Time for the Modern Era

by Affinity Consulting Group on August 21, 2018

By Jeffrey Schoenberger, Affinity Consulting

When Apple announced their first Apple Watch in September 2014, they weren’t sure what uses people would find for it. They billed it as a fitness tracker, a way to connect with others, and a great time piece. Two years later, with some market experience under their belt, they released watchOS 3, which fundamentally rethought some of the watch’s core functions. Though nearly four years into the smartwatch era, I think we’re only now starting to see the product category’s maturation.

When asked by fellow attorneys whether they should buy a smartwatch, my starting point for the conversation is whether the would-be wearer uses an iPhone or an Android phone. There are two reasons for this: 1) as with the phone market, the iOS smartwatch market is simpler and more uniform at the expense of choice; and 2) Apple Watches contain some functionality not generally available on Android-centric smartwatches.[1]

As an avid user of both an original Apple Watch and the newest Apple Watch 3 (with built-in cellular), here are the features I find useful in a smartwatch.

  1. Notifications: I expect that we’ve all been overwhelmed with the notifications our phone apps generate. Everything from serious weather alerts to dopey promotional ads pop up on our phones, chirping and chiming away. My initial reaction to having that experience on my wrist was terror. Fortunately, you can cull the list of apps and types of notifications that are allowed to reach your wrist. When setting up an Apple Watch you can either have the watch notifications mirror your phone’s behavior or allow only selected apps to disturb your wrist. Most notifications I receive require only a quick glance, so I learn what I need to know without reaching for my phone, and perhaps becoming distracted from work.
  2. Phone Calls: Apple Watches and many Android watches notify you of incoming phone calls. For folks who thoughtfully leave their ringers on silent and carry their phone in a bag or purse, call notifications ensure that you don’t miss an incoming call from a significant other, or a child’s school or daycare. For those with an Apple Watch, or certain other smartwatches paired with an Android phone, you not only get a call notification, but you can answer the call and speak with the other party from your wrist a la Dick Tracy, if the watch and phone are on the same wifi network. And if you have an Apple Watch 3, you can make and receive calls even without your iPhone nearby because Watch 3 connects directly to the cellular network and shares the same phone number as your iPhone.
  3. Text Messages: Everything mentioned above regarding phone calls applies to text messages as well. All iOS and Android watches present notifications of received texts. With many Android watches, you can reply to texts from a preset list of responses. With the Apple Watch, you can select from preset responses, but can also dictate text messages to the watch, and send emojis straight from your wrist.
  4. Payments: All Apple Watches, and a subset of Android watches, support electronic payments through Apple Pay and Google Pay, respectively. Instead of fishing for your phone, just bring up the payment card on your wrist and tap it against the reader. Especially with the advent of chip readers, and their attendant slowness, electronic payments via smartphone or smartwatch are a pleasure.
  5. Fitness Tracking: Pedometers and other fitness trackers predated smartwatches. But, like smartphones before them, which subsumed the market for everything from alarm clocks to video cameras, smartwatches have absorbed all of the capabilities of single-purpose fitness trackers, while improving on the core functions of said trackers. Here iOS and Android are near parity. Both watch platforms track calories burned, steps taken, and offer “stand/stretch” reminders. On the Apple Watch, and some Android and other smartwatches, third-party apps extend this functionality to include sleep monitoring (wherein wearing the watch overnight tracks restfulness versus movement) and workout tracking (wherein you can track exercise repetitions and sets from your wrist).

Ultimately, the question of whether to get a smartwatch comes down to peace of mind and a sense of freedom. I like being able to move around the office, meet with coworkers, and go about my day without feeling like I must take my iPhone everywhere I go. If I have a meeting on my calendar, my watch reminds me in advance the same way a notification would appear on my phone or Outlook. If a colleague or family member tries to reach me, I get a notification of the text or call.

I’ve only encountered two downsides to my use of a smartwatch: 1) yet another electronic device to charge; and 2) while we’ve become accustomed to people staring at their phones and walking into traffic, fountains, and open manholes, I’ve had to remind myself that nothing says “I’m over this conversation” like looking at your watch. I’ve had to keep that mind; trying to balance my increased convenience with courtesy to others.


[1]                        In addition to just an iOS/Android divide, there are third-party smartwatch platforms that work with iPhones and Androids, running their own operating systems, such as Samsung Gear and Fitbit. These watches are good choices for Android phones, though the available apps and level of phone interaction vary among brands. If you have an iPhone, I strongly recommend an Apple Watch

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