Time saved? I don’t think so

More than a few of the sources I follow has recently linked to this interesting article on TechCrunch by Matthew Panzarino: The Apple Watch Is Time, Saved, quoting this bit in particular:

After these discussions, it seems certain that the Apple Watch will shortly be the primary way you access your iPhone during the day.

People that have worn the Watch say that they take their phones out of their pockets far, far less than they used to. A simple tap to reply or glance on the wrist or dictation is a massively different interaction model than pulling out an iPhone, unlocking it and being pulled into its merciless vortex of attention suck.

One user told me that they nearly “stopped” using their phone during the day; they used to have it out and now they don’t, period. That’s insane when you think about how much the blue glow of smartphone screens has dominated our social interactions over the past decade.

The gist of the article seems to be that, thanks to the way interaction with the Apple Watch is designed, people will use their iPhones less, will pull them out of their pockets less frequently, thus regaining some of the attention that typically the iPhone takes away:

But the Apple Watch can return some of that attention and, more importantly, time back to you.

As I was glancing at my Twitter timeline earlier, someone retweeted this tweet by the excellent Luke Wroblewski. I’ll reproduce the image here:

Why the wrist matters - Wroblewski

This doesn’t refer to the Apple Watch in particular, but it’s a great image that explains very well the difference between the interaction with a smartphone and the interaction with a smartwatch.

Only I don’t believe things are going to work out that way. Not with the Apple Watch. Forget about regaining attention. Maybe at first it’s really going to be as Panzarino says in his article. But just you wait when a lot of cool, engaging third-party apps become available for the Apple Watch. Here’s what I think people may end up doing:

  • Spend more time lost in their watch than anticipated, because that has become the new source of distraction.
  • Spend time interacting with their watch and their iPhone; maybe in a way that they indeed use the iPhone less, but the total amount of time spent on both devices will actually be greater than when they only had the iPhone.

I believe either of these scenarios to be more likely to happen than the ‘more connected to the people around you’ scenario, simply because a lot of people (and nerds in particular) tend to become hopeless addicts when it comes to these devices. Take this excerpt from the very piece by Panzarino:

The display is also very sharp and easily readable from your wrist. When your attention is on the Watch, you’re going to want to do more there than you think, rather than having to move over to your phone. This means that you may find yourself reading short articles and other content on your wrist. This could affect the way that publishers want to build their apps. They shouldn’t just be redirection machines that punt people to their phones; there is an opportunity to give people what they need now and let them get back to what they’re doing.

“You’re going to want to do more there than you think,” exactly, and many third-party apps that will eventually appear for the Apple Watch will cater to that need. I believe the Apple Watch may indeed be able to divert a part of people’s attention from their iPhone, but I don’t believe people will get less lost in their Watch than they usually do in their iPhone. And here I really, really hope to be proven wrong.

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About Riccardo Mori

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