I took an informal email poll to twenty or so friends and family members asking if they would be getting an Apple Watch and why or why not. Of the three people who got back to me, all said they would not be getting Apple Watch.
It would be silly to draw any conclusions from the percentages here. But I did find their responses instructive. My aunt wrote:
I hate the idea of having all my data on my wrist. I want some separation from my electronic life, even if it's my phone in my pocket. It's at least easier to ignore that way if it dings at me. I prefer my interactions face to face and don't want the temptation to be always to be glancing at my wrist.
My aunt’s thinking is quite logical - she has enough devices and doesn't want another, and she has enough distraction as it is and doesn't want to add more.
But, as strange as it sounds, the promise of the Apple Watch is that it might liberate us from our devices and the distractions they create. It does this on the one hand by being so readily available. A simple glance at the wrist to read an incoming message is far less intrusive than pulling a phone from a pocket.
The Watch is also the ultimate gatekeeper or personal bodyguard to our attention. Wearers of the Watch can restrict notifications to just the things that are really important to them: a message from a spouse or child or an alert that rain is on the way.
Meanwhile, the phone can remain out of physical and emotional view. You can throw it in your bag all day knowing that you’ll still get your most important notifications.
The Watch may also one day replace much of what we already carry with us: cash, credit cards, public transportation cards, keys, and tickets. So we are subtracting far more than we're adding.
What makes all of the ‘no’ responses from my email poll interesting is that they all came from iPhone owners. All of whom, if memory serves, were late adopters, all asking the questions that many other people were asking in the early days of the smartphone: Why do I need email everywhere I go when I can access it at home? Why do I need to send text messages when I can just call?
I say the “promise” of Apple Watch because it’s quite possible that Apple Watch might not live up to these expectations. Apple Watch could prove to be just another expensive gadget that further isolates us from the world and our loved ones.
Or, it could prove to be the device that balances our desire to be both present and reachable. To ignore the noise and the clutter of our phones and yet connect on our own terms.
At the end of the day, I don’t know if Apple can make the case for Apple Watch any more than they could make the case for the iPhone in 2007. The early adopters sense the promise and, if it’s there, others will eventually follow.