The new sharing interface in Unread 1.5

Supertop’s Unread (originally created by Jared Sinclair) is my favourite RSS reader on iOS. It’s thanks to Unread that I went back to actively reading RSS feeds on my iPhone. The interface is that good. (Here’s the brief review I wrote in early 2014 when the app first came out.)

The latest 1.5 update is really packed with bug fixes and assorted improvements. When an application has a great, well-designed, user interface, I like to see underlying improvements that make it more versatile and powerful without drastic changes and major disruptions to what truly works. In this regard, I commend the efforts of Supertop’s developers and I think they’re doing a great job.

But I also like to nitpick when an app I love is involved, and in this case my nitpicking is about the changes in the sharing interface.

A few days ago, when Supertop announced the new 1.5 version of Unread on their blog, they wrote this about the improved Readability View (emphasis mine):

This has been, by far, the most common feature request we’ve received for Unread.

Articles that are truncated in RSS feeds or linked from sites like Daring Fireball are now much easier to read. On the article screen, swipe from right to left to bring in the options menu then tap Readability View to load the full text of the article into Unread’s native interface.

This feature is particularly nice when reading at night since Readability View respects your chosen theme and won’t shock your eyes by opening a bright webpage.

The problem is that with the ‘improved’ sharing interface, they kind of went in the opposite direction. I often read RSS feeds at night, so I stick to dark themes for Unread. ‘Dusk’ and ‘Blue Train’ are my favourites, and ‘Halloween’ is truly an eye-saver late at night. It’s like having f.lux on the iPhone, in a way. Here’s an example of how Unread’s sharing interface worked before, taken from Unread 1.4.2 under iOS 7.1.2 on my iPhone 4. Let’s say I want to share an article via Twitter:

Share UI in Unread 1.4.2 - 1

Fig. 1

Share UI in Unread 1.4.2 - 2

Fig. 2

Share UI in Unread 1.4.2 - 3

Fig. 3


Notice how in Fig. 2 the UI of the list of available services perfectly matches the rest of the app’s UI, and also how beautifully integrated the interface for writing the tweet is. It retains the chosen theme’s colour scheme, and offers a dark iOS keyboard.

And here’s the same procedure when I want to share the same article using Unread 1.5 under iOS 8.3 on my iPhone 5:

Share UI in Unread 1.5 - 1

Fig. 4

Share UI in Unread 1.5 - 2

Fig. 5

Share UI in Unread 1.5 - 3

Fig. 6


When iOS share sheet comes up (Fig. 5) and I’m reading articles on my iPhone at night using the Halloween theme, all that white, light grey and bright colours are really a punch in my tired eyes, and the UI feels completely alien, not integrated with the app’s UI. I’m not a developer: I guess this change makes sense from a coding standpoint and in the grand scheme of things behind the scenes. Visually, however, it feels like a step back. Same goes for the (iOS default) Twitter sharing interface in Fig. 6., which is pretty ugly compared with Fig. 3. And this time the light iOS keyboard comes up: again, the effect is rather jarring when you’re using dark themes and reading at night.

About the sharing interface, Supertop wrote:

Unread was originally built before iOS 8 was released and Jared went to extraordinary lengths to integrate the app with services like Facebook, Twitter, Instapaper & Pocket. In iOS 8, Apple opened up integration between apps and services using the share sheet and we have fully embraced that in Unread 1.5.

It is now easier than ever to send links, article snippets and images to any other app on your device, whether to save articles for reading later or publish on your social network of choice.

When I started writing the draft of this article, I initially pointed out that, actually, the services listed in the new, native sharing interface are fewer than what was available before (see Fig. 2), and that I was truly missing sharing to App.Net and Pinboard (the service I use most). But in a following blog update, Supertop wrote:

Instapaper and Pinner (and probably others) currently don’t accept images, so when you try to share a post that has images, they don’t appear as share options. Brian Donohue, the developer of Instapaper tweeted that it’ll be fixed in the next release.

In the mean time, here’s a handy work around: Tap and hold on the article title and a share sheet will appear that is targeted solely for sharing URLs and Instapaper and Pinner will appear here.

It works, and I can share to Pinboard now, but I still think the previous interface — albeit probably more difficult to maintain from a technical standpoint and less flexible overall — felt more integrated with the app and more pleasant to use.

Category Software Tags , ,

The Pause

Around the beginning of the second week of April, when I was scrambling to publish Issue 16 of Vantage Point Magazine, I received a couple of private messages and emails, more or less at the same time, from different people asking how I was doing and whether everything was all right. You haven’t been showing up on Twitter/App.Net much lately and It’s been a while since you updated your blogs was the gist of the messages, their tone (as I interpreted it) sounding like a mixture of concern and friendly reminder to give people content to chew over.

Normally I welcome such feedback. I don’t receive much of it, and for someone who has been writing online for almost 15 years it’s sometimes disheartening. It’s the phenomenon I generally refer to as Talking to an empty room. You try to update your site, not really on a daily basis, but at least on a meaningful one, you try to avoid shallow link-posts or one-sentence commentary, you try to do your homework in the best possible way before opening your mouth online to say something, and more often than not, you end up face to face with the Talking to an empty room phenomenon. Sometimes you don’t care. You shrug it off and tomorrow is another day. Sometimes you’re low, and you just want to tweet What’s the fucking point!? and delete everything in a fit of rage. And sometimes it’s something in between these extremes.

This time around, those feedback ‘nudges’ involuntarily contributed to a snowball effect that was already in motion behind the scenes. I’m a one-man operation. I maintain two websites (this one and System Folder), plus the Minigrooves project website, plus twice each month I have to come up with enough material to publish two issues of Vantage Point Magazine, plus I write fiction (short stories for the aforementioned Minigrooves project, and the ongoing serialised science fiction novel Low Fidelity I publish as recurring feature of Vantage Point Magazine). Then there’s the occasional translation work (yes, I still translate), and when it comes, it’s almost always a high-priority assignment, which means shutting everything else down and concentrating on that, and that only.

If it sounds like a lot of stuff, it’s because it is. Further, I can’t multitask. I’ve tried in the past, and I soon realised it’s something I want to leave to machines. Everything I do, the things I write about, whether it’s tech-related pieces or other articles, or fiction, all require a minimum of research. Many bloggers insist on the importance of writing, of doing some sort of daily writing exercise to avoid atrophy; there is much insistence on the writing part of the writing process, on the output. But what about the input?, the research, the reading part that hopefully should take place before firing up a word processor and typing away? That is equally important. That, too, is prone to atrophy if neglected. And reading, searching and researching, takes some time. If I’m reading and researching stuff, I can’t write ‘something, anything,’ at the same time.

When those feedback messages came, earlier this month, they made me realise that my absence in certain places (my website, social networks) was felt. I was very busy taking care of something else — my magazine, my novel, and the groundwork for Volume №2 of Minigrooves — and those friendly ‘nudges’ had an unforeseen side effect: they made me overload. Things, for a day, just spiralled out of control. In retrospect, it was a silly moment. Rationally I knew I couldn’t do everything simultaneously, that if I was hard at work on something specific, I couldn’t just start cracking jokes or engaging in conversations on Twitter and App.Net, or throw up a few posts on my blogs, or write a rebuttal of the nth article talking about the Power Mac G4 Cube and the Newton as being the biggest Apple failures, and so on and so forth. Emotionally, however, I felt horribly overwhelmed. I was already spending the better part of my day sitting at the computer, yet for a moment, in a sort of frenzied trance, I wanted to do more, to cover all the bases, etc.

And then, as soon as I hit Publish and pushed Issue 16 of Vantage Point to my readers, a switch went off, and I paused. I went on holiday without really going nowhere. I spent most of this month in a sort of low-tide state. I don’t mean to say that I was feeling low — quite the contrary, in fact. At times, it felt exhilarating. I was actively refusing to be engaged with ‘the Internet’ and the stupid, inhuman pace this ‘always-on’ lifestyle subtly imposes. This is not another of my pieces openly advocating disconnection, and reminiscing about the good old pre-Web times. The aspect worth emphasising here is control more than disconnection. I’ve spent weeks letting Internet dictate my daily routine. I’m interested in technology, and that means keeping up with new things that get introduced, and often with the debate that necessarily follows. The problem is that keeping up with anything related to technology (and everything technology touches in our lives, which is… pretty much everything) is simply not possible, unless you do that for a living and you spend the whole day doing just that[1].

Some days following the flow online is kind of nice. You feel up to speed on everything. You feel involved. Friends and contacts over Twitter are great, there are jokes, exchanges, banter, sarcasm. You feel in the loop. You feel part of something. You feel relevant.

You also spend ninety percent of your waking hours staring at screens of various sizes, until you go to bed, your eyes strained and teary. And another day goes by, and it’s pretty much like the day before — skimming news on the iPad in the morning while having coffee, taking notes, checking stuff, checking more stuff, taking more notes because the RTWA syndrome kicks in, then my wife gets home from work and it’s time to prepare and have lunch, then the afternoon is spent in the studio, at the computer, with more ‘keeping up with the world’ activities, reading RSS feeds, browsing, taking notes, writing emails, then it’s dinner time, then more writing and checking stuff on the Web and on Twitter and so on and on and on.

Then you snap out of it and realise two weeks of your life have gone, drowned and washed away by this kind of routine. When you’re a teenager, on in your twenties, you don’t care. You feel invincible, full of energy; maybe you’re on your own, or maybe you’re with someone who’s equally full of energy, and staring at screens of various sizes 16 hours per day is fun and not a big deal. When you’re in your thirties and forties, you start to prioritise, and your time and your energies are the first to be prioritised (at least, they should be). When you realise you let two weeks of your time and energy get sucked away like that, it doesn’t feel okay. Even if it felt nice at first. Drinking spirits and tasting fine beverages such as single malt whisky is nice, ending up horribly drunk and vomiting your guts in an alley or hugging a toilet seat… eh, not so much.

So, what happened earlier this month, when I paused?

There was an initial phase of pure internal chaos. Radio silence. Ignoring emails, messages, social networks. Breaking routines. I also spent some time feeling unwell, and that was, as strange as it may sound, a happy coincidence in my unplanned plan of routine disruption. ‘The Pause’ hasn’t just been about keeping Internet at arm’s length and disrupting routines. It has also been an occasion to stop and think, refocus, ask myself “What exactly am I doing” and “Where am I going with this” and “Do I want to keep doing this for how long exactly”… It has been a matter of regaining control, in a way. Over what I do every day in general, but also over the specific processes behind what I do — writing, in all its forms and purposes.

I have never been a fan of routines, and I’ve never been a workaholic. Well, I had to be one if I wanted to survive during a specific period of my life, but what I mean is that, typically, I’m not one of those people who bask in their overworking. Not even with things you like doing? — you ask. No, not even with those. Even when I’m particularly inspired and driven, I know that if I keep at it for too long, the final creative product will be weak tea. A weaker tea than writing the same amount of material by taking more time and writing in more deliberate, inspired bursts when I feel relaxed and not under excessive pressure to produce something at all costs. That doesn’t mean I don’t challenge myself with self-imposed deadlines (like the two issues per month of Vantage Point Magazine or the one/two short stories per week when Cycle 1 and Cycle 2 of Minigrooves were ‘airing’ online). I simply mean that overworking when writing fiction rarely produces good results — at least, that’s what happens with me.

Showing up every day’ doesn’t work with me. It’s not laziness. It’s not lack of organisation. I thought it was, and that was the Internet’s fault. Many people’s attention span is progressively shortening. Too much time spent staring at screens of various sizes, in the flow of this constant engagement of the online sphere. Sometimes I picture that flow, it’s like a fluid that quickly spreads and reaches everywhere in one’s personal sphere. So you lose focus, you lose attention and the ability to work on what you do with the needed perseverance and resolution. And maybe a ‘creative routine’ like Shawn Blanc’s is the perfect recipe for you to get back on track. Something like that doesn’t work for me. I know because I tried something very similar during the awful creative block I suffered for about four years around 2006–2010.

During the Pause I’ve been enjoying my time without plans and routines, without news to keep up with, without ‘fear of missing out’; I’ve been researching stuff I’m interested in without feeling the need to take notes about it or share it or act on it in some way. I’ve rested my eyes, and spent days without writing a single word. Contrary to what some writers do or suggest, I’m not afraid I’ll lose my voice, my style and my creative abilities if I don’t write something every day. There are days worth spending erratically absorbing what surrounds you, or engaging in disorganised hunts for information on subjects you love, or just losing yourself in one of your interests without feeling the urge to then write about it.

Put habits to good use to achieve productivity, if you like, if that works for you, but don’t fall prey to this crazy workaholism-driven mentality that’s spreading like wildfire lately. Don’t let habits and routines overload you and define you.


  • 1. And judging by the quality of certain articles, even those who do that for a living don’t even have the time to properly do their homework.


Category Tech Life Tags , ,

The new MacBook in person — First impressions

It’s svelte. It’s thin. It’s lightweight. It exudes an aura of desirability I hadn’t felt in years, probably since the first-generation MacBook Air. I managed to try it for about 15 minutes, so these are truly first, initial impressions and perhaps I’ll re-evaluate them down the road when I’ll have more time to spend with the MacBook.

In a nutshell, for me the new retina MacBook is a strange machine. When I look at it, I know I’m seeing a very portable, extremely light and compact laptop computer, but at the same time it also feels like seeing a 12-inch iPad running OS X, with a thin accessory keyboard attached to it. Combine that with the visual iOS-feel of OS X Yosemite, and you’ll forgive me if, during the 15 minutes I spent with the MacBook, I tried to touch the screen a few times to interact with the user interface.

The display is, obviously, quite beautiful. Crisp, rich colours, and an impressive viewing angle. I’m not particularly fond of a number of UI decisions featured in OS X Yosemite, but I must say that Yosemite really shines on a retina display, and has evidently been designed with retina displays in mind. On such a display, I really don’t mind reading Helvetica Neue at 10pt.

Everything other reviewers have already said about the new trackpad is true. It’s pure tactile illusion — your eye sees that nothing is moving when you click, but your finger feels differently. It’s weird, but cool. Of course, after the initial sensory confusion, you start using the Mac normally, pointing and clicking without really looking at the trackpad, and everything feels just fine.

What is weird, and not as cool — at least for me — is the keyboard. Keys are slightly bigger and more tightly spaced than on the other MacBook Pros and Airs and external Apple keyboards. It took a little readjustment of the way I usually position my hands over the keyboard when typing, because at first my fingers didn’t fully land on the centre of the keys. That led to typos and typing ‘misses’ I never made on a computer keyboard, though I surely made while typing quickly and for a long time on the iPad’s virtual keyboard in landscape orientation. But the really off-putting detail has been, for me, the short key travel.

I type a lot every day, so keyboard performance in a computer is one of the most important features for me. So, for the better part of the time I spent with the new MacBook, I tried to type as much as I could. Of all the MacBook reviews I’ve read these days, this bit of Christina Warren’s is the one that matches my impression on the new keyboard more closely:

One consequence of the keys being so close to the frame is that the low amount of travel did make the typing process a bit more… painful. I don’t suffer from carpal tunnel, but I did find that extended periods typing on the new MacBook keyboard tired my wrists a bit more than a traditional keyboard. Take breaks if you’re going to be writing on this thing all the time — at least until you “break it in.”

Not only that, but after just 15 minutes of typing, I started feeling some discomfort in my fingertips as well. Christina writes “I was worried that the lack of travel would make typing difficult, that it would be too much like typing on glass — but it’s not.” It is for me, though. After a bit, I felt like I was tapping my fingers on the desk, more than typing on a keyboard. It’s a pity, because I think that the new butterfly mechanism is indeed better and more robust, but for me this innovative detail’s advantage is severely attenuated by the very short key travel.

The last truly comfortable keyboard on an Apple laptop is, in my experience, the one featured in the aluminium PowerBook line and the pre-unibody MacBook Pros. The key travel feels right and when you hit a key, there’s a soft, cushioned return that really makes typing for hours a very pleasant and comfortable affair. My main machine from 2004 to mid-2009 has been a 12-inch PowerBook G4, and I still use it as a second machine, especially when I’m out and about and I know that I’m going to write a lot, because my fingers and hands never get tired on its keyboard. (It’s either that, or the 17-inch PowerBook G4, when I need a little more processing power and a bigger screen, of course.)

PowerBook 12 top view
MacBook retina 12 top view s


As you can see in the photo above, another detail that makes the PowerBook’s keys more comfortable is that they’re not flat, but slightly concave — typing on them is more pleasant, but for me also more precise, and I never have to stop and look at the keyboard to find the right key, so to speak.

Finally, another new design choice that I really found off-putting in the new MacBook’s keyboard is the shape of the new arrow keys:


MacBook retina arrow keys

The enlarged left and right arrow keys really screwed up my muscle memory while using the MacBook. I constantly thought I was hitting the Command or the Option key, and I found myself looking at the keyboard more often than I liked. There are some who don’t love the small size of the arrow keys in the usual ‘Inverted T’ design, at least on laptops, but the space above the left and right arrow keys really helps to ‘find’ them without looking, and also helps when you’re quickly moving around a software program’s interface using the arrow keys (positioning an object in a graphics application, moving your character in a game, etc.). I found their new design in the retina MacBook’s keyboard to be too ‘crowded’ and my fingers didn’t move as easily when tapping on them.

My experience with the new retina MacBook, albeit brief, has been revealing: this new laptop, in a way, drives me crazy — on the one hand, when I see it I can’t help thinking I want this badly, this will be my next Mac, because of its lightness and portability, and because my eyes truly need a retina display in my next Mac; on the other hand, the keyboard is really the deal-breaker here. It’s maddening. What I kept thinking was This should be the perfect computer for a writer and at the same time I was thinking I just can’t write on this MacBook all day. Before I said that the initial impression of the MacBook as a whole is that it kind of feels like an iPad with an attached accessory keyboard; and I can’t help thinking that it’s designed to be used exactly like that, in a tablet-with-a-keyboard way. Therefore the keyboard is going to be more than fine for those who don’t really type that much (Web browsing, email, short documents, etc.) — or maybe for those who may eventually type a lot, but only on the MacBook, and after some time spent acclimatising to the new keyboard.

Category Tech Life Tags , , ,

→ Not in a position to mock, really

I arrived to this article on BGR via John Gruber. I love how, talking about the Asus ZenBook UX305 the author writes: … there really is no denying that Asus’s ultrabook is one sexy machine.

You know why? The ZenBook UX305 is basically a black (or white) version of Apple’s MacBook Air.

ASUS UX 305 Wide


MacBook Air 2256


ASUS Zenbook UX305


Design hero




MacBook Air Gallery2 2256


Ux305 3


Apple MacBook Air 13 inch 2013


Even the ZenBook’s feet are similar to those usually found under MacBooks:

2584515 tinhte zenbook ux 305 3 1410187884131


And Asus’s ZenBook UX305 page (if you manage to navigate it correctly, I had to scroll using the arrow keys, it was too fast using the Magic Mouse or my MacBook Pro’s trackpad) has indeed a very Apple-esque way of presenting the ultrabook.

PC makers can mock Apple all they want, but design-wise I still haven’t seen anything truly original or innovative coming from them first.

Category Handpicked Tags ,

Personal observations about the Apple Watch

Steve Jobs, in January 2007, famously introduced the iPhone as three devices in one: an iPod, a phone, and an Internet communication device.

Tim Cook, in September 2014 and March 2015, introducing the Apple Watch, has picked a somewhat similar approach. The Watch, too, is sort of three devices in one: “the most advanced timepiece ever created, a revolutionary way to connect with others, and a comprehensive health and fitness companion.”

Apple Watch - 3 devices

The iPhone in 2007 was a completely new device and device category for Apple, and the same thing is happening now with the Watch. Using the ‘three-devices-in-one’ approach is a way to pass a set of coordinates, so that people can have an initial grasp of what the new device is and can do. True, in the case of the iPhone, presenting it the way Steve Jobs did was more like an unveiling trick, a little sleight of hand to surprise the audience. More than eight years have passed, and the iPhone has transformed so much, it has become so much more than it was originally, but if we stop and think about how things were back then, defining the iPhone that way was a succinct way to say, “This is not just a new mobile phone, but a device that can also handle your music just like an iPod, and an Internet communication device, because you really can do Web and email, and other Internet-powered stuff like Maps, etc.”

Similarly, how to briefly define something like the Apple Watch, which is obviously more than a wristwatch in the way the iPhone was and is more than just a phone? Let’s start with those three things — an advanced timepiece, a device to connect with others in new ways, and a health/fitness tracker.

What excited me about the iPhone in 2007 was, of course, the device itself from a hardware standpoint, then its technologies (how seamlessly Multi-Touch worked, for example), then the software, and finally and most importantly its potential. I immediately thought about how much the iPhone’s functionality could be extended with third-party apps, and the resulting emotional impact I had as the 2007 Macworld keynote unfolded was I want to have this. This is definitely going to be my next phone.

And potential is really what excites me now with the Apple Watch. As crazy as it may sound, what makes me want to have an Apple Watch isn’t (just) what Apple showed about it in September 2014 and last Monday. It’s what it’s going to come up for it down the road. The possible applications and use cases. It’s a huge bet, the same bet Apple is taking, I think, but that’s what it is for me in the end. It is a most intriguing direction.

I went back and re-read Apple Watch: Additional observations, an article I wrote in September 2014 after the first introduction of the Watch, looking for a quote to use in this one, instead I’m just leaving the link here and offer that whole article as a refresher of my general observations about the Watch — I still stand by it.

Tim Cook has repeatedly said that the Apple Watch is the most personal device Apple has ever made. This piece is called Personal observations because at this point, there’s no other approach that makes sense for me with this product. And I think that a lot of the current debate in the tech sphere is pointless rationalising and overthinking the Watch. It’s an accessory, it’s personal, and ‘explaining’ to people why they should or should not buy it makes very little sense to me. People need to be informed, of course, but with as little editorialising as possible, unless you’re explicitly writing an opinion piece. I say this because I’ve already happened to read a few articles that start as simply ‘reporting information’ pieces, then end up passing judgement or letting the author’s personal feelings towards the Watch seep through.

I’m not here to tell you how you should react to the Watch, and whether it’d make sense for you to get one or not. It really depends on your lifestyle and whether the Apple Watch — now that we have seen another overview of its base features, functionalities, and some new use cases — could fit in your lifestyle or not.

It is also too early to state whether it’s going to be a huge success or a flop. My feeling is that it’s going to be a ‘slow’ success, something more resembling of the iPod’s success than the iPhone’s. Remember that iPod sales really started to grow after 2004, three years after its introduction. Back in 2001, the reactions towards the iPod were mixed. There were the enthusiastic early adopters — people who purchased the original iPod as soon as it debuted because they instantly liked it, or had enough curiosity and enough money to get one. There were people (a lot of them in my circle of friends and acquaintances at the time) who sceptically asked “Why should I buy it? I don’t need it.” And then there were people without a clear opinion or — like me — who appreciated the device but recognised they didn’t have an immediate need for it, who basically opted for a ‘wait and see’ outlook. Then a sort of snowball effect happened: better iPods started coming out, then came the compatibility with Windows PCs, the iTunes Music Store, etc.; more people got an iPod, so more people could see — through friends and acquaintances who bought one — the iPod’s usefulness and/or appeal and decided to get one for themselves too. (I finally decided it was time to buy an iPod in 2003 mainly because my best friend got one before me and gave me repeated examples of its practicality and versatility.)

My feeling is that the Apple Watch will have a similar ‘slow contagion’ diffusion. There are people who are already intrigued by it and want one. There are people who are already asking “Why should I buy it? What problems does it solve?”, and moderate people with a ‘wait and see’ attitude. And I think that the Apple Watch, more than any other Apple device, needs to be seen and tried in person, and more people are going to be convinced one way or the other by seeing the Watch in operation on people they know and trust. The Apple Watch’s potential usefulness (or superfluousness) is definitely something that needs to be experienced ‘in the field’, by watching how your friends and acquaintances use theirs, how they interact (or don’t interact) with it, and so forth.

Is this going to be my next Watch/first smartwatch?

Personal observations, here we go.

I’ve expressed my doubts about wearables and smartwatches in the past, and my conclusion was that they’re not devices I’m in particular need of. Before the Apple Watch was revealed, there also wasn’t any particular wearable or smartwatch I wanted. As I wrote then, “The current offerings are unstylish, uninteresting and unimaginative devices, which appeal only to a niche target of enthusiasts and technophiles.”

The simple, disarming fact is that I like the Apple Watch. A lot. Like with the first iPhone, I like the hardware, I like the software and UI, I like the various different customisation options, and, like I said above, I’m intrigued by its potential. I wish I had $349 to spend, because I’d really love to be an Apple Watch early adopter. This is my favourite model of the Apple Watch Sport line, the one I’d purchase:

38mm Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band

The 38 mm Space Grey aluminium case with Black Sport Band (I have small wrists).

When I was a teenager and the 1980s digital watch invasion was at its peak, I was obsessed with wristwatches. I had a few and the more they were customisable, the better. My favourite was this Citizen watch, whose various modes weren’t fixed, but programmable, meaning that it could be left in its default configuration (one alarm, one timer, one stopwatch, etc.), or you could decide to put a second alarm instead of the timer, or you could have three different timers instead. Each function had its ‘slot’ and the ‘slots’ were configurable. Back then, I had never seen such level of customisation before. So, when I first saw the various faces that can be applied and customised on the Apple Watch, that was a direct call for 14-year-old me. It was like going back in time, but with a device that’s on a whole different level, of course.

During the March 9 event, Kevin Lynch once again demonstrated a few use cases, this time involving additional third-party apps. I see myself using the Apple Watch a lot for quickly checking selected notifications without having to take the iPhone out of my pocket. In this regard, much of the debate has centered around the possible redundancy of the Watch as notification satellite. Or people have pointed out that checking notifications on the Watch is a subtler gesture, and it potentially saves you time — you only see the notification and act on it (or not), you don’t take out the iPhone every time and you’re not tempted to lose yourself in it after checking the notification. A scenario I’ve rarely seen mentioned is when you receive a notification, and taking out the iPhone to check it and act on it would be possible but uncomfortable or not much practical: when you have one or both hands occupied for example (a bag of groceries in one hand, the umbrella in the other), or when you’re commuting and you’re standing on a crowded train or bus (you could take your iPhone 6 Plus out, but with such little room for movement you could drop the phone). Checking the Watch in these and other similar instances would certainly be more effective.

I would also use the Apple Watch to glance at weather information, Twitter, to set reminders, to check songs I hear in shops, restaurants, cafés; to quickly answer texts, to pay via Apple Pay (this is great for those, like me, who don’t have an iPhone 6/6 Plus or don’t want one because it’s too big for their tastes), and I certainly would use its Digital Touch feature more than occasionally. My wife works at a university library; sometimes I need to talk with her and when I send her a message, she may not notice it (maybe she activated Do Not Disturb on her iPhone or has it in silent mode in her purse, or she’s working at her computer while listening to music from her earphones and she doesn’t hear the notification on her iPhone). If we both had an Apple Watch, it’d be great to send her a little nudge to attract her attention, and vice-versa.

Another feature I’d find useful is getting directions on the Watch in that unobtrusive way Lynch detailed back at the September 2014 event. Sometimes I visit parts of the city I’m not terribly familiar with, and in more than one occasion I’ve successfully used Google Maps on my iPhone to move around and find exactly where I needed to head. But walking down a street constantly checking my iPhone for the right turn or crossroads is awkward, and not much different from going about with a paper map opened before me. With the Apple Watch, I could move more naturally, without losing my bearings.

I’m not particularly interested in fitness trackers and I’m not into ‘quantifying myself’ at all. The ‘health and fitness companion’ aspect of the Watch is definitely one of the least interesting features for me. However, lately I’ve been increasingly concerned about the amount of time I spend sitting versus standing. I lead a mostly sedentary life, and spend a lot of time sitting at my desks. That is partly balanced by daily walks and the time I spend standing while cooking. Still I’d like to know more precisely how much I sit, how much I stand, how much I move. After seeing how the Apple Watch works in the tracking department, I think I would indeed take advantage of the functionality for this particular purpose.

These are just the first reasons coming to mind, the first real-life scenarios I think the Apple Watch would serve me well, and I have the feeling I’m just scratching the surface. What makes it a potentially compelling device is the progressive accumulation of use cases. If I review my examples above and isolate them one by one, I’d probably conclude that the Apple Watch is just an expensive iPhone accessory and I would quickly dismiss it without a second thought. I could never buy it only for Glances or Digital Touch or its fitness tracking capabilities. It’s when you start thinking, “Well, it could be useful for this… and this… and this… and that other thing… oh and what if they release an app that does this other thing the iPhone isn’t that great at doing?”, that the Watch slowly starts making sense.

So yes, the Apple Watch will be my first smartwatch, whenever I’ll be able to afford one. As for what you should do, I don’t know. As a first step, I’d simply suggest you keep an open mind, you don’t lose yourself in the current tech debate, and don’t listen to those who use their particular habits and their lifestyle as a standard to determine the Watch’s success or failure, or to judge the merits and shortcomings of the device.

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