I think Apple Watch has the potential to be a life changing product.
Potential. It’s a funny word. If you place too much emphasis, you are always living in the future. If you don’t place enough emphasis, you’re stuck in a world of, “That’s the way it’s always been done.”
When the iPad came out, there were two camps, the “It’s just a bigger iPhone? What’s the big deal” camp and the, “Holy shit, it’s a bigger iPhone!” camp. The first group saw the current limitations of iOS and scoffed. The second group, embraced the limitations. The iPad was a computer that could solve a lot of complexity problems. I was someone who bought in.
As time went on with my iPad, I found I was reaching for my laptop more and more. I stopped trying to find excuses to get things done on the smaller device and I started using the right tool for the right job. In most cases, that was my laptop. I think for a lot of people, the iPad is fantastic at consumption, but when emails that are more than a few sentences, or documents need to be made, it falls on its face. It’s just not great a creating the type of content most people want to create. As time has gone on, the limitations of the iPad have never quite been addressed. Getting real work done still feels like a chore. In essence, the reduced capability has limited it’s potential. Corporations cannot buy iPads for anything more than sales tools or niche devices.
As I look at the Apple Watch, I see it going either the way of the iPad, or the way of the iPhone. The main goal of the watch should be to reduce our dependence on our phones. We shouldn’t have to pull our phones out of our pockets as much as we do today. A flick of the wrist and I see an email from Rackspace… ignore. Or I see a call from Sarah… answer. The Watch should essentially be what we all wanted the iPad to be… reducing our dependence on larger, more complex devices. If Apple can solve this problem, they will have a hit. I’m not so sure they can, though. People fucking love their phones.
Apple really needs to think about how they can solve all the mundane experiences on a Watch better than they can on an iPhone. They set that goal for the iPad vs. laptops and they never quite answered the challenge.
I think Ben Thompson nails the potential:
For all of the changes that have been wrought by technology, a huge amount of our daily existence really hasn’t changed in a very long time. Consider keys: in my bag I have several pieces of metal, hopefully unique, that unlock doors or start up machines that run on controlled explosions. It’s positively barbaric! Money has improved a bit – cash is certainly a very old concept, although credit cards are more modern – but the idea that we physically hand someone access to a huge amount of money (i.e. our credit cards) without even thinking about it is odd. We operate lights with switches, print disposable tickets for everything from airplanes to concerts, and pack identification from a whole host of authorities, including the government and workplace.
It’s increasingly plausible to envision a future where all of these examples and a whole host of others in our physical environment are fundamentally transformed by software: locks that only unlock for me, payment systems that keep my money under my control, and in general an adaptation to my presence whether that be at home, at the concert hall, or at work.
He outlines a few use cases that are particularly well suited for something like a watch. The question is whether or not solving these problems on a smartphone are “good enough” for many. Just like smartphones are the new “good enough” computing devices for third world countries. Apple has a challenge in front of them, but luckily there is a whole lot of potential.