Intimate Symbiosis – the Apple Watch

A recent Time magazine essay on the Apple Watch said, “The Apple Watch represents a redrawing of the map that locates technology in one place and our bodies in another…  The Apple Watch signals the advent of of an “always-on Internet”, an Internet that can not be put away. We are used to dabbling just our fingertips in the Internet, but the Apple Watch doesn’t stop there. It tracks your movements. It listens to your heartbeat. It puts your whole body on-line”.

What we saw this week at Apple’s big announcement is the ushering of a new era via its Apple Watch. Our watches have been dumb, it just shows time. Now it is going to be much more. Even Apple made sure of the accuracy of time – within milliseconds, something the other smart watch products never emphasized on. Also, notice the absent of i in the Apple Watch, a significance of post-Jobs creation of a beautiful product by a whole team headed by Johny Ive, the chief designer.

From a business point of view, it is sheer genius. Given the flat growth of Apple iPhones, the Watch requires the presence of the iPhone as a pre-requisite. Given that it supports iPhone5, right away, there are 200 million users of iPhone loyalists to embrace the Apple Watch plus the new buyers of iPhone6 family. The user interface is full of clever innovations. Notice the “digital crown”, the small sensor-filled nub on the side of the watch to scroll the screen, zoom-in and zoom-out and navigate home. The screen is not grid-like, but shows small circles of apps available. Also Siri, the voice-activated digital assistant will be handy.

The Apple Watch has a rich feature set. It makes calls like a phone. It handles text messages and emails, though because of the tiny screen reading is a lot easier than writing. Users can send one another small drawings that animate and then disintegrate after a few seconds. They can also send their heartbeats to each other. Double tapping on the screen sends a gentle nudge to a nearby friend, like a light tap on the wrist. In practice it’s silly, ephemeral and lovely. Besides supporting the usual iPhone and iPad apps: weather, stocks, passbook, photos, maps, calendar (you have to have a link to nearby iPhone for GPS and Internet connectivity). Crucially it supports Apple’s new wireless payment system, a major play on its own right.

But how much of personal stuff we want to broadcast? Yes, it’s intimate, a word used frequently by Tim Cook. But it brings new challenges of exposing our behavior online.

The Time essay concluded, “Once you are O.K. with wearing technology, the only way forward is inward: the next product launch after the Apple Watch would logically be the iMplant. If Apple succeeds in legitimizing wearables as a category, it will have established the founding node in a network that could spread throughout our bodies, with Apple setting the standards. Then we’ll really have to decide how much control we want – and what we’re prepared to give up for it.”

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