March 10, 2015

7 Use Cases For The First Apple Watch

Apple Watch

After yesterday’s keynote from Apple, you might be asking yourself if you will need an Apple Watch or not. What are possible use cases? Is it a gadget only, or can it add value to some of your workflows?

I don’t want to discuss if that device is too expensive or not, if the battery life is good enough, if the design is perfect or annoying.

Let’s face it, this is the first release, and first releases tempt not to be perfect. Five years in the future, we will most likely look back at this first release, asking ourselves why we could ever wear such an ugly and useless device. By then battery life will have improved significantly, as much as it happened to all iterations of the now available smartphones.

Please think about the iPhone (and the iPad). Compared to today’s versions, they do  look outdated, they were very either too small or too heavy. Compared to today’s technology their screen lacked quality, the memory and processors were ridiculously slow (and expensive) and let’s again not even talk about the battery life.

You need early adaptors and paying customers to drive innovation. Nothing new here: this simple rule applied as well to the first cars, which were far away from perfect or not even extremely useful.

You don’t have to be a genius to predict that the same will happen with the Apple Watch. Most likely, we will need to wait for the 3rd version to hold something great in hand. That’s why I do recommend not spending too much money on this first version unless you are very wealthy. You will upgrade in the future! Unlike with an iPhone you will probably not get much money back, because something you are wearing on your wrist 24/7 will doubtless have a lot of wear marks pretty soon.

You have to consider as well, that it will take at least a few months, and more likely a few years to get the infrastructure in place (Apple Pay in Europe, for instance). Likewise it will  take time for third-party developers to develop the right applications to add value to the product. Looking at pictures on your watch, picking up phone calls, sharing your heart beat are nice little functions, but I fear they are an unfortunate camouflage of the real potentials of an e-Watch. For me, the emphasize is anyhow on the “e”, far more than the word “Watch”.

Now let’s come to my use cases for the Apple Watch, beyond potentially useful features like Apple Pay and opening the doors of your hotel and your car. Those features will again take some time until global availability almost everywhere. Outside of the US, it will take at least a few months until you can make us of this benefits.

I’m one of those persons, who usually have their phone muted all the time. Unless I’m meeting other geeks and nerds, I most likely don’t put my smart phone on a restaurant table either. While driving my smart phone is “somewhere”, most likely in my bag or my coat pocket. At home, my phone is most of the time in the living room. For the simple reason that it is the only place in our house where I have full 4G-connectivity. The new function “Continuity” on OS X and iOS makes it possible to receive calls and text messages from the phone everywhere in my house. Since then my iPhone never leaves the living room.

1) Measuring my fitness data everywhere

With the above said, it is clear that I’m not carrying my phone around the house, and most likely I will even forget it when walking the dog. That’s why we nerds are all using our fitbits and the like to measure our health data. Those devices are cheaper than the cheapest Apple Watch, but considering this functionality being included in a Watch (which can do far more than a fitness band) is already a use case for me.

2) Home-Automation

Things like switching automatically lights on and off at your home when entering a specific room can already be done today. But you need to carry your smart phone around, what again I’m usually not doing. Having with the Apple Watch a kind of extended remote control at my wrist should simplify this considerably.

In the future the “internet of things” will be able to communicate with other devices. Modern appliances, from dishwashers to ovens and washing machines can already today communicate with your smart phone. But again, this is of reduced interest if I don’t carry the device with me. If I am doing some ironing in a different room, I will probably not carry my smart phone with me. A watch, carried 24/7 on my wrist will come in handy for such tasks.

3) Outlook to future sensors

Fitness data are one thing, but as Apple shows with the Health- and Research-Kit there will be far more applications possible in the future. Without any doubts, we will see new and improved sensors as well. There are for instance already researchers working on a “bloodless” measurement method for your blood sugar. Such a functionality will be a big relief for all patients suffering from diabetes and furthermore help to reduce cost for healthcare systems.

Germany spent over a billion EUR on an electronic health card. Starting next year, the health law will endorse patients to exchange data with hospitals and physicians and vice-versa. Why would one need a specific card, if this functionality can get implemented into software, you are carrying on your wrist? The sky is the limit here, I can think of many services, companies will carry out in the health care sector.

4) Tactile Vibration

Tactile Vibration is for me the most exciting and useful feature. The fact that the watch can send you different types of vibrations is really great. Think of sitting in a meeting, or at a church but you still want to get informed about emergency calls. Perhaps a relative had to undergo surgery, and you want to get updated as soon as possible.

Vice-versa, a physician, wants to concentrate fully on her patient. But in regards of process optimization it sounds helpful that she gets a discrete(!) reminder that she has only ten minutes left before seeing her next patient.

In a restaurant, the waiter can take advantage of getting a discrete(!) alarm, when he has to show up in the kitchen to get the orders out.

If you are a conference speaker, some tactile feedback when you have to increase the pace of your presentation is potentially a nice feature too. Again, I’m emphasizing the “discrete” aspect of tactile vibration. None in your audience will notice that you have some magic tools guiding you through your schedule.

Blind and deaf people will take advantage of tactile vibration, and it doesn’t need much to think about all different kind of scenarios to help such patients with new applications.

Last but not least, it will help me when I need to use a navigation system. As I said above, I’m used to muting all my devices. That applies as well to my GPS system. The reason is that I want to listen to an audiobook, or to the radio. Consequently, I’m often missing exits. Especially when you are driving hundreds of miles on the highway, and you just forget to watch your GPS screen. I’m convinced that tactile vibration will be a great help.

5) Customizable

Now this sounds trivial, but it isn’t really. Most of us have used all kind of wearable on our wrist or watches from Garmin and Polar and others. Of course, those are great devices. They might have at most a very few interfaces to smartphones but they are not “customizable”.

Even if the first Apple Watch might still lack a bunch of functionalities, the development kits are awesome. You can wait for third parties to come up with new tools, or you are contributing yourself. In case you are not technical savvy, the customization out-of-the-box enables to design the look of your device on your own and to disable or enable the functionality that fits best to your use cases.

6) Notification Center

Notifications on a smart phone are great, but they are disturbing and over the time everyone is normally getting too many notifications. E-Mails, weather forecast, news, Facebook, Twitter, you name it. Carrying a second device on your wrist and smartly customizing this device to become the “urgency” notification center seems very smart to me. Most importantly I’m again referring to the “discrete” aspect of those notifications. I can make sure through tactile vibration that I will notice, if one notification is an important call, an email, or a stock price falling falling so dramatically that I have to react instantly.

7) It is a Watch!

Well, in a modern civilization we have watches almost everywhere. Consequently, a lot of us are not wearing watches anymore. But as you have to charge it anyhow overnight. Why not putting it on your bedside table and use it as an alarm clock? ;-). Thinking about it, wearing again an own watch might be a nice feature too.

But funny enough,  the watch functionality is for me only a nice add-on. If the latter is the most important feature for you, than you should probably just buy a regular watch. It will last far longer, doesn’t need upgrades, and will most likely look far better than an Apple Watch. And you might still get them for a good price now.

If you will wait until Apple and their competitors have destroyed the market for regular watches, you might have to pay a lot more for a “classical” watch.

Jeannot Muller

Entrepreneur, developer, author.

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