Quick Takes: Smart Watches

Following the release of Apple’s own version of the latest wearable tech trend, smart watches, the purpose of this piece of technology has been thoroughly examined and questioned. The Guardian’s Opinion writers take on the topic in this week’s QuickTakes.

Apple’s New Smart Watch Is a Waste of Time and Money for Unwitting Consumers

The smartwatch will change your life, or so Apple and every other tech company says. Except that smartwatches are nothing short of inconvenient. To accomplish even the simplest of tasks for the watch, say, looking at the time, you would have to unlock the screen of the Apple watch. The newest Apple product looks amazing, as do the other smartwatches on the market, but, really, what good is another extremely pricey gadget that barely enhances the smartphone experience?

As CNN Money puts it, “It costs $350. That’s a lot of money to fork over for a device that adds a slight bit of convenience. It doesn’t do anything more than your iPhone does — it just allows you to do some iPhone functions on your wrist.” Another review by Bloomberg Business confirms that “the watch is not life-changing. … It is a wonderful component of a big ecosystem that the company has carefully built over many years.”

The watch functions more as a distraction than anything else. People will struggle a lot with the quantity of notifications popping up on the smallest of screens. It takes some effort to get basic information from the watch, like the time, which is already available on a smartphone anyway. It is not a timesaver like Apple’s advertising campaign promises.

As the cherry on top, the watch and its poor battery life could just die out on users in the middle of the day, depending on individual usage. Now who would possibly want a watch that does not even give you the time after 10 hours of use? The Bloomberg Business review takes it away: “It’s still another screen, another distraction, another way to disconnect, as much as it is the opposite. The Apple Watch is cool, it’s beautiful, it’s powerful and it’s easy to use. But it’s not essential.”

— MARCUS THUILLIER Senior Staff Writer

Smart Watches Present Many Unique Advantages, Will Be Essential Accessory

With Apple’s recent release of its own version of the smartwatch, many users, especially students, have begun to contemplate the usefulness of this device. According to Business Insider, smartwatches will likely account for 70 percent of wearable device shipments by 2019. Despite seeming like a smartphone knockoff, this gadget has its own unique assets. No longer will students be shackled with complaints from pesky professors about reading text messages. During lectures, it will appear as if they are merely checking the time while they actually scroll through important notifications about the weather and how many emails they’ve received.

Even without all the procrastination-inducing perks, there are many other advantages to using a smartwatch. In an interview with Fast Company, Apple CEO Tim Cook claimed that his company will be the first to create a smartwatch that actually matters. The company has given ABC News a tour of its fitness test facility to understand the smartwatches’ impact on health. For students who are ardent athletes or just trying to get into shape, the smartwatch often comes with many fitness options, such as a pedometer for tracking steps, as well as sensors for heart rates and sleep patterns.

Furthermore, public transportation and general means of traveling will be safer. Drivers can check directions with a simple glance at the GPS on their wrist instead of fiddling with a slippery phone, and it even minimizes the risk of being pickpocketed. When asked about the usefulness of the smartwatch, Cook said that none of Apple’s revolutionary inventions, such as the iPod and the iPhone, were perceived as an essential item upon release. While smartphones slip out of back pockets all the time, the smartwatch will remain on users’ wrists as a steady, reliable gadget. Although it may seem pointless to some, the smartwatch will soon be an essential tech accessory.

— CASSIA POLLOCK Associate Opinion Editor

New Watch Threatens Privacy and Lowers Attention Spans

The Apple Watch seems first and foremost to be a symptom of America’s “He With The Most Toys Wins” philosophy. However, introducing this device into the already cluttered world of personalized tech will likely have more consequences for its users than, say, the iPhone 800s (or whatever it is we’re on now). While some of these effects will be highly useful for consumers, as well as app designers/developers, they also pose familiar threats to privacy, as well as the human ability to interface in the traditional sense of the word — that is, with actual faces and not on FaceTime.

“Smart” tech, a myriad of studies show, tends to leave many of its users in a constant state of distraction. In a study of smartwatch users across the globe, researchers at Cass Business School in London discovered that “heavy users of smart watches can develop a ‘phantom watch’ mentality, frequently checking their bare wrist even when they are not wearing the device.” Although smartwatches may seem less intrusive than their smartphone counterparts, they arguably make it even easier for users to ignore real, physical interactions in favor of the flashing screen on their wrists. What’s gained in convenience can be lost in concentration and interpersonal competence.

Furthermore, Apple advertises on its website that the Watch will “measure all the ways you move. … It even keeps track of when you stand up and encourages you to keep moving.” The device also contains four sensors that can measure the user’s pulse and heart rate. The capacity to collect all this data opens many doors for health and fitness applications but also puts users at risk of privacy infringement. Unlike doctor’s records, the information collected by these applications has almost no regulatory protection in terms of privacy, and the apps themselves have varying levels of security. Ultimately, it will be the choice of the consumer whether or not the benefits of the Apple Watch outweigh the costs.

— HAILEY SANDEN Staff Writer