Apple Watch: Tracking Your Life, Not the Time


The Evidence

For those of you who think the Apple watch is just a fad and will pass, you’re missing the big picture that it’s no more a fancy watch than the iPhone is no more a fancy phone. I bet 1% of your iPhone usage is making regular voice calls. Apps are the killer feature of your iPhone. It’s the reason it’s indispensable to you even though you didn’t know you needed apps before you had it. Continuously up to date biometric information will become just as indispensable even though you don’t think so yet.

Case in point: Thanks to my Apple watch, I now know my heart rate varies between 67 and 88 on average. I’ll hit a random spike over that once or twice a day. I had no idea before my watch. I never stopped to measure it because I never thought to stop and measure it. The watch however records that info with no effort on my part. That’s the key, that’s why it’s going to work and become invaluable, because you don’t have to do anything to make it work.

On Memorial Day at 9:30 am, I started to feel bad, really bad. Every muscle in my body started to ache. I felt better in the afternoon very briefly, then slowly crashed again and felt horrible most of the night. By the following morning, I felt fine. I thought to myself, I wonder if my heart behaved differently during my illness. I kept taking the watch off or loosening it due to my discomfort, but I still got some good readings (see image above). It definitely shows my heart was working extra hard, except during that time I felt good. [Note: The sport strap makes my wrist sweat too much. I think if I had a leather strap, I would’ve just left it on the entire time.]

The Revelation

Prior to the arrival of my Apple Watch, I analyzed all the features and functionalities demo’d by Kevin Lynch. [Note: To understand the irony of that demo, read this earlier post of mine that discusses Apple and Adobe during the Flash Player war, during which time Kevin was CTO of Adobe.] I wanted to see what feature struck me as the defining feature of the watch. What was the feature that was going to allow me to build something I couldn’t build before.

I glazed over during the whole accuracy thing. People don’t care about accuracy, because many put it purposely ahead of real time to hopefully help them get to places on time vs late. Plus, if that’s the reason you’re buying a watch, then a digital watch you have to charge just doesn’t make sense.

The first thing that caught my attention is the fact that it’s primarily a second screen to the phone. This means apps run on your iPhone and get displayed on your watch. Many developers don’t like this and want a native SDK to run their apps solely on the watch. I don’t think that’s so important. Apps need more space, that’s why phablets are so popular and dominating these days. So a strictly watch app doesn’t intrigue me, but working in conjunction with the phone did. The one thing the second screen is good for is quick glance info that may only require a single tap to deal with.

As I watched the demo, I asked, “What does the watch do that the phone cannot?” The biggest thing that stuck out to me was it read your heart rate. It wasn’t clear how often it read your heart rate, if you’d be able to ask for heart readings, etc, but that was something that the watch could do that the iPhone could not. I decided that’s the one feature I’d build my app on: biometric data.

One other huge difference between the two devices is presence. The watch is always with you and in sight, whereas your phone is mostly in your pocket, shelf, cup holder, etc. The phone is easily lost and misplaced, even more so now that the watch does 75% of what you casually do on your phone: check time, check alerts, check meeting info, etc. This would also play into my app idea.

The Declaration

I declare here that biometric data will be the killer feature (that you didn’t know you needed) of the Apple Watch. It currently only does heart rate and movement. And to be honest, it does neither of those things incredibly well. However, the first iPhone only had native apps and no App Store. Apple will quickly realize that the biometric data they provide you (and doctors and researchers) is indispensable and react accordingly.

Apple will add more and better sensors with each iteration of the watch. I’m so certain of this fact that the app I’m building is depending on it. SideKit is the app/platform and it’s goal is to save lives. While the first version of SideKit will be cool and leverage the first version of the Apple Watch, it’s not until version two or three of the watch that things are really going to get interesting and amazing.

Because the iPhone launched on AT&T and I’m strictly a Verizon user, I missed out on launching a platform with the iPhone and having them both mature together over time. This time around, it’s completely different. I couldn’t have my app in the Watch App Store on launch day of the watch, because I needed a watch to insure the idea would work. No simulator would be capable of covering the use case of the app. It’s a new breed of service that is possible because of the two devices you now carry with you.

To be honest, I also had to make sure that the watch wasn’t going to disappoint. You see, I don’t wear watches, never have…until the Apple Watch. I’ve had mine since launch weekend and I’ve grown attached to it. I know that if a non-watch person like myself can be converted, others will as well. They may be more intrigued by the accuracy, style or prestige, but their reasoning doesn’t matter to me. What’s more important is that they come join the party and become a part of my new platform.

This is the future, friends. Jump on this or be left behind. As someone who missed the first gold rush of the iPhone, it sucks to be left alone while the train of innovation leaves the station without you. Get your ticket, hop on board and get ready for a wild ride. If not, then just follow along as I document my adventure (the first post is live and it’s about how I got the idea for SideKit). Regardless, be prepared for some good times ahead.

P.S. – Want to learn more about how to leverage the Watch and iPhone in this biometric/context aware space? I’ll be giving a hands on lab on it at the 360|iDev conference in August.

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