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The Apple Watch disrupts, but is that enough?

Michael deAgonia | July 10, 2015
Disruptive technology doesn't come along often, and is often initially dismissed because it's easy to ignore something you've lived an entire life without. But every once in a while a bit of tech comes along that makes it easier to do what you're already doing.

Apple Watch
The Apple Watch

Disruptive technology doesn't come along often, and is often initially dismissed because it's easy to ignore something you've lived an entire life without. But every once in a while a bit of tech comes along that makes it easier to do what you're already doing.

This is the Apple Watch.

I wasn't always sold on the concept. Aside from issues related to appearance/style, functionality, personalization, fitness tracking, and useful interaction methods, my big concern was this: What real-world problem would an Apple watch solve? Knowing the obstacles was one thing; solving those problems was something else entirely. I was skeptical.

The engineers at Apple not only understood those issues but figured out solutions. By the time Apple execs finished unveiling their vision for the modern watch last September, I was ready to give the technology a shot. As someone who's built a career around tech, I couldn't remember the last time a watch of any type inspired an emotional reaction.

Much of my excitement stemmed from the new technologies, especially the Digital Crown and Force Touch, both of which work wonderfully in the real world.

Crowning achievement

With the Digital Crown, Apple engineers turned a feature already present in watches into a scroll wheel for selecting options and quickly sliding through list views. It's used to access apps, very much like an iPhone's Home Button, when pressed. Double-pressing it switches between the last-used app and the Clock app; holding the Crown down activates Siri; and when you use it to scroll to the end of a list, it even becomes harder to turn. (That last feature shows the obsessive level of detail that's characteristic of Apple.)

Handing off scrolling and button-like functionality to the crown is so obvious -- in retrospect -- that it's amazing no one came up with the idea beforehand. This is typical Apple.

With Force Touch, the Apple Watch's Retina display can respond not only to touch and gestures, but can sense when additional force is applied to the screen. That extra pressure brings up additional options in supported apps: It can call up app settings, dismiss notifications, pause or end workouts, select audio and video sources in Remote, and customize Watch faces. The cleverness of Force Touch is that these actions would otherwise need their own onscreen icons, using up precious space in a device with limited screen real-estate.

Force Touch works so well in the real world that the technology has started spreading to other Apple products, like the latest MacBooks and MacBook Pro laptops. It's only a matter of time before iPads and iPhones get this, too.

 

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