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Apple Watch User Experience: A Thought Experiment.

There’s a ton of folks out there talking about what the Apple Watch will cost. $349. $999. $4999. $9999. It’s all over the map. To quote Lorde, “We don’t care.” That’ll work itself out in a quick minute. What’s far more interesting is how people will actually use the watch. My birthday is in March, and I’ve had my order for an Apple Watch as birthday present in for quite some time. So, I wonder if it’ll be worth it or not, or will it end up sitting in my bedside table drawer with my old Blackberry.

Since we at Famously Simple are kind of user experience junkies, I figured we should use our gift for good and take an independent look at the Apple Watch user experience. With the watch not out yet, our analysis comes down to Einstein-like thought experiment. But, doesn’t that sound like fun?!

It’s important to note that by “use cases” we mean everyday situations that every watch user will encounter. We’re not going to go the oft-traveled fitness user experience line. We’re not fitness freaks, and we don’t imagine too many of you are either. Instead, we’ll look at use cases that span from simple watch-using to use cases that leverage the dense nugget of new technology strapped to your wrist.

Here we go:

Use Case 1: Checking the time at night. Nope. Apparently, you have to charge the Watch every single night, so the options are 1) look at your alarm clock, 2) if the watch display stays on while on the charge stand (big if), put on your glasses and then look at the watch, or 3) sleep with your phone next to you as you always have, and check the time on your phone.

Not a great start.

Use Case 2: Tell your wife you love her. I do this no less than nine thousand times a day. So, the watch better bring it! And it does. In fact, the watch just kills this use case. It might be the Apple Watch Killer App. You can 1) draw a heart and send it to her – if she has a watch, 2) just tap and she’ll get the tap - if she has a watch, 3) send her a message (emoji or even dictate one), 4) call her secret service style using the built in mic and speaker, or my favorite 5), you can send her your heartbeat. Of course, the obvious caveat is that you both have to have the Watch for 1, 2, and 5 to work. I think that somehow Apple knows about that caveat… The take home from this is that including the mic and speaker is brilliant. Apple clearly had several components to think about including – Health sensors, GPS, camera, mic, speaker, NFC for making payments. The components they chose are quite telling in terms of which use cases they think are going to be the drivers for watch sales.

Use Case 3: Shower with the watch. Probably not. Apple calls it water resistant. Tim Cook says he showers with the watch all the time. But the general opinion on the interwebs is that you definitely shouldn’t take it swimming, and probably showering with it will be detrimental too. That doesn’t bode well for the beach-goers and pool lovers out there. Imagine having to take off and leave your multi-thousand dollar watch while you take a dip. Scary! I have a feeling Apple will do a lot to address this. It’s a critical issue.

Use Case 4: Go for a walk. You might think you know where we are going with this. Health sensors and all that, but imagine this. You strap on your watch and head out. Goin’ for a walk. Not a care in the world. About three blocks in you happen across the best book in the world. It’s a first edition of Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea. Buried at the back of Mr. Habelian’s bookstore. You HAVE to buy it now. NFC to the rescue. That beautiful little chip that lets you buy things through Apple Pay. You score the book, and head home. It’s been a good day. Sounds like paradise, right?! Just the concept of essentially carrying your wallet without carrying anything is mind blowing. Couple of issues, though. One, you need to have the phone with you, or the Watch won’t help you. Two, Mr. Haleblian has to take Apple Pay. I think the latter will fix itself as Apple Pay sweeps the commerce landscape. The former, though. That’s the toughie. It would be great if Apple could figure out a way to get NFC to work without tether. I vote they work on this fast.

Use Case 5: Charge your phone on the go. So, you forgot to charge last night, you’re traveling today, and you only have your phone with you. Being able to charge your Watch with your phone would be awesome. So far, I haven’t seen anything that indicates that would be possible. But, I bet that’ll come soon if Apple hasn’t already taken care of it. No doubt third party solutions will abound too. But, somehow being able to charge the Watch with the phone is elegant. What about an induction-based pad on the back of the phone that the watch can click on to via mag-safe technology. What if it was a two-way pad, so that the iPhone could both receive power from it, and send power to the Watch with it. Crazy, right? Maybe I should take out a patent?

Use Case 6: Write the great American novel. Ever tried to really write someone on an iPhone? It’s a bear. It’s just not geared to real typing. No matter which keyboard you try, or dictation, or whatever, getting out a properly punctuated document is darn near impossible. Wonder if the Watch can help with this. On the surface, it sure doesn’t seem like it. In fact, it seems like the Watch is going in the opposite direction. Trying to use it to write a novel would be flat out impossible, way more difficult than the iPhone. But, I bet there’s a way the Watch could help. I hear there are several startups out there working on Watch-based keyboards. Maybe one of those can help.

Use Case 7: Go shopping. With NFC, making the payment is a piece of cake. But what about your shopping list. One of the major issues we’ve run across – even with our own shopping app, the Famously Simple Checklist App – is that holding the iPhone and keeping it from sleeping, while pushing a shopping cart around a grocery store is darn near impossible. With the larger screens recently introduced in the iPhone 6, it got even more difficult. The Watch might be answer. The makers of Clear and other developers – including Famously Simple – are working on Watch versions. Very exciting.

Use Case 8: Meet people. For about 9 milliseconds – the period of time during which I had the new iPhone 6 and the rest of the world hadn’t bought it yet – it was quite the conversation piece. Even the ultra-hip counter dude down at Blackbird coffee wanted to know about the look and feel. I bet the Watch is going to have that kind of conversation piece power for at least 15 milliseconds. Use case requirement met!

Use Case 9: Go on an adventure. Ok, at Famously Simple we are busting at the seams with excitement about how we can use the Watch to enhance our adventure creating app – Here’s What You Do. This app generates a full day adventure for you in major cities like Atlanta and New York. We need the phone’s big screen to get across the wanderlust each adventure brings. A big screen to present the tale of the adventure along with photos, maps, etc. is ideal. But, when you’re on the adventure, then what. Checking out the Watch as you go to get directions and maybe cool facts about the places you’re seeing sounds awesome. We’re working on it.

Verdict: So, what’s the verdict? Even with some clear limitations, I’m still getting the Watch. I might even have to get two, so that I can find more ways to tell my wife I love her.

Steve and Andrea Bourne are co-founders of Famously Simple LLC, an Atlanta tech company specializing in iPhone app development.

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