Brian Beckcom Reviews the Apple Watch

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Should you buy one? Maybe.

Last Friday I received my Apple Watch. I got the Apple Watch 42mm model with the Blue Leather Loop. It took a little less than a month for the Watch to arrive.

This review is my preliminary review after using the Watch for 3 days. If my opinions change during the next few weeks, I will post an updated review.

Fit and Finish

I agree with the reviewers who have raved about the fit and finish of the Apple Watch. It's amazingly comfortable. After a while, you almost forget you're wearing it. And I haven't worn a watch on my wrist for a decade, so I imagine it will be even less noticable for people who wear watches on a regular basis. The 42mm size is the perfect size for me. I think in most cases the 38mm size will be too small. 

 

The back of the case rests comfortably on my wrist, and I've frankly kind of forgotten that I'm even wearing a watch at all.

The Blue Leather loop is a lot better than I expected. I tried one on at the Apple Store and was a little concerned about the "stiff," almost "cardboardy" feel of the leather. Now that I've worn the leather loop for a few days, I can say without reservation that it's almost perfect in terms of fit and comfort. The magnets hold the leather loop in place snugly and comfortably with minimal thought or effort.

And overall, I think the Watch looks good as a fashion piece. It's not the geeked-out tech-nerd calculator-watch-ish look I was expecting. It's obvious Apple went to great lengths to ensure that the audience for this product would go beyond teenage tech nerds (and middle aged dads who still think like teenage tech nerds).

With all the band combinations, I can foresee the Watch becoming a real player in the fashion industry as a statement of taste and individual preference, mood, and expression.

Apple is clearly pushing harder into the fashion industry, as evidenced by this product and the slew of fashion-industry hiring over the past few years. The Watch succeeds as a fashion item.

 

Using the Watch

I've read quite a few reviews from people who said the interface was hard to use. The implication from most of these reviewers is that Apple "lost its touch" somehow by not making the interface more intuitive.

I agree and disagree with these reviewers.

There is no question that the Watch interface has a learning curve (I have a Computer Science degree, and even for me, the Watch took some getting used to). 

Here's where I disagree, though: I think Apple made the Watch as intuitive as it could for a completely new product category. And I think we've been so spoiled by Apple's design excellence (what other product manufacturer doesn't send any instruction manuals and can be instantly understood by a 4 year old kid and an 85 year old grandmother?). In other words, Apple's design excellence in other products hurts the Watch experience but only on a relative basis, i.e., only in comparison to other Apple products. Standing by itself, the Watch interface is well-designed.

You have to spend some time learning the interface and reading the user manual, but once you've done that, you'll never have to consult the manual again because everything becomes intuitive within 30 minutes or less.

In summary, the reviewers who have said (either expressly or impliedly) that the Watch is going to fail because the interface is too complicated are, in my humble opinion, either pre-disposed against Apple or they don't give users nearly enough credit, or they are lazy and spoiled, or some combination of all of the above. I think people who are willing to fork over the money for an Apple Watch will be more than willing to take 15 minutes to learn how to use it. And if you aren't willing to take 15 minutes to learn how to use it, then it's not for you.

What's the point?

A lot of people have asked "What's the point of buying something that provides functions that I can already easily access on my Phone?" I'm not sure this is the correct question. It's a loaded question that assumes every purchase needs a compelling purpose. It assumes there's something wrong with you if you buy something less for its features and more for what it doesn't offer.

So far, I can say this: The Watch isn't necessary like a smart phone is. Nowadays, if you don't have a smartphone, you are certainly outside the mainstream. It's not like that with the Watch at all, and probably never will be, at least not anytime soon.

But the point of the Watch isn't that it's necessary. The point of the Watch is that it's helpful.

The Watch reduces friction. It makes interactions smoother, more seamless, more present and more real. In a way, the Watch resets our default interaction methods to a time before smartphones, when we'd actually look at each other and talk to each other and just be present with each other more often instead of getting completely and totally lost in the world of our cell phones.

I'll give you an example of where this fits in.

My wife and I like to watch TV shows at night on our Apple TV or Netflix. We like to wait until a TV series has ended so we can watch the same show every night (or even a few extra episodes, depending on wine consumption levels and next-day schedule). 

Over the past year, I've noticed that when we're watching these shows together, we spend half the time looking at our smartphones instead of watching the show itself. I get buried in my Twitter feed and Cara gets buried in her Facebook Timeline or some smartphone game. I have had times when I've "watched" an entire episode of a TV show and don't remember anything that happened in the show because I was too distracted by something funny or interesting on Twitter.

This weekend we watched the series finale of Sons of Anarchy. My phone was in my bedroom charging. I didn't look at it once, I didn't miss it at all, and I was able to focus and enjoy the entire finale without once thinking about missing something on my phone. I knew that I'd get little "bumps" on my wrist for any notifications I actually cared about (I've got my phone and Watch set to silent almost all the time, and I am set up to get only limited notifications.) I didn't have that low-level anxiety I get when I haven't looked at my phone in 30 minutes.

Some reviewers have said the "selling point" of the Apple Watch is its ability to discretely remind you about what you truly want to be reminded about and then stay out of the way the rest of the time. I couldn't agree more. 

In fact, in a way, it's a little disappointing at first. When I get a new piece of technology, I want to play around with it, to be amazed and surprised by all the things it can do.

The Watch doesn't do a whole lot. It's not like a smartphone which is a powerful mini-computer that gives everyone access to all the information they could even want instantly and always.

The Watch is kind of boring. It's not something you'll play with all the time. It's not even something you'll think about all the time, or even most of the time. But if you set up the notifications to fit your personal needs, the Watch fills a gap that lets you have important information in real-time in a non-obtrusive way while freeing you from the tyranny of smartphones and tablets where you lose 10 minutes of your real-world life every time you look at it.

The Watch is boring in a good way. 

Conclusion

The Watch isn't for everyone. Do you need it? Clearly not. Is it essential? No, at least not yet.

But if you like well-designed, well-crafted physical objects that provide a limited set of useful functions, and if you've found yourself missing important plot twists in movies or surfing the net while your kid tries to show you a picture they've drawn, then the Watch is worth buying. The Watch recedes into the background quickly, it makes you more present in the now, it redirects your focus and attention to the real world, and it lets you be more present while occasionally nudging you with information that you actually want to receive.

There is almost limitless potential with wearables generally and the Watch specifically, in areas like health, fitness, payments, personal messaging, and limited but important notifications, etc. I am looking forward to seeing what brillant people come up with in the wearable technology space.

But the bottom line right now, at least for me, is that the Watch is less about features and cool tricks and games and a gusher of information and more about a lack of features, fewer tricks and games and less information, more about sifting through the overwhelming amount of information we receive on a minute-by-minute basis and giving us only what we really want when we want it and nothing more. The Watch is a gatekeeper, a trusted assistant that discretely gives you information you really need when you need it and nothing more.

The Watch helps me tame my smartphone addiction so I can be more present with my wife and kids and the people I love and care about, it makes me more focused and relaxed, it makes me more present.

For me, that's that justification enough.

About the Author

Brian Beckcom is a founding partner of VB Attorneys, a Houston-based law firm. Mr. Beckcom has a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and a degree in Computer Science from Texas A&M University.

 

Brian Beckcom
Highest Possible 10/10 AVVO ranking. Husband. Father. Fisherman.
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