The Apple Watch, Presidents and Glancing Blows

Q: Why get an Apple Watch?

A: Because “you can keep your iPhone in your pocket!

That’s been the consistent message we’ve heard since Apple’s Watch launch. The underlying premise is that putting information on a users’ wrist, means they’ll leave their phone alone and become more engaged with real life!

Apple reinforces this idea with their new watch UI vocabulary. Their Human Interface Guidelines define a small layout called ‘glances’ – ‘timely and contextually relevant moments from the wearer’s favorite apps’.

It’s a reasonable theory. Surely a quick flick of the wrist has to be less offensive than dragging out a big smartphone, right?

Probably – but with a caveat.

##Winding the Clock Back…

Let’s jump back in time to 1992. Bill Clinton, Ross Perot and George H.W. Bush take part in a series of televised presidential debates.

During the second debate, an audience member questioned whether the candidates were directly touched by the harsh economic downturn.

As Bush Snr. stood to reply, he momentarily cocked his wrist and glanced at his watch.

Though this entire action took less than 2 seconds, it became one of the major talking points of that debate.

At the time Bush was already battling the perception of being out of touch with the people, and this reflex action made him appear impatient and disinterested in addressing the question.

There’s no doubt that it was damaging to his campaign.

I wonder if people would have been more forgiving if, for instance, his pager had gone off mid-question?

I think it’s likely. We’re accustomed to pagers and phones demanding our attention. On the other hand, watches have always quietly waited for our attention and that was Bush’s great crime – to appear to be prioritising his time over his people.

##Glancing Blows

Most of us will never need to prepare for televised political debates, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be unaffected.

What happens when your boss is pitching the next big company project, and looks up just as you get a ‘wrist text’ from a client.

You’re looking at your watch and your boss is thinking ‘So… you’d rather be somewhere else, huh?’.

Even if that is technically true, it’s probably not the message you wanted to send.

The same could easily apply to a hot first date. Perhaps you thought things were going really well, but your date has checked his/her watch three times in the last 5 minutes.

Did you say something wrong?

You don’t think so, but now you’re flustered.

The fact is, I think most of us would take natural offence to someone checking their wrist while we were interacting with them.

Of course, if smartwatches and wearables are to become common, we’ll have to work out new social signals – as we’ve had to do with all new technologies.

But in 2015, just as it was in 1992: Beware the ill-timed watch glance!

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For me, the old fashioned wrist watch is sacred ground. I will never stop wearing one as long as there are places to get them serviced. Sometimes technology over-engineers our lives. Remember when digital display watches came out in the 80s? They never caught on.

I realize that young people today don’t wear watches at all. But I’m hopeful there will be a renaissance in the way that vinyl records have never died off, and are even gaining in popularity.

If wearing a watch becomes popular again, I don’t think it will be a new and improved Apple watch that leads the way. I could be wrong, but if I was part of Apple’s brain trust, I would not have supported the watch.

I don’t think convenience will pull the young folk away from their phones. Consider that an old fashioned wrist watch would certainly be more convenient just for telling time, which is something everyone does often. Yet people are content to pull their phone out of their pocket instead of glancing at a watch.

An old fashioned watch is like a work of art (vinyl record albums are also works of art). I have many different watches. The masses in general don’t appreciate art, but there will always be a segment of people who do. I’m hopeful that others continue to see the beauty and simplicity of a face-with-hands wrist watch.

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I’m an analog watch fan too.

I don’t like rings or earrings or pendants, so a watch is really the only type of decorative jewellery I’d wear. I’d have to give up my 1970 Zinnia to wear a smartwatch, and I’m not really interested in doing that.

Kairos have an interesting approach – their TBand puts all the smarts into the watch band and lets you keep your analog watch face. Don’t think the look would work with mine, but there’s a bit to like about the concept.

Good points, Alex. It’s funny how much we can read in to a simple action like glancing at a watch. But as bad as that is, the tech I’m really dreading is the Google Glass type of thing, with people getting distracted by things stuck on their head. When that becomes common, I think we’re doomed! I’ll seriously consider ignoring people who wear those things—just like I’m reluctant to shake hands with someone wearing dark glasses. :stuck_out_tongue:


A lot of communication takes place through the eyes, so I think there’s a good reason to distrust someone wearing dark glasses. There’s insincerity there.

If someone is gets a silent alert for some important information – regardless of the delivery method – and the other parties present don’t know it happened – I don’t mind that so much.

For instance, a skilled human personal assistant might be able to communicate to their boss that they have another appointment and need to wrap up the current meeting just through subtle facial expressions through the glass. Maybe just eye contact and the subtlest nod towards their wrist.

That’s good communication and I doubt we’d think it was creepy or inappropriate.

The key is not having a dinging, buzzing pokermachine of alerts and notifications dominating your consciousness. It needs to be pared down to essential info. Google is getting quite good at understanding context – knowing that flight information is critical in the two hours before you fly, and trivia the rest.

Just as with phones, people who want to be subtle about checking their watches could just take them off and hold them in their lap or below the edge of the table, and be subtle about checking the screen. All the same, all this new technology certainly throws up new challenges for social interaction, manners and etiquette, as well as patterns of behavior. Constantly checking devices for updates etc. is the technology ruling us rather than serving us. There seem to be many new diseases emerging that have technology as their primary focus. I was watching a TV documentary last night that spoke of a drug addict who kicked the habit, only to become similarly addicted to his digital devices. :confounded:

I’d have to agree in many instances. Was watching Melissa and Joey the other day and the joke was the kid was doing history on the 1980’s to which he asked Joey how he managed before texting. The reply was something along the lines of ‘we kept our pointless thoughts to ourselves’. Which did make me laugh.

It’s funny as working on a computer all day the last thing i want is to be more ‘connected’ when i go home i try and avoid computers.

I feel in the past few years though i’ve seen a change in people moving back to non-tech based things. There is a lot of gardening, baking, knitting, diy stuff going on in the UK now compared to a few years ago and a lot less hype around the next iphone as people have finally realised that a newer phone A. does pretty much everything their last phone did and B. doesn’t actually make their life super awesome like the adverts suggest.

I’m sure there will be a lot of people who buy these watch type things but like google glasses im not sure they will catch on as fast as the companies hope they will. 3D tvs are basically redundant as nobody wanted them.

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I have very slender wrists, so even in the highly-unlikely event that I ever decided I fancied one of these devices, I doubt I’d get one to suit.

Same here.

When my last watch gave up the ghost a few years ago, I really wanted to replace it with a wind-up watch, as batteries can be tricky to come by here. However, wind-up watches are also hard to come by, and/or prohibitively expensive. Running Bear eventually tracked down a solar-powered, analogue watch for me a couple of Christmases ago, and I love it. Works a treat - even in the west of Scotland, not noted for its constant sunshine.

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