I’m tucked away between two booths at a Toronto whisky event, drinking a rare single malt from Japan. I mentally step away from the crowd of eighty or so people with stretched out arms looking for a similar pour. As I enjoy this moment with the whisky, I feel a gentle tap on my wrist. It doesn’t pull me away from the salty smoky drink, but it lets me know a message is waiting.
After a few more unhurried sips, I lift my wrist up with a flick. “A rare Canadian whisky is being poured at the Canadian Whisky vs Rye booth.” I click “I’ll be there in 5” on the Apple Watch with a pre-configured message, and the message is sent immediately with no further interaction necessary. The screen turns off, as I go back to my whisky.
Lots has been said about the Apple Watch—it minimizes distractions, it’s intended to be fun, and the hardware is beautiful but the software is buggy. All of this is true. We are accustomed to gadgets that require our attention. The Apple Watch is a gadget that gives us back those moments normally stolen away by our phones.
Spirit of Toronto was the perfect opportunity to test the watch as a communication device. I was there with eight friends spread across a large facility, with unique whisky pours at various times during the event. Communication was key. The event also allowed me the opportunity to consider social norms when with groups. When is it polite to look at a the watch, and when is it better to simply take out the phone?
Social Norms and Messaging
In today’s society, pulling out the phone while chatting with friends is perceived as more polite than checking your watch. People immediately associate ‘checking watch’ with ‘I want to leave.’ This, though, is a dated faux pas from an era where watches only had one function.
When with one friend or in a large crowd, the tapping on the wrist is without distraction to anyone including the wearer. It’s just enough of a reminder that something is going on, without any urgency. The watch is a much faster way of viewing, scrolling, and even replying to messages. It takes up less time than opening up the iPhone.
At the event, when it came to text messaging, I’d talk to the watch at about chest-level and let Siri dictate the message. I’d only do this when I was alone. Siri dictation on the watch is excellent, possibly even better than on the iPhone. In a noisy room with plenty of people, dictating to the watch was a breeze.
Health Monitoring And Drink Whisky
I burnt more calories being on my feet at the whisky event, and going bar hopping afterwards, then any other day in the last two weeks. I know this because I’ve been wearing the watch every day.
I care about fitness. I go to the gym weekly, but I’m not really into fitness the way my cross-training, bicycle riding, marathon running, triathlon competing friends are into fitness. The activity rings on the Apple Watch, though, make 30 minutes of physical activity seem achievable. Being encouraged to stand up for a minute every hour makes sense. Having a heart monitor on your wrist, a step tracker, and a calorie burn estimator is helpful.
The Apple Watch isn’t the first fitness activity tracker, and it’s certainly not the cheapest one, but it is the first one people are likely to wear to a dress-up event such as Spirit of Toronto. Or for any other occasion. The Apple Watch has encouraged me to be more active in subtle ways that I appreciate.
Fashion? Practical? A bit of both
The Apple Watch is a topic of conversation. It’s tough to summarize it into a few words of “it’s good” or “it’s bad.” The Apple Watch didn’t drastically improve my event experience, but it did stop me from always reaching for my phone to see if anyone had texted (I’ve long-since become immune to iPhone notifications through the pocket of my jeans). Because we were in a large scattered group, with plenty of unique drinks being poured throughout the night, this was helpful.
By limiting the number of notifications, I limit how often the watch taps my wrist. There’s an efficiency achieved here that I appreciate. A casual glance to the Apple Watch is incredibly informative, especially with Apple’s apps. I feel less dependent on the phone.
As I told a friend, as a watch and an activity monitoring device, the Apple Watch is worth the starting price of $350. For that price you get apps, notifications, and additional conveniences. If you care about fashion, the stainless steel models have value.
I expected the Apple Watch to be a device I would be on and interact with frequently. As it turns out, the device is on me, and it initiates interactions using taps. Odd. As Apple said, this is the most personal and intimate device they have ever created. As a device that you wear on your arm, that secretly taps you, it fits that description perfectly.