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Apple Watch will solve problems we don't know we have yet

Michael Simon | April 14, 2015
The killer feature of Apple Watch won't reveal itself until it's found a way into each user's routine.

apple watch notifications

We want our technology to provide us with answers. No matter what we're using or how we're using it, we demand that our phones, tablets, and computers not only enrich our lives, but change them for the better. Whenever a new piece of technology makes its appearance, we instinctively ask the same set of questions before we even try it: Why should I be using it? What makes it better? Why do I need it? What am I missing?

So it is with Apple Watch. Ever since we laid eyes on it back in September we've been trying to brand it with an identity, forcing a label on it to justify its existence. It's a fitness tracker. It's a fashionable timepiece. It's an iPhone shortcut. Now that we're finally able to touch and try the Apple Watch, we all have expectations of how it is or isn't going to fit into our lives.

And there's a good chance they're completely wrong.

The iPhone standard

When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone, he started with a tease of three groundbreaking products in the same class as the iPod and original Macintosh. The first was a widescreen iPod with touch controls, which in itself elicited a sustained round of whoops and cheers from the audience, followed by a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough Internet communicator. And then he dropped the hook: "Are you getting it? There are not three separate devices. This is one device. And we are calling it iPhone."

iPhone challenged everything we expected about our gadgets. No longer was it enough for a product to do one thing really well and maybe offer a few bonus features (like the iPod's seldom-used calendar). The iPhone didn't just excel at the three things Steve highlighted--it did a dozen little things that gradually reduced our dependency on day planners, cameras, and even the iPod itself.

Today's iPod lineup isn't nearly as popular as it once was, not because it's a bad product but because it doesn't do enough. The idea of a standalone music player--or any single-function device for that matter--is more for niche players than the mass markets these days, like Neil Young's Pono or Sony's high-res Walkman. The success or failure of any product is inexorably tied to its usefulness, but with technology it's not enough to just be useful anymore. We expect an iPhone level of expertise in everything we use; our products need to at once be practical and pretty, but we also want them to solve problems.

The iPad standard

One of the biggest raps on the original iPad was that it didn't separate itself enough from the iPhone. By 2010, Apple's phone has already ingrained itself into our lives, and we were looking for the iPad to take the experience to a whole new level. Instead, Apple gave us a tablet running an operating system nearly identical to the iPhone's, right down to pixel-doubled iPhone apps. (It was even called iPhone OS 3.2 at launch--the iOS rebranding wouldn't arrive until version 4.)


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