Exploring #AppleWatch: When Less is More

I’ve had the Apple Watch for a few days now. It’s definitely a device that has a lot of potential, both as a consumer product and as a tool that can be used for learning and performance.

While extended use and experimentation with the device will likely lead to deeper understanding of its potential and possibilities, I wanted to share some initial impressions and thoughts based on my first two days with the device.

It’s Here and It’s Cool… Now What

apple_watch_iwatch_7I dove right into Apple Watch, exploring all it had to offer. Every app & every function was checked out so I could see what was available.
And after a couple of hours doing that, I was filed with a somewhat unexpected thought. “Now What?”

After all, this was not a pack of gum I just purchased. It was an expensive piece of tech – shouldn’t I be using it regularly? I mean, I could lose hours on my phone or iPad working and/or playing without realizing it. Here I was, less than a day into owning a brand new gadget, and I didn’t have anything to do with it.

As I went to bed and set the watch to be my silent alarm clock, buyer’s remorse started to set in. Maybe this isn’t game-changing tech after all.

The next morning I awoke to a gentle tap-tap on my wrist, and quickly learned differently. I was looking at the Apple Watch all wrong.

When Less is More

Shortly after waking to the tap-tap of the watch on my wrist I pulled my wrist up and turned off the alarm. There was a red dot on the top of my watch face – an indicator that there were some notifications that were received overnight. I swiped down to bring them up and used the digital crown to scroll through the notifications. After scrolling I got out of bed and went downstairs.

I showered, helped the kids get ready for school, and started cleaning up after breakfast. Suddenly there was another tap on my wrist. I looked, and it was a notification about a private message I was sent on Yammer. I didn’t feel like dictating the reply with my family present – mostly due to the lack of normalcy that would likely have resulted in spousal eye-rolling – so I went to pick up my phone off the counter.

It wasn’t there.

I paused, wondering where I had left it this morning. That’s when it hit me. I hadn’t left it anywhere that morning; it was still sitting right where I left it the night before: on my nightstand.

That small, seemingly insignificant piece of information speaks volumes when put into context.

The Death of Digital Tangents?

Had it not been for the watch, my morning would not have started all that differently. Instead of being woken by the tap-tap on my wrist, I would have awoken to the buzzing of my phone on my nightstand. I also would have picked it up and checked the notifications.

And then I would have scrolled through my email, likely responding to a couple that came in overnight.

And that Twitter notification? While looking at it I would have checked out my feed and probably a few favorite hashtags.

And while my phone was out and being used I’d probably check facebook too.

And after a few minutes, I’d get out of bed and start my day.

In short, I got all of the updates I would normally get, without the pull of diving into things that may not be urgent or important. The notifications on the watch were just that: notifications. I didn’t need to go deeper into the full details as I have done by default on my phone in the past.

That theme followed me throughout the day. While working from home I’m usually sitting at my desk with my phone next to me. It buzzes and chirps every so often, and I pick it up to see why. If I see the notification on my phone, I click on it to see all the details.

In addition, rarely does picking up my phone result in a one-and-done task. I usually check a few things before putting the phone down and returning to my work.

Things were different while wearing the watch. I’d get a tap, pick up my wrist to see the notification, and 9 out of 10 times just put my wrist down and kept right on working. There’s something about the watch that changes the urgent/important aspect of a notification, and keeps it in perspective.

There were a few notifications that did require immediate attention – a text from my wife, an email or two from people I have flagged as VIPs, etc. But the vast majority of notifications did not result in immediate action.

Lessons for Learning and Performance

I think this speaks to the types of interactions we’ll see on Apple Watch and like devices. It’s not a long and content-rich experience. It’s certainly not about a course on a phone.

Seriously. It’s not. Please don’t be the first person that does that. Courses have their place; just not on your wrist.

I think there are great opportunities to leverage the context-sensitive nature of this device to support learning and performance. A small bit of relevant content inserted into the right place at the right time can be incredibly powerful. Some of the early Apple Watch apps do that well, others are stil obviously finding their way.

The Apple Watch provides another unique opportunity to provide people with support in the moment. What the best opportunities for that look like will evolve over time, but one thing is certain: Taking advantage of this opportunity will require us to look at supporting learning and performance in ways that we haven’t really done before.

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