Not getting it: Watch editorial requirements


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How do you know if you should write an editorial about the Apple Watch in a prestigious newspaper? Well, first of all, do you completely not get the Apple Watch? If so, then you’re ready to start writing!

Writing for the New York Times, Jody Rosen can’t quite get his head around the Watch.

”The Apple Watch: More Than Just a Bracelet”

After a 700-word paean to traditional watches in which he doesn’t even mention the Apple Watch, Rosen finally admits:

All of which is to say: I’m not quite the target audience for the new Apple Watch.

Oh. Well, good thing the Times picked you to write about it, then. Presumably the CEO of Swatch was unavailable.

Now we’re ready to start talking about the Watch.

Late last week, because my editors asked me to, I got an Apple Watch.

A 700-word love note to traditional watches and then an order to buy an Apple Watch. There is no possible way this could go wrong.

To get my money’s worth, I need to exploit the Watch’s full range of apps and thingamabobs.

The doohickeys. The whatsits and the whosits. This editorial will cover it all.

So, the Macalope understands the CEO of Swatch was unavailable, but were there no Amish the Times could have called upon to write this? Seems like one should go big or go home.

My colleague Farhad Manjoo, the Times’s technology columnist, wrote, “...the Watch is not suited for tech novices.” I’m not sure what a tech novice is in the year 2015, but I do know that, nearly a week in, I am still poking lamely at the Watch...


Now, I’m no technophobe.

I love the thingamabobs!

I’m keenly aware that history can be narrated as a series of apocalyptic overreactions to new machines...

And yet here we are, about to get sprayed in the face with a seltzer bottle of clownish apocalyptic overreactions.

So I say this advisedly, with the full knowledge that it’s a snap judgment I may revoke next month, or tomorrow: The Apple Watch is annoying, and possibly sinister.

There you have it: The Apple Watch is evil and the Times is on it.

Good job, everyone.

And now, let us begin the “complete misunderstanding” part of the column.

For one thing, I can’t wrap my mind around the Watch’s relationship to the iPhone. The closest analogy I can come up with is that of a suckerfish and a manta ray...

Well, maybe you’re Apple Watching all wrong. Turns out, yes, that’s exactly what’s happening. To the Macalope, the Watch is like an administrative assistant for your phone. It filters the things that vie for your attention. If you’re getting annoyed by it, tell it to filter more.

Or, write a 2,000-word complaint in the nation’s premier newspaper. Whichever comes first.

You use your iPhone to control the settings of the Watch, which, when activated, does subpar versions of things that the iPhone does very well.

Rosen complains that you can’t reply to emails on the Watch. Personally, the Macalope has email notifications on the Watch turned off completely. It’s sometimes handy to be able to refer to a recent email without having to pull the phone out, but “You’ve got mail!” is one distraction he can do without.

This seems to be Rosen’s fundamental misunderstanding of the Watch. A desktop computer has features a laptop sacrifices for portability. A laptop has features a smartphone sacrifices for portability. A smartphone has features a smartwatch sacrifices for ease of access. That progression should not be unfathomable.

Often, the Watch functions as a glorified remote control for the iPhone. For instance, you can touch a button on the Watch to play songs through your iPhone. But why would you do that?

Uh, if it’s across the room in a dock? If it’s in your pocket and you’re using Bluetooth headphones? Maybe it’s not the world’s biggest use case, but it’s also not a signature feature of the Watch.

If you want to, you can snap a photo by tapping a tiny button on the Watch-screen. But again, what’s the point?


Setting a phone up to take a picture you want to be in is apparently some completely unheard-of, utterly arcane activity only practiced by a small set of indigenous people in remote areas of the Amazon basin.

To do so is to turn a simple one-device action—grab your iPhone, point and click—into an unwieldy two-device slapstick routine.

Seriously, you simply don’t get that? At all? Or is this willfull misunderstanding that’s supposed to delight the Times’ cranky Westchester readers?

When I set up the Watch, I programmed in daily activity goals, and now, my watch won’t let up, taptic-ing me all day long to insist that I stand up, move around, get off my fat can.

This thing I told to do something actually does the things I told it to do! Ugh, so annoying!

The principle is a noble one. ... But there are contradictions built in. The Watch aims to promote fitness; it also aims to spare users the undue exertion of reaching for their cellphones.

“I don’t get it! Isn’t that charming?!” Are we actually supposed to believe that Rosen considers pulling a smartphone out of your pocket some kind of meaningful physical activity that Apple’s depriving you of?

Contrast Rosen’s poodle circus of misunderstanding with Matt Gemmell’s epiphany on what the Watch is actually supposed to do:

My fear was that a wearable device would be the advance guard for yet another encroachment; instead, it’s become a bulwark.

If you haven’t read Gemmell’s piece yet, just stop reading the horny one’s antler poking of Rosen’s fatuous and obvious celebration of professional obtuseness and go read it. It’s a much better use of your time.

Although, we haven’t gotten to the evil yet. You wouldn’t want to miss that.

The Watch may be the most ingenious device ever conceived to serve the needs of upscale consumers, a machine that transforms yuppies into hyperefficient yuppies, lubricating the flow of goods and services into Watch-wearers’ lives and whisking the cash out of their bank accounts.

Yes, the Watch makes paying for things easier and more secure. More specifically, the Watch makes paying for things you’ve already decided to buy easier and more secure. Contrast that with Amazon’s Fire Phone, which largely exists to suggest you buy more things. There’s a distinct difference. One is sinister. The other is not.

Also nobody bought a Fire Phone. That’s another difference.

Rosen has done a fine job of doing exactly what he feared doing: Constructing an apocalyptic overreaction to a new machine. Bravo. All the golf claps. It’s perfectly easy to imagine a similar such reaction written hundreds of years ago to Rosen’s beloved classic watch: “This devilish device will enslave entire generations to the sinister God of schedule-keeping. The youth of today will be as sharks, relentlessly moving forward and never stopping to examine the beauty of a flower.” It’s a shame the Times wasn’t around to publish that.

It’s easy to complain about new things. It’s harder to figure out what they might be good for.

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