Will The Apple Watch Push The Boundaries Of Good Manners? – Forbes
The Apple Watch is set sell millions in its first year on shelves. Already the new, quite possibly redundant, gadget has moved over 2 million in preorders alone, and analysts are betting on anywhere from 9 to 30 million sold in the first year.
That’s out of myriad different models ranging from just a few hundred dollars for the iPeasant version, to as much as $17,000 for the Apple Watch Edition, with the high-end settling on the customized, diamond-studded Lux Watch Omni which costs a measly $114,995.
If you see someone wearing an Apple Watch that cost over $100,000…well, just know that somewhere there’s a Swiss watch-maker rolling over in their grave.
The first Apple Watches are shipping out this week, but the entire roll-out of the wearable is of the “soft launch” variety, rolling out to stores later in the summer. Customers will need appointments at Apple Stores to demo and purchase the watch, because suddenly Apple doesn’t like lines outside its stores.
This is one silver lining, no pun intended. The Apple device lines are among the most irritating phenomena of our age.
Indeed, the entire Apple hype machine ranks among the most irritating phenomena of our age. While the company has done marvelous work in the realm of marketing and product design—and I don’t begrudge them one ounce of success—the willingness of the masses to simply hop aboard that train irks me to no end. I am a reverse-snob in this regard, I admit it.
In one sense, it’s quite remarkable that Apple Watch sales are projected to be so high, while Android smart watches have made very little of a dent in the fledgling tech genre. There’s little reason to believe the Apple Watch will be such a huge step up over the competition, and Pebble still seems like the smart way to go if you want actual functionality and not just hipster-tech social signaling.
Then again, as Forbes contributor Paul Lamkin notes ”With the Pebble considered a smartwatch success story after around 1 million sales, and Android Wear causing only a minor blip with its estimated 1 – 1.5 million device sales across its multi-branded range in the platform’s first year of existence, the Apple Watch could be the benchmark-raising saviour of a slow-burning new tech genre.”
A rising tide lifts all boats or some such. It’s the Starbucks effect, where the rise of the massive coffee chain actually boosted mom-and-pop cafes all across the country rather than put them out of business. The iPhone in many ways paved the way for other smartphones; the iPad opened the floodgates for Android tablets and even Windows 8 tablets. So it will go with the Apple Watch—while it’s late to the party, it’s nonetheless the wearables’ vanguard, come to ready the teeming masses.
But I can’t help myself: Smartwatches already strike me as superfluous.
True, there’s something kind of neat about being able to check your texts and step totals and Twitter at the flick of a wrist—but my phone is already right there in my pocket, or on the table, and its screen is way, way bigger. The added expense of an Apple Watch to an iPhone setup doesn’t strike me as a particularly good value proposition.
It’s much more for show, for style, for fashion, for signaling than for functionality, of course, and as a rather more utilitarian techie, I guess that just rubs me the wrong way. It must be my inner-Luddite, or just the budding curmudgeon in me, but I think we’re already overly connected. My smartphone is enough of a distraction from the world. But at least we smartphone owners keep ours in our pockets rather than sporting them around on our wrists for all the world to see in all their gaudy splendor.
While Apple and its app-developers may need to find ways to not annoy Apple Watch wearers, the wearers themselves may be a source of annoyance for the rest of us (though I don’t recommend shaming them the way non-smokers have attempted to shame smokers. Fighting rudeness with more of the same strikes me as fairly awful.)
In any case, I’m hardly alone in thinking this.
“These smartwatches can be as annoying as our smartphones and more visible since you wear them,” says Pamela Eyring, the president of The Protocol School of Washington according to MarketWatch. “But smartphones can be hidden easier when you’re with people since you can tuck them into a handbag or jacket pocket.”
Others suggest that perhaps social norms surrounding acceptable watch-checking behavior will shift, though not any time soon.
“Yes, norms shift,” manners-expert and author Henry Hitchings writes to New York Magazine. “We feel different about someone taking a phone call in our presence from how our grandparents might have felt about it. But modern communications technology, of which the Apple Watch is of course just one example, has created uncertainty rather than a new set of social certainties. And while some people may applaud the social fluidity that results from that, there are obvious problems to do with our confusion about privacy, ownership, the distinction between the real and the virtual, and so on.”
This uncertainty is emphasized by the fact that the Apple Watch is part of our attire, Hitchings also notes, which brings up deeper questions of how we set social norms and boundaries.
Call me a traditionalist hold-out but I believe that a watch’s core mission is simply to keep the time. It shouldn’t have to be charged every day. I shouldn’t have to wake it up in order to check the time. And it shouldn’t be designed with planned obsolescence in mind.
The truth of the matter is this: Your Apple Watch will be out-of-date in a year or two. Even your $17,000 model will seem slow and clunky compared to whatever Apple makes in 2017. Watches are supposed to be the closest thing we have to engineered immortality. Watches and firearms. Smartwatches do not fit that bill.
You might argue that phones were once meant to merely take calls, and now do so much more, and you’d have a point. But phones were never instruments designed to last. They were even more utilitarian than watches. And modern smartphones actually expand on the functionality of a phone in truly useful ways, and might as well be called smart-cameras at this point regardless. Regardless, even smartphones have raised issues of manners and what counts as acceptable behavior.
I recall one day, years ago at my daughter’s preschool, parents were invited to see what their kids had been working on, talk to the teachers, play in the playground. There were snacks. It was a time carved out for kids and their parents.
Yet glancing around I counted probably half the dads glued to their phones for much of the brief morning visit. I have my own moments when I’m sucked away from life, into the bowels of Twitter or some other dark dungeon of social media. An Apple Watch, I suspect, would only hasten my descent.
“I can’t seem to get past the worry that Apple’s Next Best And Brightest Thing is designed for a future that I don’t particularly want to inhabit,” writes Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel. ”A pingy, buzzy, always visible, always on future that I’ll have to enter begrudgingly.”
But hey, at least there won’t be Apple zealots lining the street. That’s something to be cheery about.
Read my Forbes blog here.