Matthew Palmer

Apple Watch as a Physical Communicator

In an excellent article on Stratechery, Ben Thompson writes:

[The demos show] the wearer to interact with his or her physical environment in a way that was not previously possible.

The Apple Watch just clicked for me.

The iPhone famously consolidated three things: a phone, an iPod, and an internet communicator. The first two are the ‘safe’ options—things we were already familiar with. The last one was confusing. Nothing reveals that fact more than the original keynote, with enthusiastic cheers for the first two, and slightly confused applause for ‘internet communicator.’

But the latter was the one that caused the iPhone revolution.

In the same way, the Apple Watch is three things: a timepiece, a health tracker, and a physical communicator.

Right now, we’re hearing half-hearted applause for ‘physical communicator.’ Even the phrasing sounds vague and empty.

What’s more is that it sounds redundant—why would I need a new point of entry to the physical world? I’m not sure, but it’s dangerous to think of the physical world as intractable and immovable. Everyone knows that software is malleable, but it could be that our interaction with the physical could also be moulded. Maybe Apple Watch is adding a new user interface to the tangible.

It’s terrifying because it’s new. Because it proposes to challenge something really fundamental, really physical. And because it‘s limitless, in exactly the same way ‘internet communicator’ was limitless.

Right now, the Watch is a key, a wallet, a ticket, a badge, just like the iPhone originally did email, web browsing, and video. But give it a few years—the same time frame it took for the iPhone to become a window to the internet—and the Watch will become a new window to the physical world.

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