I’m not exactly a reluctant Apple customer. I own almost one of everything Apple makes, or two or three of them. But I will not be buying their watch just yet. I have a few boring reasons, but only one that matters much: the deal-breaker I knew about before the watch was even a rumour, because I’ve already tried wearable electronics (Pebble, Fuel Band, Basis). I’ve been waiting ever since to see if Apple would concoct an elegant solution.
Apple did not.
Before I reveal my deal-breaker, let’s get one small thing out of the way: it’s not because I can’t see the point of it. The point, obviously, is to put some tricorder-y crap onto your wrist. I find it easy to imagine many, many things that I would like a wrist-mounted gadget to do and be. Easy.
I’m not buying an Apple Watch yet because Apple didn’t improve notification management. They did not make it much easier — or easier at all — to control which notifications appear, when they appear, and where they appear. Their current notifications management is still a mess on my Macs and iThings, a clutteration of notifications I do not want, or at times I do not want them, or on devices I wish would shut up, or too loudly when I need it to be quiet, or too quietly when I need them loud, or whatever. After a year of fiddling, I still can’t trust that a call or message from my close friends or family will actually punch through my do-not-disturb mode: that’s failed so many times I’ve lost count. Meanwhile, a dozen times a day I am annoyed by some trivial notification I could have sworn I’d opted out of. Notifications have become synonymous with “annoyances.”
There is no chance I will voluntarily complicate this cacophony of false positives and negatives with a watch that taps my wrist. No matter how graceful the Taptic Engine is. Stephen Levy:
The Age of Notifications is about to face its biggest mess yet, as alerts move from phone screens to watch faces.… The result will be incessant interruptions for things not worth being interrupted for. Virtually every single reviewer of the Apple Watch complained that to avoid this particular hell, he or she spent hours paring down their notifications to the bare bones.
Hours? It sounds absurd…but it’s exactly what I’ve seen wrangling my notifications over the last couple years.
John Gruber thinks “some sort of AI for filtering notifications” might be a “useful” improvement over rule-based notifications. But filtering is also a bag of hurt just like spam filtering. Floating the idea even casually confirms the depth of the problem and makes a sane solution sound far away.
Meanwhile, I’ll be watch watching with mild interest. Jean Louis Gasseé’s snarky “An Apple Watch Meta-Review Reimagined” was the smartest and most amusing thing I’ve read about it so far.