The watch comes in an oblong cardboard box that surprised me, as after all I'd been hearing about Apple's efforts to reduce shipping costs by cutting down on container size, I definitely didn't expect to see a device so small come in a package that large. The device itself was in an inner box, which held the actual packaging of the watch and the charger/extra band. All in all, it was a far cry from the iPod touch, or even the iPhone, which comes in a box almost exactly as big as it would need to be to contain it and it's accessories and no bigger.
The cable is the longest cable I've ever seen Apple ship with a device. Even the MacBook cable isn't as long, and it comes in two pieces. What?
The video ends, and Tim Cook is about to get on stage and tell us about the Apple Watch, and I couldn't be more unenthusiastic. I had expected something different, to be honest. I half expected to not even see a screen on the thing - just a notification extension with a biometric ability that cost $99 bucks and would mark every iPhone owner on a single glance, unlocking your device and serving as your password for everything. Shit, I thought it was a good idea, at least.
"Welp, they actually made a watch."
My colleagues looked at me. "You mean, you didn't see this coming?"
"Yeah, but I hoped... whatever." They shrugged. Oh well.
Powering on the device is, well, I don't know how to do it besides plugging it in, so I plugged it in (which translates to plugging the power cable into the wall and sitting the watch on the charger pad, which fits into place with a satisfying click that I'm sure engineers agonized over for days, arriving upon a sound both playful and secure, in true Apple form). On it goes, and after a minute of staring at the old style 3D Apple logo from the pre-iOS 7 world ("...huh?"), I'm staring at the screen, telling me it's time to find an iPhone to get the show started.
"Are you going to get one?" I'm asked at least ten times that day. "Eh," I reply. "Maybe."
To tell you the truth, I'm not excited. I've tried to wear a watch twice: my Dad bought me a Skagen for a steal one time and I wore it until the screen cracked way too easily, getting used to its absence so that by the time it came back from repair I'd moved on. Pretty thing, though, but it would get sweaty on my wrist and it would ding into stuff. A girlfriend bought me one a few years later, Burberry, and I wore it until I forgot to put it on one morning and the habit was broken. I was not optimistic a watch would ever work its way into a daily habit, an Apple Watch notwithstanding.
The pairing process takes all of two seconds and is as simple as lining up my watch with a watch sized roundrect outline on the screen through the camera, much like you'd use the camera to deposit a check or enter a card into Apple Pay. Easy, hassle free, and it went by as if it was the most natural and effortless engagement.
It looked nice, anyway. Thick, though. I'll wait and see one in person before I make the call to buy one or not. I'm definitely not preordering one, though. I don't have $400 bucks to throw around on a maybe. Between the handful I'd get to play with at the office and the eventual trip to the Apple store to put it on for myself, I'll have enough to convince me one way or another.
We'd get to develop something for it, though. My colleague, Emily, a product manager, immediately went into the office of Mobile Products to figure out what we'd do for it. I went upstairs, back to my office in Ads, and got back to reporting the news. A watch, yes. Starts at $349. Who knows how much for the Gold one. Yeah, it's gold. Yeah, it runs apps. No, I'm not getting one yet.
Watch OS 1.0.1 had come out by the time it arrived, so updating it was the first thing I really did with the device. I think I put it on for a second before I realized that it had to be off and charging in order for the update to work, but that was it. After that it was a strange twenty minutes of watching a circle on the watch slowly fill in and a status bar on the phone start and finish and start and finish... For all the polish on the entrance, the update process was remarkably haphazard. Weirded out.
Apple buys a campaign on the homepage. Then they buy a week. It's a watch promotion. Weird - they never have to advertise new products like that, especially when they don't even have a sale price yet. Wonder what that's about.
I hit “load all available apps.” My mistake - I get a warning that "There's not enough room on your Watch for this app" followed by six more. I instantly undo and can already eliminate ten or twelve apps I don't want anywhere near my wrist. Fandango, FlightTrack, Deliveries, Instagram. Nope city.
I load Dark Sky on there, hoping for a weather app replacement, as well as Uber, Yelp, Automatic, Overcast, HipChat, and a few others. This is almost all blind: I read Marco's post about Overcast and I assumed that Uber would let you get a car with your watch, but other than that I had no clue what to expect.
I pick up the Burberry watch, black on black leather, that my ex had gotten me. The band had long gashes in it from when our dog, now her dog, had gotten to it on the nightstand and enjoyed the rich Corinthian leather in the way a dog knows best. It still fastened, so I figure I'll put it on and see if I could actually pull off wearing a watch. It's an experiment: a test balloon. I'm preparing myself for the inevitable.
Hell, I might even replace the band. Sixty bucks. I'll do that eventually.
A few weeks later, the watch slows down, indicating a soon-to-be dead battery. I wind it a few times, realizing the futility. Where do you even get a battery for this stuff? Amazon? God, I don't have to go to a Burberry store, do I? On the shelf it goes. I'll get a battery at some point.
I would not use the word "thick" to describe the Watch itself. I know they'll eventually get thinner, but it's almost exactly like when I first held the iPhone 3G. "Yeah, this feels nice."
The band is way more comfortable than I assumed it would be. I ordered what my office refers to as the "nerd watch" (space grey, Sport, black band) and while I assumed the rubber - sorry, Jony: flouroelastomer - band would get sweaty and feel cheap, it actually does neither, fitting securely and feeling more leathery than plasticky. The whole device is so light and the buckle is so smooth on the entry point that I barely give a thought to it when I'm not being tapped.
The term "digital crown" seems gimmicky. Oh, and the term 'force touch'? Nothing has ever so directly stated the lack of women working on a product than the name "Force Touch". Real molesty vibe, there, Phil.
Oh, the tap.
First, the was the ringtone. It was a signal that took some getting used to, but there would be a sound in your pocket (or, in my mothers case, her purse) that was identifiable to you, alerting you to someone's demand for your time and attention, and you didn't even think of refusing because what are you some kind of asshole or something? So you pick it up. It was the start of the personal notification, arguably the evolution of the human idea of a name.
Next, the silent notification, or the vibration, served a similar purpose in areas where noise was unacceptable, which made the pocket a sacred, hollowed ground for your pager or phone.
The transition from audio feedback to tactile feedback is an important one, but I think when the device moved itself one layer closer, directly in contact with the skin, the mode evolved further into what Apple is calling the Taptic Engine. I'm just calling it the most pleasant, unobtrusive but completely recognizable offer for attention ever devised by man. I'd rather be tapped by my watch than have my own name spoken aloud. It alerts me without being demanding or assuming, I don't feel bad about ignoring it but I never miss it, and it never insists: it politely requests.
The innovation they've done with the engine on the MacBook trackpad is great. I assume that same type of super tactile feedback will appear in iOS devices. All those applications fall short of the simple act of tap-to-notify, and you won't know how truly remarkable it is until you feel it.
The March event ends. $349 for the Watch Sport, $549 for the Watch, $10K for the Watch Edition. Cheaper than I thought, but still. I'm honestly more excited about the new MacBook, even though I'm not in the market. It represents an expansion, or even an abandonment, of the iconic four pane matrix of Apple lore - consumer and professional, portable and desktop. Now, there's a third column: enterprise. The consumer portable is the Macbook, the enterprise portable is the Air, the professional portable is the Macbook Pro Retina. Apple has grown up. Good for them.
That watch, though. Am I missing something? What's the "reason for being"? I remember Steve getting up there and taking ten minutes to explain why the iPhone needed to exist and what it would do. I remember him laying out exactly where the iPad fit in the scheme of things before even showing it to us. Now, it's just "Hey, look, we made a watch." Who wanted to make this thing, anyway? Why? What problem does it solve? And why should anyone buy it?
Tap tap. Time to stand up.
I don't get the "Stand up" nudge very often, because I have a standing desk and I usually walk around a lot, pace back and forth, and swing around a bat. But when I do, it comes at exactly the same time as the three other watch wearers around me, usually at 10 ’til. Maybe it’s because we’re in the same meeting. Maybe it’s all synced up. Who knows - I do it, and I don't even make a joke about it, or complain, or moan about how my watch tells me to stand up and I stood up like some sheep. I just kind of do it, because it seems like a good idea.
"Oh, yeah, right. I should stand up."
Preorders start, and it's in the Apple Store. All the models are there. That black on black steel one looks cool. Kind of Darth Vader-y. No way i'm spending $1100 on it, though. No fucking way.
I favorite it, along with the black on black sport. Just in case.
I never use the digital crown.
I move the watch into my cart. Then I close the app. Not yet. I'll put the thing on and decide.
Most third party apps on this thing suck.
I mean that very specifically. Go to the home screen (which is really more of the app screen, because Home really is the watch face), tap on any app, and prepare to have a weird experience. First, you’ll wait for the watch to load the app, and then you’ll wait for the app to load its content, which can be a total of ten seconds. Then, you're presented with a UI designed by someone who’s never actually held the device, with functionality you would much rather use your phone to do, so you do, and shortly thereafter delete the app off your watch.
The apps that I have left are Uber, Dark Sky, Overcast, and Fantastical. Fantastical is an exception to the rule in that it’s a marked improvement over the system calendar app on the watch, so I have both the app and the glance installed. Same is true for Dark Sky, whose glance I use instead of the Weather app. You can’t delete system apps (god damn Stocks, you taunt me again!) but you can remove their Glances and use another one instead, which in practice feels like removing them, or even setting a new default.
I tried to call a car with Uber one time and it said my payment system was invalid, so I used the phone and haven’t tried again since.
I schedule a Try-on appointment at the Apple store. It seems like the lamest thing i've ever done, cementing my place in the Apple fanboy cult. I'm making an appointment to try on a watch I can't buy yet. I don't even wear a watch. What the fuck happened to me?
I put the thing on. The first one I try is the link bracelet, to see if it's Darth Vader for me. My arm hair gets caught in it instantly. Fuck that shit. The sport band feels fine: really, really light, almost unnoticeable. It's a demo unit, so you can't do anything with it, which leads me to the displays around the store with functional units attached to an iPad with tours loaded on it. It's Foreign Device Syndrome - iOS devices are strange, somewhat useless items until they've got _your_ stuff on it, so picking up a device thats not yours is kind of pointless and feels weird, like everything thats going on is none of your business.
Seems fast, though.
Battery life is a non issue. With no exceptions, I’ve been able to make it through a full day with more than 20% of battery left. I wouldn't want to wear it when i slept, because the tap will wake me up, so charging it at night is no big deal.
Battery life on my iPhone, however, is fucking crazy town banana pants good. I don't get home with less than 60% anymore, and thats after ten or so hours of use. The amount of power Bluetooth LE (they meant it when they said low energy) uses to connect to the watch is apparently negligible compared to the amount of energy it costs to wake up and put the thing back to sleep every time you pull out the thing to read a notification. That’s secret feature #1: your iPhone now has plenty of energy to do whatever you want. It’s now a two day device, in my experience.
It goes back in my cart again, this time a steel Watch with a modern buckle. That one felt good, at least, and the mechanism was cool. $750, though. That's a lot.
I'm home, and it's late. I get in my apartment, and look down at the watch. I'm using the modular face, which I have showing my activity circles on the bottom left. My standing circle is complete, and I've walked enough to finish the "Activity" circle, but I'm 50 calories away from completing the last one, which would give me three full circles, a feat I had yet to complete. I pace around the apartment for a bit, wave my hands around hoping to trick it. No dice.
I leave the apartment and walk around the block. I round a corder and get a tap: "Nice work!". I'm pleased with myself.
Instantly, I'm laughing. I didn't have my watch on when I did my morning exercise routine (push ups, squats and leg lifts, none of which would trigger the Watch's activity measurements), so I knew that I'd crossed the Activity threshold way earlier. Plus, I just walked around the block to make my Watch happy.
At the same time as I feel kind of silly, it's also not a big deal. Im actually kind of happy i did it. Apple got everyone sucked into screens big and small, most of the time spent with those devices while we sit on our ever fatter asses. If it felt an obligation to get their customers up and moving around (you know, like humans), I'm for it.
"Come on," my coworker Jason said, toying with his Watch. "You know you're going to get one. I need someone to send touches to! It'll be so cool!"
"If I do get one," I say, "I promise the first thing I'll do is send you a drawing of a dick."
He laughs, but we both acknowledge what's going to happen with the little touch drawing thing. It's going to be cool, then we'll annoy the shit out of everyone, then no one will use it. It's Yo for dick drawings.
I say I might end up getting it, but not immediately. He thinks I'm lying to myself. Maybe I am. I can't tell.
When I said “no exceptions“ to all-day battery life, there’s really just one.
Two nights ago, I was at a late night barbecue in Alexandria that went until about one-thirty in the morning. I looked down at the thing and it was approaching ten percent, and out of curiosity and a desire to not completely drain the thing, I turned on “Power Reserve” mode. This basically means that if you tap the digital crown, the time will display in green, and thats it. I’d appreciate it if it still did the “Activate on Wrist Raise“, but for a device that you might need in order to tell time… ah, who am I kidding, you’ve already got your phone with you, who cares, I’m never going to use that feature again.
So I turn this mode on (which is basically shutting the watch off, for all intents and purposes), and I go back to my night. Then my phone buzzes in my pocket.
I pull the phone out. It’s an email from the Gap. “Whatever.” I swipe to delete it.
The first watches arrive. My boss and my coworker get theirs. Ooh. Aah. They seem half enamored, half irritated. I make another try-on appointment. Put on the watch, take it off. "Thanks. I think I'm set."
Then I realized what had happened. I realized I’d probably wear a watch like this for the rest of my life.
I remembered the way I felt about the iPhone when I first got it. I was excited, to be sure, but there was a fear that it was just a novelty or a fad, that I wouldn’t use most if any of the apps, that i’d eventually go for something simpler with better battery life, and that I’d feel hosed for spending that much money on a marketing gimmick. I used it for a week or so, and I liked it.
Then I needed directions somewhere, and I looked it up in Maps. Boom - turn by turn directions, in a manner of seconds, from where I was at that moment. That was the moment I knew I’d be using smartphones for the rest of my life, and that I no longer had to convince my friends and family to get one because they eventually would. It just became a fact of life that this thing, this magical and revolutionary device, was going to take over the world.
I loathed having to pull my phone out of my pocket. What a waste of time - constantly fishing the thing out, checking a single and easily missable alert type for something that could either be banal or of the utmost importance. Checking an alert and being notified about the things going on in my life is not less of a hassle, it’s no hassle. It’s completely natural, almost effortless. Apps aside, for notifications, it’s perfectly executed, the screen turning on whenever I want to look at it (it’s so accurate it’s almost magic) and allowing me to quickly dismiss, delete, or take action. It’s not an extension of my phone: it’s an extension of my brain.
Who’s left who’s skeptical about the computer? What about those smartphone holdouts? How about the automobile skeptics, or the flight pessimists? No, they’re dead or slowly dying out, either by literally dying, fading into obscurity, or succumbing to the eventual evolution, falling under the weight of progress and slowly but surely letting this technology do what it’s always done: change our lives for the better.
I’m not going to waste my time convincing people to get the watch. I’m not going to explain to people how it’s going to make the small moments we’ve become habituated to easier and more fluid, curbing those impetuous interruptions and bringing us back to face-to-face contact with each other, to the universal fellowship of conversation. I know that for everyone, it’s a lost cause. We’re at the precipice of a new world, and it’s only a matter of time.
It's midnight. I just got paid. I'm staring at the 38mm black on black Sport, $349, the already christened "Nerd Watch", named after the developers who ordered it almost exclusively.
"It's Apple", I think. It's new, we make apps for it, and it could end up being something. It's sort of my job, right? Besides, am I going to let people tell me if its good or not, or am I going to see for myself? Besides, if I don't like it, I'll return it. No harm, no foul.