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Mar 8, 2015

Apple Watch might be the first Smartwatch which is actually Smart


Getting closer to the Apple Watch event and naturally I have a lot to say about it... 

One of my biggest complains about current Smartwatches is that they wear you out eventually as they create an indigestible notifications flow. Notifications which, unlike with smartphones, you cannot ignore. 
They will buzz, rotate, they will sometimes (like in Android Wear) stay in the queue until you manually dismiss them even if the topic is no longer relevant, they will make your life miserable until you either learn to ignore them or disable them. 

Either ways you lose, technology wins

"Wrist Worthy Notifications" 
You see, currently most Smartwatches allow you to either enable notifications from a certain app or disable them completely. 
While it makes sense for some apps to be fully enabled, it could have been much nicer if the watch could tell by the context of the message, the app, and your state & location, if a given notification is "wrist worthy" or not. 
What I'm talking about is a true smart mechanism that will reduce the number of interrupts to the minimum and make the watch more than another glance technology (such as notification centers and lock screens) which we already have in our phones. 

Examples

Scenario #1: I'm working on my laptop handling emails. A new email arrives, I get a notification for it on my laptop, on my smartphone lock screen, and feel a short buzz around my wrist. If only the watch could tell that this email is already open in front of me on my laptop, that could save a redundant buzz.  

Scenario #2: I'm working out in the gym. The watch knows I'm working out. It is measuring my performance. With that in mind, it should filter most of my notifications (such as weather alerts, work related emails, and others) to create a more enjoyable workout experience. 

Scenario #3: I'm placing my phone in a bag (never happens BTW) and both the phone and the watch switch to an "aggressive mode" in which most of the notifications are presented on the watch because I don't have the phone next to me. Sounds hard to implement but it's not because it's all a matter of distance between the two and the state of the smartphone. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There will be many different scenarios calling for different behaviors of the watch. They should be based on location, activity, context, and other factors. 

Apple Watch to the rescue(?)
Apple is guiding developers to limit their app usage to 10 seconds. It makes sense, as the watch needs to mostly allow users to react to incoming interrupts and quickly "eliminate" them or decide to handle them (as I wrote in my article: Skeptical about wearables? Here are 5 ways wearables will change your life for good). No one wants to start a long activity with the watch, especially when he has a smartphone nearby, but a quick reply, dismiss, or action makes more sense. 

Of course, Apple is also thinking about battery life (which according to everyone's assumptions is going to be disappointing at first release) and limiting apps time will help preserve some energy. 

Summary
We are living in a busy world. We check our smartphones more than 100 times a day and our daily feed includes tens of different sources; work related, entertainment, news, health and social life. It's going to require a fine art to know how to prioritize all of those notifications and more than that to be able to filter different sections based on the context of the user, and the state of each device (phone, watch), but I believe this will be the key to unleash the true potential of Smartwatches beyond being another "glance" technology. 
This is the key to make Smartwatches truly smart.  


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