Getting to know the Apple Watch

By Neil Pawley

Some recent client projects have allowed us a deeper look at the Apple Watch, so we’ve been asking ourselves what does the customer gain from the experience and what, if anything, is it changing for them?

The first time we created a working prototype for the Apple Watch we had the opportunity to gauge consumer reaction to both the use of a practical app on the device and its interaction with a paired phone.

Talking to consumers it seems that the device is rarely bought with a defined task in mind. Unlike the iPhone which is at its core a communication device or the iPad which is a simplified laptop, the Apple Watch is a device that relies upon another for its functionality and, on the face of it, has limited capabilities.

Early adopters queued up to buy the product in the first week so that they can show their friends but many others seem to base their purchase on the fact it looks like an interesting gadget, maybe it completes the set of Apple products they own, or for some, it’s just a purchase on a whim. Few, if any, have any prior expectations or plans for how it will fit into their lives.

It would seem that the Apple Watch is not necessarily a product that is filling an expectation or void in the consumer lifestyle, rather, over time it starts to meet a requirement that the consumer was unaware of but soon start to adapt to and find benefit from.

The primary activities we have observed consumers interacting with on the Apple watch fall into three categories:

  1. Clandestine interaction: where the user can view communications through the Glance feature without disturbing the social dynamic that the user happens to be in such as business meetings or social gatherings.
  2. Communication immediacy: where the user feels more directly connected to social feeds or news developments without having to overtly or publicly interact with technology.
  3. Physical ease: where the device becomes a technological extension of the self, for purchasing services with a swipe without having to reach for or retrieve an item from a pocket or a bag.

Each of these interactions lasts no more than a couple of seconds so the app interface relies upon the information having clarity in its display and succinctness in its messaging to facilitate this. Detail is for other devices and can be retrieved later; headlines are all that’s required.

The ability of service and information providers to tap into one or all of these activities is crucial to the development of their paired apps. Publishers have to be clever and think laterally to offer value and benefits on a device that offers limited screen space and small interaction windows. Consumer engagement and level of success will be dependent upon fully understanding what the user wants to achieve, how they want to achieve it and where they are when this action takes place.

The Apple Watch is a communications hotline, purpose built for social feeds, a technology that doesn’t feel ‘techy,’ and a device that is only going to become more prevalent. Maximising the non-invasive and surreptitious nature of information retrieval and physical interactions with other touch points will be fundamental.

It will be fascinating to see what providers can do in the coming months particularly when we consider that Apple Watch version 2 will run native apps which will allow greater and smarter interactions.

Neil Pawley

I joined W3C in 1995 working for six years on the formation of guidelines for HTML, CSS, RDF and WAI. I worked with some of the cleverest people around, lectured in the UK and US and authored and contributed to a number of technical publications. I’m also immensely proud of having contributed three entries to Roger’s Profanisaurus in 1998 and they are still there.

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