Sunday, 29 March 2015

On form, function and wearables

So a couple of weeks since the Apple Watch launch and I have read then thought a bit more since my initial feelings. So I thought I'd round up the best on the web so far with some of my own thoughts. As someone whose phone spends most of the day on the desk in front of me, this cartoon made me chuckle
it's a believable world where the watch is just an accessory for a phone. To me apps as providers to a new watch UI framework makes sense as Pebble are proposing in their latest kickstarter. This follows the kind of process from when desktop applications were shrunk to fit smartphones and the way that we use/interact with "apps" is different now. (I think that it's also reasonable to assume that way we use apps will also change in the same way desktop programs have become much more app like).

This feels like a much more natural framework for linking within apps, for structuring the interactions around both intent and context. This is already a trend in phone apps as the marketplace becomes increasingly crowded.
In Move over QR codes; NFC will support more seamless boarding I think Jason Rabinowitz hits the nail on the head with one area of smartwatch potential:
Before NFC really takes hold, airlines and passengers must get through the first few waves of “smartwatches”. Unfortunately, at least for now, smartwatches just seem like an even more inconvenient way to use a QR-based boarding pass
I tend to agree that this technology could pave the way to improvements in the whole passenger experience (PaxEx). One question I'm intrigued to know the answer to is would the Passbook passes be stored so that they can be used via NFC even after the battery dies? I think that would be neat.

There are a number of other useful features for travellers. With innovative new technology, devices and availability it can often lead to a change in our behaviour, for example what will happen about sharing keys temporarily?  If I'm travelling with people I may give them my physical key to either put something in or collect from my room. Will I want to handover my watch? assuming it even works away from my phone. Will I be happy in transferring my key to another device? Will I trust that when I get the key back on my device that I am still the only person with access?

As well as travellers, I can see why runners will find the watch useful. The armband is great but not exactly user friendly for a quick glance, which is also the gist of the medium article Why cyclists will love the Apple Watch. Taps on the wrist could be useful for every time or distance marker, maybe even different taps for speed up or slow down to run at a set pace.

I'm not sure how successful a form factor watches will be for wearables, but I believe that sensors for various health applications will be a longer term bet. Smartwatches as a snazzy new tool are great, so I leave you with this thought ...
Is the watch an overkill for the tool needed? Would cheap buzzers/sensors that provide haptic feedback coupled with bluetooth earpiece be good enough? It would probably be a heck of a lot cheaper! Marrying technology and fashion would make them truely wearables and as illustrated by some interesting ideas come out SXSW.

Monday, 9 March 2015

on devices and fashion

Keeping An Eye On Time by Ian Foss

So the Apple Watch event caused lots of brouhaha today. The main aim/selling point seems to be getting your attention quickly, but is that a good thing? You don't have to look too far to see articles already on how to stop your phone from interfering in your life and personally along the same lines I've turned off certain apps from sending me notifications - the main one being Facebook. My phone also won't alert at all between 10pm and 8:20pm to give me a window of interruption/calm ... although I do ruin that by checking twitter every now and again. 

It will be interesting to see what the market is like for this, looking at traditional wrist watch stats smart watches are around the premium Swiss watch level. The majority of watches sold average out at $3 a watch from China and slightly higher at $19 from Hong Kong, a commodity price for something that just works. Are these watches going to have that feeling of craftsmanship to compete with the Swiss watches? I notice that they have used the term on the Apple Watch website.

The American Airlines and United examples taking data from either the Passbook pass or airline app could be useful. For example a gate change probably is a case where you probably want to be interrupted and prodded towards looking at your device. Having looked at trials with Google Glass and Android watches the main draw back was in the size of screen and creating a nice experience with that.

I think that the notification or alert infrastructures that Google and Apple have created in recent OS versions are laying the groundwork for something awesome around the corner. Indeed it looks like Apple have learnt from using Google devices and they've extended the hand off functionality to allow messages to be picked up on the watch and continued on the phone (or I'm assuming an iPad or a  MacBook with the right apps)

My favourite article on the Apple Watch asks if its time has come or if it is 70s throw back? My current feeling is no, we aren't quite there yet. However, the infrastructure and development kits with Passbook, iOS Notification Center and app hand off shows that the future could be bright, easy to use and fun. Organisations should probably treat smart phones as a playground on top of their main app to test and experiment, for the time being the users are going to be fairly tech savvy early adopters - that in itself gives opportunity.

What would make me get one? I'm not too sure. The Nike+ sportswatch at around £100 actually offers me something I can't get as easily from my phone when running. I'll keep an open mind but my top four things I'm watching are:
  1. Battery life, is the Apple Watch really 18 hours? (Major failing of most smart watches so far)
  2. Watches that play nice with other provider's ecosystems (e.g. Apple Watch taking feed from Android apps like a Pebble could do)
  3. Not needing the phone, so some kind of own cellular access. (like the Samsung Gear S)
  4. Screen size, can app developers make nice experiences using the screen real estate available?