Last week Apple released the Series 5 Watch. Last week I went back to an analog watch.
I love adopting new tech, but I wasn’t going to buy an Apple Watch when they were first released; I always loved analog watches. Moreover, I didn’t see the value in the early Apple Watch, and it was expensive.
However, when I won an Apple Watch Series 2 in a competition a few years ago, I was enthusiastic. I’d used a FitBit in the past, and so I figured I’d at least get a good exercise tracker out of it. To my surprise, I fell in love with the Watch. I was fascinated by the novelty of it. I felt a bit like Dick Tracy, and all the new interactions and gorgeous UI elements felt like a sci-fi future.
Pretty soon thereafter, however, I began to feel it was a surface kind of love. True, the Watch was beautiful and quirky and presented all sorts of new interactions to play around with. It was a nerd blast. Nonetheless, I found myself slowly growing weary of it. There wasn’t one deadly blow, but myriad tiny knife slices.
Like forgetting to bring the Watch’s bespoke charging cable with me when I traveled; it was just another accessory I had to remember to pack, another cable tangled in my bag.
Or, not placing the Watch squarely on its charger the night before and heading out for the day, only to discover it was dying or dead after I’d left.
Then there was the fact that the Watch seemed to get slower with each software update. I’ve come to accept that computers and mobile devices age out pretty quickly, but my mental model of a watch is that it should have longevity spanning decades, not software cycles. (One of my first grown-up purchases was an analog watch I got for myself after completing undergrad; it still works and I still love it.)
You know that piercing fear when you suddenly wonder whether you silenced your phone at the movies or in a theater? Now I had that plus the fear my Watch would chirp, buzz or light up. Another thing to worry about. (Yes, I know you can set your devices to follow the same rules, but like many fears, this one isn’t very rational.)
Perhaps the biggest annoyance, however, came from the notifications. That really nifty haptic feedback, the little thump-thump on your wrist when there’s an incoming chat or text or, basically, anything else? It started to give me anxiety. Thump-thump: the boss sent me a chat message. Thump-thump:someone liked one of my tweets. Thump-thump: new email! Sometimes I’d forget to silence my Watch when I slept, and I’d be awakened by its thump-thumping. I stopped wearing it to bed, which was a bummer since sleep tracking was one of my favorite things about the Watch.
Periodically I’d audit my notifications, turning off any that seemed irksome. Recently, I just turned them all off. But when I did that, I realized I’d killed one of the primary benefits of owning a Watch: keeping up-to-date with notifications. But here’s the thing: is the constant barrage of notifications really such a good thing? And my iPhone is always within arm’s reach anyway.
This led me to another realization: many of the cool things the Watch does, my iPhone does just as well, or nearly as well. For example, I never used my Watch for Apple Pay since it’s sluggish and my iPhone is always at the ready. Did I ever use my Watch to control my iPhone camera? No. Were Apple Map’s turn-by-turn haptic notifications so much better than audio directions on my iPhone? No. Was navigating my podcast app with my watch really that convenient? Not at all.
But look, I’m not a hater. I think the Apple Watch is a truly revolutionary device. Far from being the flop some predicted, the Watch is perhaps the most innovative hardware Apple’s shipped in some time. And I can understand why people love it; the health integrations, sleep tracking, activity monitoring…it’s all pretty damn amazing.
But for me, my iPhone is good enough. The Watch, while cool, just added more cruft to my already cruft-y digital existence. Any new tech I adopt needs to have benefits that outweigh the day-to-day hassles. For many people, the Watch does just that. For me, it didn’t.
Oh, one last thing. The Series 5 has one really great feature all previous Apple Watches lacked: an always-on display. But this is a feature every single analog watch has had forever.