The Apple Watch. Do you want it? Do you need it? I feel like this question of “wearable” technology has finally been brought to the masses by Apple placing its blessing on the genre. But, how does this really affect us?
Got somewhere you need to be? Here is the gist of the article. More and more technology is dumping us into a social soup of notifications, non-uniform user experiences, and an outright battle for superiority between brands and our attention.
On top of this nasty reality, no one company listens to everything that we, the consumers, want to have included in a device. I’m not sure we even know what we want ourselves. Do we want to support that closed-mindedness? Or do we want to definitively say “Hey, this is what we want, here is our money, now take us there”. See below for the long winded version.
Sure, I have some time:
Ah, wearable technology. The end of an era of constantly checking your smartphone. Now, we can check our wrists, like civilized people. A gentle “knock” from your haptic feedback sensor, a polished crown for optimized small screen navigation, Bluetooth connections to a larger, smarter device that sits in your pocket, it all makes perfect sense. Or does it?
The technology industry begs to contradict itself. One day it’s “Buttons are the devil!”. Then, someone with a new idea invents a button that actually works well and suddenly, we love the idea again. Likewise, the popular train of thought that small screens couldn’t possibly display beautiful content, and that a phablet was the only option, have been quashed by someone maximizing the usage of a wrist-sized OLED/LCD. What do we really want? Are we even driving the innovation?
I’m never really sure if the industry is catching up to us, or if we’re frantically keeping up with them, but this grey area is killing our wallets. Also, it has been increasingly difficult to stay up to date with every little trinket that gets produced. So difficult in fact we often don’t even know what our devices are doing / capable of until after we buy them.
To Apple and Android’s defence, these two mobile OS platforms have been increasing their efforts to standardize a look and feel between their products. They have been attempting to provide a sense of purpose for what each of their devices is really for. This isn’t some great insight on their part. They simply need to tell us what the best device is for a particular task so they can market and sell them accordingly.
They’ve even been attempting to push APP developers in the direction of standardization in the UX by giving access to more API’s to choose from to generate a common look and feel. Along with all of this, the devices are slowly linking together to bring more and more data back to the users that hold many devices from one manufacturer. Almost like a set bonus for my gamers out there. I still don’t think that its enough, though.
We’ve gone from a chaos of OS’s on our smartphones, to a whirlwind of sensors that our devices can offer, to a mismatch of accessories that support the new devices, all sitting on top of massive APP stores, which really are the bread and butter of the devices anyway. Now that we’re finally starting to iron that craziness out, the individual services hosted from these devices are going nuts in a consumer tug of war to keep you engaged in their particular service the longest. They accomplish this by giving you easy to use hooks into other aspects of your digital life so that you can bring one account with you wherever you are. It also maximizes their data collection, and revenue.
What does this boil down to for the consumer? E-mail notifications, alerts, reminders, proximity notifications, friends published content, pokes, tweets, likes, shares, and troves of our data literally just spilling out into the web saturating each others “feeds” for lack of a more generic term. These “connected” applications are literally interrupting personal one on one connections everyday, something I doubt they were meant to do. Heck, we probably don’t even notice it while it’s happening.
I think it’s time we asked ourselves, what are we trying to achieve with this? I know, I know, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype, but this is a question that needs to be answered before we move on to the next shiny object. Is it to be more social? If that’s the case, I don’t think we’re on the mark with that objective. Is it to give easy access to media, news, and other forms of content for those who are censored in this world? If so, we’re not regulating it, peer reviewing it, or protecting it as far as I’m concerned. Is it to standup against something? To have a cause? To defend those less fortunate? To promote business? If so, I know I’ve definitely dropped the ball on plenty of occasions despite my constant flow of information. What do you want to come from these devices and accessories?
When there were letters. Just letters. You needed to have a purpose. You had to take the time, and some measure of effort to communicate with the next person. You picked your words carefully, and if you were a good recipient, you protected the secrets contained in those letters to the best of your ability. If you were a business, you did the same. A letter was often more than a message. A letter was a direct transportation of a feeling or thought. Something you might even choose to hold on to, or read again, long after its content was no longer relevant to your life. Can you say the same for your online communications?
That’s what I want with my services, devices, and for the future of the internet. I want a targeted interaction to feel just like the word is described, targeted. And I want my devices to be the way that the interaction happens only if I can’t physically go see someone. I want my messages to be read, and not scrolled past in a sea of notifications. I want my “social” media to actually bring groups together in person, but also to bring change with it when we’re all agreed on something either physically, or virtually. While many of these wants currently happen everyday, I feel like they’re the exception, and not the rule. I shouldn’t be surprised when I read that social media has helped a group or individual, I should be shocked when it doesn’t.
Now, take that information and just let it sink in. If you feel that way too, will the Apple watch help you? Will the Pebble watch or the Android watch help you? Will your Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Google etc phone help you? I keep coming to a resounding “kinda” when I should be saying “Yes! Without question”.
Is this my own fault? Am I just not using the devices, accessories and services properly? I don’t think so. Although I’m open to that being at the very least part of the overall problem. I think one of the major issues is the fragmentation in the user groups that are using the devices and the services.
One group, a technically minded crew, sees nothing but potential for interactions and methods to help one another communicate and collaborate. Possibly even make some money while they’re at it. Another group, a more user oriented lot, just wants something that beeps and chimes when someone they know pokes them, likes their latest selfie, or follows their Instagram account. Which group are you in? How do we bring those groups together? How do we stop one from abusing the other, or being abused by the services very creators? How do we stop infrastructure from controlling a message, or stop people from being afraid of who sees it? These are some big questions.
Somehow, someway, we need to combine our desires of cool features and fashion with our hopes of social action and change to bring the world the new internet. The internet that we need. Can we always keep a clear cut line, no. We can certainly do better than we have been though.
How do we get there? There really seems to be only one way that I can think of. A data diet. a natural selection and evolution of what we let spill from our devices vice what we let die off and not have the chance to propagate. A carefully picked path for our devices, and accessories, with an understanding of what we want to achieve with them. A understanding of how permanent the internet can be for our content, and how powerful a message, even if it’s only a few characters long, can be in someones life.
So, is the Apple Watch pretty? Yes. Can it do some cool things? Yes. Can it bring you closer to others if you use it correctly? Yes. Was it designed to do that though? Or was it designed based on a survey and some commonly wanted stats derived from people who themselves might not even know what they need this new device for?
I’ve heard more news on this new watch in the past three days than about an earthquake that has killed thousands, and displaced even more. Are we really sure we got this whole “internet” thing down?
Finally, and this is the last thought I’ll leave you with, should we be struggling to find purpose for our inventions, or inventing because we have a purpose for it? I’m going to take some time and evaluate my situation. I hope you can find the time to do the same.
To illustrate the point of this article .. I won’t drop my usual plugs. It just doesn’t seem that important in the grand scheme of things right now. Until next time.