Futile exercises: The Apple Watch is bad at what it’s not designed to do

Who knew the Apple Watch couldn't do what it's not supposed to do?

Macalope

It is literally as if editors across the nation scoured their newsrooms for the person most likely to hate the Apple Watch and assigned them to review it.

Writing for Slate, Seth Stevenson says “I Double-Apple Dare You” (tip o’ the antlers to @papanic).

It’s a little unclear what that’s supposed to mean other than some weird jab at Apple, but the slug is somewhat more informative:

I tried to wear an Apple Watch without touching my iPhone. It was infuriating.

Stevenson’s experiment was to see if the Apple Watch could completely replace his iPhone.

In other words, Stevenson set himself on a fool’s errand doomed to failure. Which is somehow supposed to be the Watch’s fault.

The double Apple occurs when a person thumbs an Apple iPhone while he wears an Apple Watch. The mere sight of a double Apple makes me retch a little.

On sheer aesthetic grounds, the double Apple is way too matchy-matchy…

No one should own both is what you’re saying. Seems fair.

Should people also not own an iPhone and a MacBook? What about an AirPort Extreme? Are Beats also out or OK because they’re marketed under another brand? What if one offsets their Apple stuff with a Samsung smartshirt?

Boy, living up to the style expectations of others can get really complicated.

Mild allegiance to a brand is fine, sure. But allowing a brand to completely define your visual presence is awfully dorky.

Having a smartphone and smartwatch from the same vendor completely defines your visual presence. That is not at all a crazy thing to say, according to Slate.

So, since you have to have an iPhone in order to use the Apple Watch, we can deduce that the very idea of the Apple Watch is essentially repugnant to you. Terrific. Please continue with your Apple Watch review. You seem perfectly suited to the task and the Macalope sees nothing at all wrong with you having been assigned it since you obviously have such an open mind and other statements the Macalope doesn’t really mean.

Given this as Stevenson’s entry point to the Watch, is there any way it can win? The Macalope doesn’t see how unless it somehow magically ceases being a device made by Apple. That seems unlikely to happen. The Macalope will go out on a limb and say that it is unlikely that magic will show its hand and upend this fait accompli.

What happens? Well, Stevenson discovers that the Watch can’t do everything the iPhone can do and sometimes—sometimes—you need to get your iPhone out to do the things that the Watch can’t do.

…when it’s measuring things like steps walked or flights of stairs climbed, the Watch is really just a glorified, radically more expensive Fitbit.

It’s a shame it doesn’t do anything else.

In the end, it’s the ability to see notifications on the Watch, without resorting to looking at your phone, that holds the most utility for its user.

Provided you use it the right way. Which Stevenson doesn’t, causing him to flip all the tables.

More disquieting: After a few days, that stream of notifications that I’d enjoyed at first—thinking they’d unbound me from the tyranny of the phone—began to feel oppressive.

Not to go all Steve Jobs on you but you’re doing it wrong. Stevenson says he wants to do messaging, email and Slack on his Watch but then laments getting notifications from… messaging, email and Slack. Make up your mind.

The Watch is a gatekeeper. If you tell it to let everyone in, that’s exactly what it’s going to do. That seems pretty obvious.

At one point I refrained from dictating a text message while sitting in a restaurant because I didn’t want the nearby table of attractive women to see me mumbling into my fist.

Look, if you’re worried about that, just paint a little face on your hand around the forefinger and thumb so it totally looks more normal that you’re talking to your hand and your chances of gaining the approving looks of some women who are just out trying to eat lunch, not get dates with tech nerds, will be exactly the same.

And yes, I could have turned off the Watch’s notifications. But then I’d just have, like, a watch.

Here’s a thought: Turn off some of them. If you’re a doctor or a diplomat or Nick Fury, yeah, maybe you can’t turn off that many notifications. But you’re a writer. No one is going to die because they didn’t get your thought piece on time.

In the end, the Watch—in its current iteration—is fundamentally unnecessary.

It is. So what? So are a lot of things we own and enjoy. That does not mean we should not own and enjoy them.

In almost every instance, Stevenson is deliberately trying to use the Watch for a purpose for which it was not designed. He wants to respond to emails. The Watch doesn’t do that. He wants to read books and full-length news on it. The Watch doesn’t do that. It’s not supposed to replace your iPhone, it’s supposed to filter it. It’s not supposed to make the things you do on your iPhone easier, it’s supposed to allow you to defer them.

The Watch does almost nothing your phone can’t already do…

Except the things it does do which Stevenson dismisses.

…and, crucially, doesn’t obviate the need to look at your phone even as you’re wearing the watch on your wrist.

Which was never really on the table.

Well, thanks, Slate, for posting this thought experiment about what happens when you try to get a device to do something it wasn’t at all designed to do. If we ever need more pieces devoted to deliberate misunderstanding we’ll know where to go.

And avoid going there.

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