Why would I want an Apple Watch? is the question that pretty much every tech fetishist has been asking ever since the device was unveiled four months ago. As a Pebble user, I like the idea of receiving highly tuned notifications on my wrist so that I don’t have to fish my phone out of my pocket so frequently. And Digital Touch sounds fun, letting me send throbbing heartbeats to my wife’s wrist and poorly drawn penises to Nilay — but that’s just novelty and will surely get boring in time.
What I’m really waiting for are those killer, third-party apps developed with actionable notifications and “Glances,” Apple’s quick-look feature meant to save time. Then maybe it’ll be easier to justify a starting price of $349. Unfortunately, WatchKit was only released in November, and Watch isn’t scheduled to start shipping until April. And while Nike, Instagram, and American Airline apps have all been teased, none have been shown. That's where the Letter Society comes in.
The Letter Society is a design collaborative and blog that instigates regular creative challenges. Previous challenges have included band posters, family crests, stamps, and some rather creative redesigns of the famously stark Google homepage. The 20th challenge to its design community was to “create a use for the new Apple Watch.” A tall order, to be filled before the “market is flooded with endless adaptations of applications.” Some of the best contributions can be found below.
Ryan Brownhill, a 22-year-old designer at IBM in Austin, chose Uber for the design challenge, focusing on the ability to seamlessly move from the watch to iPhone and back. The Apple Watch concept was therefore designed as an extension to the app, "not the entire app crammed into your wrist." Heavy lifting features like splitting fares and profiles are therefore left to the smartphone. Couple this with Apple Pay and you might never have to use your iPhone during the entire journey.
Nathan Boyd, a 24-year-old designer living in Southern California, wants to make Swarm useful on the wrist while avoiding "pointless minifications" of the existing app. As such, he focuses on easy check-in, sticker usage, and location selection allowing Foursquare users to leave their phones pocketed. You can also see which friends are within a pre-defined radius, presumably so you can avoid them.
Fran Palmer, a 25-year-old designer at FCB in Chicago, came at this challenge from a very dark place, noting that most apps are "completely useless on a watch," and the Watch itself is just another piece of tech to "get hooked on." Fortunately, she was overcome with the desire to communicate like a spy with international criminals, using her Google Translate concept to facilitate real-time communications. It'll also do simple spoken and written word translations while a hard tap on the Watch will fave a translation for quick access later. I look forward to the first tourist that demands a French waiter speaks into his Watch.
Jake Nolan, a 25-year-old designer at Five & Done in California, also decided to keep things simple with his Mint concept, choosing to focus on reminders of upcoming payments and an overview of remaining bills. Users can long-press to pay bill alerts, view a bill, or dismiss it as paid. Honestly though, the last thing I want my watch to nag me about is my depressing student loan payment, so I think I’ll pass if this does come to fruition, as useful as it seems.