THE SMARTWATCH — NOT THE PHONE — IS TURNING A CORNER

It’s safe to say that after Apple’s September event, the iPhone X captured most of the attention and fanfare. But there were two other product announcements; a 4K TV with HDR support, and an Apple Watch Series 3:

Answer a call from your surfboard. Ask Siri to send a message. Stream your favorite songs on your run. And do it all while leaving your phone behind. Introducing Apple Watch Series 3 with cellular. Now you have the freedom to go with just your watch.

First, let me throw caution to the wind with two disclaimers.

One, I have never owned a smartwatch. I do not plan on changing my time anytime soon either, as I have a fascination for mechanical watches that should hold strong for at least the foreseeable future. I do however, like most technology products, keep close tabs on the progress and developments of the smartwatch industry. Also, as a reviewer, you never look at products through a personal use case scenario anyway.

Two, I’ve long held the opinion that technology-wise, the internet and the smartphone have been the most life-changing events in the last century, and there are very few instances of other products / services matching them. AI seems to be the next frontier but I don’t think any of the smart products we see today will eclipse them.

Back to the event; let’s concentrate on two of Apple’s product announcements:

The iPhone X stripped away one of it’s most iconic and pivotal user-facing control, the home button. Instead it relies on a completely new swipe interface to switch between apps and return to the home screen. Physically, it eschews the much-loved Touch ID sensor in favour of a facial recognition system and debuts an (almost) all-screen design, a new aspect ratio, wireless charging, and a gorgeous glass-and-steel body.

The Apple Watch Series 3 adds cellular data and a better processor (as the norm) to the existing design; same shape, same thickness, and same battery life.

One evolutionary and one revolutionary. And in that order.

The iPhone may be the most radically looking phone since the original but let’s face it. Things were already heading in this direction. Mobile performance have been slowly creeping into laptop territory. Screens are getting bigger and better, bezel-less or not. Ditto with cameras. Face-ID is contextually a partial step-up in convenience.

What we’re actually getting carried away is how cool it looks and feels.

The Watch on the other hand, is a phone on your wrist. It’s always been a computer, but now it’s an independent device (or almost there) that can make calls, stream music, and track your health data constantly. All on your wrist. And all within the same shape, same thickness, and same battery life.

One of Louis CK’s very apt ‘insights’ on technology is this one about WiFi in planes. We complain about how the WiFi coverage is under par compared to our homes, but we lose sight of how unbelievable it is to have internet “in the sky.”

The smartwatch is similar. Data connectivity was inevitable, but one cannot overestimate what a breakthrough this is for the product it is. Adding LTE within the same body and battery life is unbelievable. Since it’s not virtually attached to the phone anymore, it’s capable of performing actions by itself which translate to: making calls and messages, apps loading faster, a faster and more reliable Siri, and music streamable from anywhere.

Apple’s much hyped iPod campaign was about having 1000 songs in your pocket. The Watch now has 40,000 songs on your wrist.

This is how Tim Cook prefaced the iPhone X unveil:

… it is only fitting that we are here, in this place, on this day, to reveal a product that will set the path for technology for the next decade …

That statement could very well stand for —and be more apt for — the Watch.

It’s finally pulling away as the phone outside your pocket, outside your phone.

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