The Apple Watch is coming and the hurdles go well beyond the commercial to cultural norms and creating a user interface that makes interactions more human.
That chore a tall order and the cultural change may be bigger than even the functional question about why smart watches are even needed.
In Wired's account of the creation of the Apple Watch the theme that sticks out is that Apple's employees are tired of the "tyranny of buzz," which refers to the notifications, texts and calendar invites.
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- People walk down the sidewalks looking at their smartphones (and nearly get hit by busses in big cities).
- At dinner, faces are buried in screens.
- Family time is really a set of four people sitting in a room looking at their smartphones.
- Time that would be spent being present is now used to take a selfie for Facebook.
Wired's tale quotes Apple exec Kevin Lynch noting that the company wants to provide that iPhone level of engagement in a way "that's a little more human."
The idea behind the Apple Watch---and presumably other smart watches---is that you can glance at a text, realize it's not important and keep the family time.
Here's the catch with Apple's worthwhile goal: You need the smartphone to make the smartwatch. So the smartphone acts like a server. There's no convergence here and you're now toting two devices to have a more human interaction. It seems rather obvious that perhaps the best way to have a more human interaction is to leave the smartphone and smartwatch behind.
The other challenge is that the Apple Watch aims to fix a problem most Americans don't think they have. According to the Pew Research, 64 percent of U.S. adults own a smartphone, up from 35 percent in 2011. Of those people, 46 percent say that the smartphone is something they couldn't live without. Fifty-four percent say the phone isn't always needed.
Does Apple Watch cater to the 54 percent who doesn't think the phone is always needed or the 46 percent unlikely to leave their iPhones ever?
The humanity angle is an interesting one to ponder with the Apple Watch, but also highlights the reality that no one quite knows how this product will fly in the long term. Ford CEO Mark Fields this week asked reporters how they thought the Apple Watch would do. There were a few snide remarks as well as a few supportive. Fields said: "Yeah I have no idea either."