An Apple Watch Case Study
The Apple Watch was announced on September 9, 2014 by Apple, Inc. It is a wearable device similar to wrist watch with biometric sensors for heart rate and blood oxygen level* along with accelerometers to track movement, microphones for dictation and texting, along with a “taptic engine” to simulate touch for notifications instead of a vibrating battery we’re all used to in our phones. It requires a newer iPhone 5 or later to use. It is considered the definitive wearable in the tech industry at the time of this writing and touted as Apple’s most personal device ever.
The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of the Apple Watch in daily life. Would I be more engaged, less distracted? Does it impact how I interact with technology? Is it useful?
The Apple Watch is recording everything I do all the time, every day, every second. My heart beat, my inability to stand every hour, my current fitness level, the emails I check, the texts I’m not answering, the phone calls that I’m ignoring. It is the ultimate in quantitative recording of my daily activities. On top of all of this, I am keenly aware of this big black square everyone keeps glancing at on my wrist while in conversations. The status symbol of an Apple Watch owner. In my own mind I hate it. I hate the idea that there are so many societal problems and the arrogance I feel in wearing a luxury item like an Apple Watch while I struggle to pay student loan debt. Like so many, I have rationalized my reasons, it’s for science.
When we were introduced to mobile technology in a smart phone, social media usage exploded. Suddenly a nation of addicts were born and all the chiropractors put on a collective smile as they watched all of us slowly destroy our posture as we stared at our palms all day. The Pew Research Center released a study finding 27% of ages 13 -17 report constant online use on their mobile devices, 92% report using daily. That’s a lot of spine curvature.
The presence of a visible cell phone has been shown to cause distraction from primary tasks. I found this to be true even with the Watch. It seems the technology itself is the distraction. Apple’s stated goal with the Apple watch is to reduce and rectify the barrier created with current tech. Keep the phone in your pocket and stay engaged with the person across the table.
I’m not sold on the idea that more technology is the solution to excessive technology.
I found myself glancing at the watch every few minutes. I had, at some point disciplined myself not to pull my phone out during conversation and dinner or funerals. This was a new discipline and it was constantly winning my attention. My children noticed right away and it became apparent that this was not the solution for my lifestyle. While the watch may curb the addictive stimuli and the need a user has to check their phone minute to minute, it does little for eliminating distractions. The other compromise is freedom. When I place my phone in my pocket, turn on do not disturb, and try to do some work, there is my watch, sitting in clear line of sight. It is quicker to glance at my wrist and see if there has been any new distractions, then, I must pull my phone out to interact with anything on a simple level, it is as a sum total, more time spent over all.
The Apple watch exists now because Apple created a distraction so large that it could justify minimizing that distraction with another. I’m not sold on the idea that more technology is the solution to excessive technology. A positivist might assume that the tech disappearing in our pocket and loosening the attachment in steps is the right direction. That soon all our tech will recede to an after thought and none of us will recognize it as intrusive or abnormal. I’m not sure that it’s worth the sacrifice to be linked full time to the devices that once were a luxury that we have made a necessity.
*pending FDA approval.