/battery within the strap element (my attempt to think outside the box here), I imagine the thickness can be reduced. Maybe the strap ends near the case could contain flexible battery cells, and the rest of the band could work as a large antenna. The point of electrical contact could occur in the area where the band meets the case. This solution may limit the strap styling and material - not an optimal solution for fashionistas with a desire to have complete flexibility in strap choices - but it could be a practical way to keep the case small and light.
It is always interesting to see how technology pervades our lives and transforms context and meaning. The word "phone" 10 years ago would have produced an image of a flip device with depressible numeric keypads. Now, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of a phone is a large screen with a home button. Perhaps we will no longer associate the word "watch" to a picture of a small round face strapped around our wrist with two hands that tell time. Instead, it will summon an image of a large, thick connected device on our wrist with a display that tracks our lives. Maybe it will be the shirt manufacturers who will have to accommodate their sleeve designs to the new wave of watches.