Some friends have been shaking their heads because I have been unapologetic about my intention to get an Apple Watch. I even woke up at 3 a.m. to place the order. It is expected to arrive sometime in the next couple of weeks: a 48-millimeter stainless steel watch with a classic buckle (like the leather band on this pictured 38-millimeter model). Technically, it's a belated birthday gift from my wife. (Buy her book so she can afford to pay this off.)
In recent days, I've also been to the Apple Store twice to try on watches, and I ordered an extra band, a blue leather loop.
Critics dismiss the watch as a toy, overpriced, a first-generation or beta product, an overhyped object of desire. And they may be right. But as I've on Twitter and Facebook, some people go to Vegas; some people buy beta tech.
I don't always get the latest and greatest gadgets: I'm still using an iPhone 5S and a relatively old MacBook Air. And I'm not a complete Apple fanboy. The current device on my wrist is a Fitbi, and I have found a lot of recent Apple software disturbingly buggy. The new MacBook leaves me cold.
But I do enjoy understanding new product categories: I owned the very first iPod, iPhone and iPad. They all changed my life and how I thought about my work as an editor, to varying degrees. I have owned Palm Pilots and Netbooks, Rokus and Amazon Fire TV, and countless other new gadgets. This is my hobby. Some people drop money on fancy clothes and sports cars. This is what I enjoy, the life of a pre-cyborg.
I could rationalize this as a work-related purchase, since my employer does indeed have a wearable news app in testing, and we'll have to monitor how we present our content there, but I haven't asked and would not expect The Times to pay for a Watch -- certainly not the stainless steel version. And no, it doesn't bother me that better, faster watches will come out in a year or two. I'll think I'll be happy with this version for a while, even after new ones come out, so long as it delivers on its basic promise of getting my face out of my iPhone.
Early reviews have confirmed my hunch that the Watch could improve my daily life, which has gotten increasingly overwhelmed by notifications, messages, and connectivity. I am hoping a device on my wrist will give me a little distance from the tyrant in my pocket. It's too short of a path from a single, often unimportant notification to 15 minutes of scrolling through email, checking Twitter and so on.
Many of us have had the experience of checking the time or a text message on our phones, only to become engrossed in other things, even among other people. Often, when I finally look up, they are all buried in their phones too.
And that has become a big problem I need to solve. I can't chuck my phone. It is a necessity for work and home. But in recent years, I have been getting more involved with Zen Buddhism and sitting meditation, zazen. This experience has made me more aware of the distractions that take me away from the present moment. I am hopeful that the watch will be a better, more refined tool for managing interruptions. For my work, I am always going to need calendar invitations, important emails, notifications, even social media, but I'm hoping to restore a little balance and make that invisible world of communications less intrusive.
The Watch will also replace the Fitbit on my wrist with more comprehensive health and exercise data. I have enjoyed the Fitbit Flex but am always annoyed by its limitations. It doesn't even tell me the time. The Watch will let me use Apple Pay, which my 5S phone does not support. That seems convenient and more secure than our antiquated credit-card technology. I am a fully vested member of the digital economy, rarely using cash and putting everything on a charge card that I pay off each month.
I hope the watch will be a less obvious way to stick out as a tourist in strange places when I'm using maps. I hope to listen to podcasts and maybe give Siri another chance. I do want a place for the most urgent emails, calendar invitations, reminders and news alerts to find me, while leaving the rest on the phone for later.
I want to see what independent developers come up with. (It would be great someday if the Watch could pick up on bluetooth signals from the devices of other people near me, reminding me their names and other details, because I'm pretty bad at remembering faces.)
The hardest part may be deciding which apps to leave off the device. I really want it to be a simpler and more focused experience than using my phone. Just the essentials.
It also looks great on my wrist. I was worried it would be too big, too geeky or, worse, ostentatious. I could be wrong, but I don't think that will be the case, once the first early-adopter excitement dies down. In the end, we'll just see it for what it is: a watch, with some useful functions. And that's fine.