Before the Apple Watch was sold to the public, one of the narratives forming around the device was that it would save you time. The idea was that instead of constantly pulling out your phone to look at notifications and alerts, the notifications and alerts would go straight to your wrist. A slight turn of the wrist would save you from taking out your phone. This, in turn, would save you from getting lost in your phone, diving down a rabbit hole of apps and fun.
"We’re so connected, kind of ever-presently, with technology now," said Kevin Lynch, head of Apple Watch software, in an interview with Wired. "People are carrying their phones with them and looking at the screen so much.” He added, "People want that level of engagement ... But how do we provide it in a way that’s a little more human, a little more in the moment when you’re with somebody?”
In other words, in addition to saving time, it would also stop you from being a rude jerk who looks at your phone when hanging out with people. You could quickly glance at your watch, and be on your way.
After more than two weeks with the watch, I have some bad news. The watch will not save you from being a jerk. You will still be a rude person, even if the alerts are pushed straight to your wrist, saving you from pulling out your phone. Here are four examples.
One day, I was eating dinner with my wife. We have a newborn. The kid can sense when we are eating. It makes him quite jealous. So, like a baby, he whines until his mother goes and feeds him. When Mamma went over to the couch to feed him, I sat at the table alone.
I started to check notifications on my watch, which involved swiping down from the top, and then scrolling with the digital crown to see all the notifications I got.
Mamma started to talk to me, but I was so engrossed with scrolling, one-by-one on each notification, that I wasn't paying attention. Do you know what happens when you don't pay attention to a sleep deprived mother of a newborn who is at home all day alone with your cry baby child? It's not fun.
Now, had I just done what I always do, which is hit the home button on my iPhone 6 Plus, which allows me to see 3 notifications at a time, then I would have more quickly seen that I had nothing pressing happening. I probably still would have been in trouble, but at least I would have seen those messages more quickly.
I got lunch with Pete Spande, Business Insider's chief revenue officer. He's great. We had ramen. During the lunch, I felt my wrist buzzing. I did not opt to check my wrist. Because it would be rude to be looking at your watch when you're talking to someone. So, instead, I just felt buzz after buzz. (The Apple Watch sort of feels like a digital fart more than a buzz, to be honest.)
Eventually he looked at his phone, I think. I started to scroll through notifications on my wrist, which was not efficient. I would have been better off looking at my phone.
I desperately needed a haircut, but between work and the aforementioned newborn, I could never get to a barber during my own time. So, I went during work hours. (Don't tell Henry.)
While in the barber's chair, I had my watch on. This is the perfect use for the watch! If anything big or important is happening, I can quickly peek at my watch. If the site collapsed, I could stop the haircut midway through and rush back to the office.
While sitting in the chair, I twisted my left wrist once, just to look at the watch. A few minutes later, I got a buzz on my wrist, I twisted to see an incoming email. The barber stopped. He looked at me. He said, "Are you in a rush?"
I didn't feel like explaining to him that I was wearing the new Apple Watch, and I was getting email. Because that's pretty nerdy and embarrassing. (Which is another problem! This thing is supposed to be cool, but in the early days it feels geeky. You are literally slapping an iPhone to your wrist. It feels like the ultimate fanboy signal.)
He went back to cutting my hair. Then 5 minutes later. He paused cutting my hair to take out his phone and check a text, or some other sort of notification that he got. "Ah-ha," I thought to myself, "Too bad he didn't have a watch to quickly check that notification."
Another 10 minutes passed, and he was brushing some hair off my shoulders. I thought to myself, "Screw it, I'm looking at the watch." This time he noticed what it was. He saw the apps. He said, "Is that the Apple Watch?"
"Yes," I said.
"Cool!" he said. "It looks pretty awesome, do you like it?"
An NYU student asked to talk to me about journalism. So, I obliged. At the outset of the interview, I warned her that I had this Apple Watch and that I would be checking it from time to time when I felt it buzz.
I was fairly subtle when I was checking my wrist, but I still felt like an enormous ass doing it.
So, what does it mean? Well, for one, whether you look at your phone during a meeting or your watch during a meeting, you're sending the same rude signal to the person you're talking to. For another, it's a reminder that this thing isn't going to free me from my phone, it's going to tie me even tighter into the phone.
Previously, my phone would be in my pocket, easily ignored. Now, it's basically on my wrist tapping me every few minutes to say, "Hey! Maybe something important is happening, but probably not. Either way, look at me!"
That's not necessarily a fault of the watch. That's my fault. I set up alerts and notifications on the watch. I opt to get email notification sent straight to my wrist. That's a choice I've made. That's part of what makes the watch interesting — you get out of it, what you put into it.
That said, if I strip away the notifications, what do I have? A $400 digital watch.
See also: A Breakup Letter To My Apple Watch