Wednesday 18 September 2019

Apple Watch is fully armed for a war on the wrists

Ronan Price tries on the new Apple Watch, which went on sale here last week Photo: Tony Gavin
Ronan Price tries on the new Apple Watch, which went on sale here last week Photo: Tony Gavin
The new Apple Watch introduced during Apple's launch event in Cupertino, California, USA
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Like a clingy lover, my new Apple Watch demands my attention constantly. It's barely clasped to my wrist for the first time when the insistent pulses against the skin start in earnest.

Each little vibration signifies an incoming email, tweet or notification of some flavour - calling urgently to me, feeding a digital obsession it was supposed to pacify.

Unveiling the timepiece in March this year, Apple boss Tim Cook pitched the Watch as a way to efficiently manage the digital torrent of data we normally filter through our smartphones - though it's still almost useless without an iPhone.

Now consumers in Ireland can decide for themselves, since the Watch went on sale here last Friday.

An email tirade from your boss, a retweet from a friend or a billet-doux from your other half - a phone doesn't discriminate effectively when it buzzes in your pocket or your bag. A Pavlovian response, conditioned for years by fear of missing out, prods you to reach for your mobile, disturbing your task at hand.

However, in the post-Watch world, Mr Cook promises, a quick glance at the wrist is all it takes to sift the chaff from the, eh, even chaffier attention-sucking posts, messages and status updates.

That's the theory anyway.

It doesn't work so well if you follow my example when taking delivery of a Watch this week and install every possible app.

Many typical iPhone apps, such as Facebook, Whatsapp and Twitter, have a Watch companion and can all ping you if you unwisely leave their notifications turned on. You may feel in need of, ahem, a time-out.

A little judicious pruning later and my wrist felt a little less like a pin cushion and more a handy way to scratch the digital itch with a swift peek.

No more disappearing down a rabbit hole of distractions on your phone as you hop from one app to the next - "ooh, look, what's happening on Instagram?" or "let me just quickly reply to that angry missive from my manager".

The Watch's simplicity is thus one of its fortes. You could do all of those things - just about - but you wouldn't want to due to the awkwardness of dealing with a two-inch screen. Instead, it keeps you connected but pares the interaction to its essence.

Screen a call, read a breaking news headline, check the weather - all without reaching for your phone. Oh, by the way, it tells the time too, an ironic turn of fate given that many people ditched their wristwatch because their phone was always handy. Just don't forget to charge it every night - that battery lasts barely 12 hours with sustained use.

With its usual earthquake of hype, Apple has arrived fashionably late to the smartwatch party, long after Samsung and others planted a flag for wrist accessories. But Mr Cook and co realised what others didn't or couldn't - that a watch is a statement of individuality.

Hence the eclectic array of straps and body finishes, featuring leather, fabric, colourful plastic, stainless steel, aluminium and gold in boggling combinations. Not to mention the dizzying prices.

Apple Watch starts at €430 for the most basic design, soaring to a startling €18,000 for the gold-clad model. Now that's something to obsess about.

Irish Independent

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