In my last blog I talked about the analogy between our ‘digital presence’ and a tattoo. In a recent article on BBC news, they look at the widely rumoured coming of the Apple wrist watch and ask the question “Do we need watches to tell us more than the time?”, an interesting question to which I think there is a number of answers.
I have talked before about the convenience of carrying your profile around with you as part of your mobile device. This data can be used when you interact with the world around you in order to ‘personalise’ your experience. This could be something as simple as walking into an airport and it automatically checking you in without you having to get to the desk, through to storing your personal setup for your car so that when you get in the seat adjust to your setting, your playlist is loaded on the radio and even the decor is adjusted to your preferred colour palette and styles. So how does this link to a wrist watch?
The major problem people tend to have when they think about a wrist watch in the context of what Apple and others are developing (or at least so it is rumoured), is that they are still thinking of it primarily as a time telling object with some extra stuff added in. And that is the problem. Before the iPhone hit the market people had the same problem when thinking about the concept of using a phone to do anything more than texting and making calls. But Apple changed the world so that now we actually see phones as a digital device which can also be used for calls and instant messaging. The same needs to happen with the idea of the wrist watch in order to fully begin to comprehend how it could change the world.
For my part, I stopped wearing a wrist watch when I got an iPhone. This was partly because my watch was irritating but mainly because my iPhone acts as my time telling device now because I use it so often and it is so convenient. But it is still something I have to carry around and that is a bulge in my pocket, and something that can be inconvenient. As we all know, getting a modern mobile phone out of your pocket can often result in dropping it and, in the case of the iPhone, smashing the screen.
The beauty of the idea of a device like the iPhone that can be worn on the wrist is the convenience of this in every day (or every moment) use. And that is the key…realising that devices like a wrist watch would move us from “every day” to “every moment” use. What I mean by this is that more and more of our time is now spent using our phones and tablets to make things happen for us. The context of our usage has grown from a desk to almost anywhere, be it on the move or lounging on the sofa. The convenience of not even having to get something out of a pocket in order to use it will only strengthen our hold on these devices.
So imagine a wrist device that allows you to carry around your preferences, user accounts, details, etc. Using the near field communication functionality you could go through the checkout at Tesco and when it is time to pay a push notification to your wrist device would prompt you to select your e-wallet details and then pay for the shopping seamlessly. If someone called the device, you simply unwrap it from your arm (as it would be made from a flexible glass material) and use it as a traditional phone, before replacing it on your arm. You could browse the web or use apps straight off your wrist or unwrap the device to act like an iPhone does now. The possibilities would be huge and arguably replace the need for a separate hand held device like an iPhone.
Of course this is all philosophical at this point. Apple has not even confirmed if it is indeed working on a wrist watch device, although someone is certainly working on something like this. The one thing that is certain is that in 2007 when the iPhone launched it began a revolution in both the phone world and the internet. Whatever comes next in this area will cause another revolution and we are on the tip of that wave now.
So what of the main point in the BBC article? Well they are right; In order for a wrist device to be successful, and not just another Google Glasses style gimick, it will need to cater for a real and relevant need. There have been a lot of people creating ‘visions of the future’, not least the magnificent ‘A Day Made in Glass’ video. What these all seem to have in common is creating a more seamless, more integrated and data driven world. The company that cracks producing a wrist device that can do this sort of thing will be the company that shows just how powerful this sort of device can be…it will be the next big thing in the digital world.