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What Apple knows about smartwatches that Google doesn't

Mike Elgan | Sept. 15, 2014

The Apple Watch doesn't have native GPS, so an iPhone is required if you want to use the watch for navigation or, potentially, to track fitness metrics.

I'm also hearing complaints about the Apple Watch's Digital Crown, which is a wheel on the side of the watch face for zooming in and out and rotating through on-screen options. I'll reserve judgment until I try it, but at first glance it seems too small for that function.

I don't see how the charger won't be a problem. It reminds me of the LG G Watch charger, which is also magnetic. When you pick up the watch, the charger comes with it. I much prefer the Moto 360's nonmagnetic cradle charger.

The Apple Watch requires an iPhone. It's not waterproof enough. And, at a starting price of $349, it's too expensive.

These gripes aside, the Apple Watch is  fundamentally better and closer to the "right" way to do wearable computing than any smartwatch yet shipped or announced.

Why the Apple Watch is a profound revolution

Unlike other smartwatches, instead of just being a peripheral device for a smartphone — or, in the case of the Samsung Gear S, a smartphone — the Apple Watch also functions as a peripheral to you. Here's what I mean.

There's an invisible bubble around you. Inside the bubble is you — the things that are you and part of you. Outside the bubble is not you — the tools you use and the stuff you have.

For example, your eyeglasses, clothes, tattoos, jewelry, hearing aid, pacemaker and tooth fillings are manmade objects that are part of you. Your company doesn't supply them for you. They're part of what the company gets when it hired you.

Your PC, laptop, desk and so on are not part of you. If you need these for work, your company is probably supplying them.

One type of thing functions as a body part that's part of what you are. The other type of thing is a tool; it's something you use.

The trouble with smartwatches is that they should be part of what you are, but existing models are designed to be tools you use. That's why they aren't compelling enough.

The Apple Watch, on the other hand, is the first smartwatch to get closer to becoming a body part.

Instead of just interacting with your brain with notifications, voice-command facts and text-based communication, it's designed to interact more with your body, your senses.

Eyes rolled during the announcement when Apple started talking about "taptics" — a portmanteau of tap and haptics. But it appears that Apple made enormous effort to combine its so-called Taptic Engine with a tiny speaker inside the Apple Watch to add unified touch and sound to the user interface experience.


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