It’s been a while, but the Apple announcement and subsequently a parody video have inspired me to put down my thoughts. The video is Funny or Die’s 33 Must-Have Apple Watch Accessories. Now, I’m no luddite, I greatly enjoy technology and use it at work and in my personal life (as most of us do). However, there’s something bizarre about wearables; while I know that they will eventually integrate into our lifestyles, the way forward is inflated with incredible amount of hype, but the feeling remains . . . I’m wearing a digital shackle.
Personal computers were a boon because they made us wildly more efficient, the internet was a boon because took that efficiency and magnified it by allowing us to interact and share instantaneously as well as creating a level of unparalleled accessibility, smartphones put all of this in our pockets. Recently we’ve seen the rise and, if we’re honest, the plateauing of tablets – we see that they’re great and useful, but they’re luxury items for mostly light use and we’re seeing the 2-in-1 concept as a reasonable compromise. The one truth of invention and of business in general is that you must be providing a solution that has a question, and not providing a solution in search of that question. This is the limbo that wearables are currently residing in.
They’re not yet capable enough to provide real benefit on their own, which brings me to my gripe: After being gifted a Samsung Gear 2 and doing everything in my power to make it useful in my life, I came to a singular conclusion – I have never felt more tethered to my devices than when I wore that watch. It was a constant reminder to make sure my phone was with me at all times lest my watch lost the majority of its functionality. Not only to have it with you, but to have it within range. If I walked down the hall at work to speak with our financial department, bzzzzzt, the watch would vibrate letting me know that I have strayed too far from its parent device.
It snuck into everything and I didn’t like the feeling that I no longer decided when to interact in the digital world, but rather that it was constantly yanking on my pant leg like a petulant child. But what really killed it for me, was that it didn’t improve anything for me. It was only a detriment; I gained no efficiency, no optimization, nothing. The screen is small and while navigating it is “acceptable for a device of its size” scrolling for apps and to read text made less sense than simply picking up my phone and looking at it (most notifications are available on the lock screen or even after unlocking just single press or swipe away), this immediately defeats the purpose of the wearables. It’s supposed to save time on the front end by being available at a glance, but it’s more cumbersome to use than a phone due to it’s inherent limitations of display real estate.
I was partly hoping to see something revolutionary from Apple, perhaps because they’ve done it in the past and I (we) anticipate something more, but they didn’t. The Apple Watch looks exactly what we’ve already seen from wearables thus far. And that parody video highlights not only the truth of wearables in their current state, but that we’re being locked down through the tyranny of technology. Don’t stop looking at your screens, don’t stop inputting your private data, don’t stop responding to notifications, don’t stop everything depends on you sitting fixated in a digital stupor. Our present is more akin to Farenheit 451 than it is to Minority Report. Our technology should be an extension of our desire to accomplish, not a “more efficient means of going backwards”.
I don’t care if anyone likes or supports Apple’s or anyone else’s wearables. That is a forgone conclusion. I only ask those that are still pondering it’s merits to continue pondering and wait until the technology is at a point where you benefit instead of voluntarily shackle yourself.