The Good News: It’s not Google Glass
There was no trip to a studio in Chelsea to get custom fitted by people trying to change the culture of wearable computing (Getting Google Glass: The OOB Experience, New York City, NY, USA | Ted Eytan, MD). Just a pretty box opened in solitude.
I noted that the packaging seems a little more extravagant than one would expect in this era of cradle-to-cradle design.
Apple Watch apps are actually called apps, not some new terminology (Google asked us to use “glassware”), and have a fairly understandable connection to the apps we’re used to using on our phones. The number of new UI metaphors we have to learn is pretty small.
Watch seamlessly pairs with your phone and doesn’t ask you to mess with its network connections the way Glass did. It’s comfortable being tethered and things work well that way.
Battery life, one of the biggest challenges of Glass, isn’t really one for the Watch. Expect Watch to discharge every day, and charge it every night. Unlike your smartphone, there isn’t going to be a dash for a power outlet every time you enter a room, that type of battery power anxiety doesn’t seem to manifest in this form factor.
Even if you found an outlet, the specialized magnetic charger isn’t something you’re usually going to carry with you. You have to remember to take it with you when you travel.
Most importantly, you don’t stand out while wearing this computer, which is the next point:
The Bad News: It’s not Google Glass
Apple Watch is a wearable computer that replaces something you would wear anyway (in my case a Nike Fuelband). There aren’t going to be moments like this with Apple Watch:
Google glass started conversations about the future with the most diverse group of people – from doctors and nurses that I work with, to complete strangers. I became very impressed with the human ability to strive for the future. People don’t stop you on the street and ask if they can wear your Apple Watch, and they don’t start conversations about the future while you’re wearing it.
I would have written here that no one asks what the Apple Watch does, but that changed yesterday when I was asked about what it does. Interestingly, after the question, I heard the statement, “I just love Apple products.” That says something about brand loyalty doesn’t it.
Glass, through its pretty remarkable marketing, acquisition, and on boarding process ignited a discussion in technology that is near once-in-a-lifetime. When I lived in Seattle, they used to say that Cupertino was the R&D department for Redmond. Maybe in this case Mountain View was R&D for Cupertino…
The Good News: It makes wearable computing real
I always said that Google Glass wasn’t about Google Glass, it was about wearable computing, and Apple Watch ushers in wearable computing in a practical way. The complexity of settings that could result from all of the different notifications that can be set are mostly defaulted to a reasonable set that can be tweaked fairly easily. It does just a few things with room for expansion.
So what does it do exactly?
It tells the time, and pretty easily. Unlike the Nike Fuelband, whose firmware innovation was that you could press a button twice to see a clock, Apple Watch presents the time when you raise your wrist, quite naturally. I have had to get used to having time so available. Having the outdoor temperature plus daily activity accessible in the same glance is a bonus.
It saves you a trip to your phone for things like text messages, email, weather, and the like. This actually saves phone battery life and untethers you from your phone a bit. I have found that the music controller can control Spotify if that’s running. On the other hand, what’s easier, a double click on the headphone cord or bringing up the Watch app…
The paradoxic effect of all of this is that suddenly your phone takes the psychological place that your computer once held in your life, and your computer seems even more distant and unwieldy..
It allows you to pay for things with ApplePay, which, granted, you can do with your iPhone, but it’s just one less step since the watch doesn’t require a fingerprint if your phone is unlocked and in range.
It’s a good activity tracker – I’ll discuss the health aspects next; in general this is a fine replacement for Nike Fuelband and other trackers I’ve used. It adds the additional accuracy of heart rate integration, and measurement of resting and active calories.
There’s a movement away from steps as the currency of activity and toward calories, which I have already gotten used to.
At the end of every week, it offers to raise or lower activity goals. I’d say it provides the right amount of gentle shame to keep moving.
I don’t agree with reviewers like Brian Tong that who say that Watch is not useful for people who are very physically active. I think Watch is very useful. I am not the kind of person who studies my physical activity trends, I just want to know how I am doing compared to yesterday.
Incidentally and happily for me, it’s equipped to support my favorite business activity, the walking meeting, thanks to Kaiser Permanente’s engineering of its Every Body Walk app with Watch support.
Are these revelatory things or do they do things your phone couldn’t do? No. On the other hand this isn’t a $1500 device, either.
Health. Watch this space.
It’s easy for me to tell that Apple’s move into health is also a paradigm shift that patients will appreciate.
Instead of patients coming to doctors begging for their own health data, I see a world where patients will arrive with their health data integrated from multiple sources, and their doctor will ask to access it and update the database they are using to care for a person.
Who is more likely to do this data aggregation for a human being, multiple providers across different health systems, or the iCloud connected ecosystem they are already part of? The approach is vastly different in my mind than Google Health’s (RIP) was – incremental growth and improvement – no attempt to ingest the entirety of the medical record universe or take on the health care industry, just meet people where they are and grow.
Ultimately, I think the medical profession should appreciate this as well. We want patients to feel confident in the management of their health so that they can achieve their life goals. Putting this data closer and closer to a person as Watch does makes it even more personal (I wrote about this 5 years (!) ago: 6 Reasons why mHealth is different than eHealth | Ted Eytan, MD).
Heart rate measurement is one thing. Perhaps Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is not too far behind. My read of the literature says that this measurement is not scientifically validated yet, however, it’s never been able to be measured systematically. Chicken vs. Egg.
I think there’s more rationale to reject pulse oximetry as useful in a healthy person – just because something can be measured doesn’t mean it should be. Maybe a feature like this could be activated on demand in certain situations. Something tells me this is already being discussed in Cupertino, I’m not going to pretend that I have any special insight here 🙂 . Open to dialogue on this point if I’m missing something…
In any event, it’s fascinating to think that we now have watches capable of biometrics and network communication that are being mass produced.
I joked with a colleague that asking me if I liked Watch is like asking me if I like electricity and running water. It’s a Watch. One that extends my phone with the potential to do more around health and communication.
I haven’t used the digital touch features that much – they are there with lots of potential, but not a huge investment or impediment right now.
Watch isn’t a content creation engine the same way Google Glass was positioned – it doesn’t have a camera – which means it may not be making the same kinds of waves that Glass did in the social media space. Maybe that’s a good thing for now, as the population begins to see what wearables can do. Of course I have found a few ways to be a little creative.
Looking forward to seeing what happens next, comments and experiences welcome…post away.