The Apple Watch: Genius or Pure Evil?

Apple Watch 2
I was wrong about the iPad. “Who needs that?” was my initial reaction. I have my iPhone, I have my MacBook and I would never read newspapers or books on a device. I’m a high-touch kind of person.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. It eventually dawned on me that it would be a lot easier to travel with an iPad and a Bluetooth keyboard than lugging around a computer, the book (or two) I was reading at the moment, the New Yorker’s I needed to catch up on and the two or three newspapers I read everyday. Plus, and this should go without saying, it was from Apple and it was just so cool.

Once that iPad was actually in my hands it was love at first touch. In true Apple style, they understood what I wanted well before I did.

Like the iPad before it, the long anticipated Apple Watch drew mixed reactions when it was finally unveiled. The doubters came out in droves. Forbes posted a piece titled Why The Apple Watch Won’t Sell, which concludes that the new device is more of “an expensive frippery – like a prototype super sports car that will never make it into production,” rather than anything a “normal person would buy.”

A Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece left no doubt about where it stood with the headline, Behind the Meh Response to the iWatch.

Humbled by getting the iPad so wrong initially, I was cautious in formulating my opinion of the Apple Watch, though I was leaning in the direction of the doubters.

Then I saw the TV spot. Just gorgeous, a Siren’s call luring me to the inevitable purchase. I love all the watch faces to choose from, and all that functionality! It’s only a question of which version I’m going to buy.

No…wait…I’m an objective grown up and I’m not going to be manipulated this! Having come down to earth the next day, I reasoned that the only practical benefit of the Apple Watch was eliminating the need to take my phone out of my pocket. Not a big deal. Of course, for someone who drinks the Apple Kool-Aid like I do, the need for tangible benefits must be discounted significantly. Still, $400 or more to feel cool without any rational justification at all?

I concluded that the Apple Watch – at this point in time anyway – is something I certainly don’t need and really don’t want. But will others be able to resist? There’s that incredible ad, and the design is so sleek, and it does so many things. Maybe this thing will be a big seller after all…

It was Timothy Egan’s piece in the New York Times, Digital Dog Collar, that jostled me into recognizing my deepest doubts and fears about the Apple Watch. Egan writes:

“I hate the new Apple Watch. Hate what it will do to conversation, to the pace of the day, to my friends, to myself. I hate that it will enable the things that already make life so incremental, now-based and hyper-connected. That, and make things far worse.”

We read a good deal about people feeling the need to disconnect, to enhance their mindfulness, to live in the moment, to engage in genuine, meaningful communication. I know I’m trying, but I’m an addict like everyone else, most likely checking my phone about 150 times per day, the daily frequency that Egan cites as average.

I still love Apple, but like Egan, I’ve come to the conclusion that the Apple Watch is pure evil. I don’t want to be any more connected than I am now. In those rare instances when I leave my phone at home or in the car, it’s truly liberating.

The insidious presence of the Apple Watch scares me. I have enough distractions in my life. I am imminently reachable and connected to a degree far beyond what’s necessary or desirable. Sometimes, like Greta Garbo famously said, “I want to be alone.”

I always argue that marketing is about emotion, not practicality.  But that emotion needs to be based on something real, some rational benefit important enough to justify a purchase, especially one with a high price tag. We need our mobile phones to survive these days and the iPhone, while pricey, is wonderfully designed and works beautifully. If you’re a reader or want access to the web and don’t need to rely on a keyboard, the iPad is a huge convenience. The rational justification exists. But the Apple Watch?

As beautifully designed as it is, despite the incredible technology that puts a virtual computer monitor on your wrist, it seems that Apple is relying almost entirely on emotion to sell its new watch. The fact that it is feature rich means nothing if none is truly meaningful. I can pull my phone out of my pocket – if it’s not already sitting on the table in front of me – to check the weather or my messages.

Moreover, here we have an Apple product, that perhaps for the first time, is evoking the wrong kinds of emotions in many people – me included.

Do others feel the same? On April 24, we’ll see if Apple has made its first major post-Jobs blunder or whether its genius will strike again.

  • Jeannie Ashford
    Posted at 08:27h, 18 March Reply

    I think the watch will become indispensable. If you’ve ever seen a woman fumble in her purse for her phone (hey, we don’t always have pockets in our trousers and rarely on dresses), think about how easy it makes life. Wear a bluetooth ear device, and you can leave your phone lying underneath the crumbled tissues and store receipts.

    It reduces “friction,” the extra step or annoyance that slows down a process. Consider what Gregory Fowler said in the WSJ: “And there are a lot more things that normally require my full attention to handle on a smartphone that might take less of it in a tiny form: learning a flight is delayed, checking the weather, even getting driving directions. One tap to crank up the heat in my smarthome sounds great. Apple also pitches it for fitness nuts, but I haven’t seen anything yet that you can’t already do with a much cheaper wristband.”

    Will I buy it? I hesitate to buy any first-generation device. Let them work out the kinks and, hopefully, lower the price.

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