Apple details secret history behind the Apple Watch

apple watch debut
Credit: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

The Apple Watch is unquestionably Apple's biggest gamble in years. Not only does the device represent a new product for Apple, it represents an entirely new product category altogether. With the device slated to launch in just about three weeks, all eyes will be watching closely to see if Apple has truly delivered yet another revolutionary product.

Ahead of the highly anticipated Apple Watch launch, Wired today posted an exhaustive recap of the Apple Watch development process, which began in earnest shortly after Steve Jobs' passing.

Apple decided to make a watch and only then set out to discover what it might be good for (besides, you know, displaying the time). "There was a sense that technology was going to move onto the body," says Alan Dye, who runs Apple's human interface group. "We felt like the natural place, the place that had historical relevance and significance, was the wrist."

Indeed, it's hard to argue with that. In contrast, Google Glass, for as cool as it was, was arguably destined for failure merely because the masses have little to no interest in actually wearing futuristic glasses.

With the Apple Watch project green-lit, the team behind it was tasked with coming up with reasons why people might want to own it. While some advanced medical functions were contemplated, the team ultimately came up with an underlying purpose for the Apple Watch -- to help users stop looking at their phones and actually, you know, live and enjoy life.

Along the way, the Apple team landed upon the Watch's raison d'être. It came down to this: Your phone is ruining your life. Like the rest of us, Ive, Lynch, Dye, and everyone at Apple are subject to the tyranny of the buzz—the constant checking, the long list of nagging notifications. "We're so connected, kind of ever-presently, with technology now," Lynch says. "People are carrying their phones with them and looking at the screen so much." They've glared down their noses at those who bury themselves in their phones at the dinner table and then absentmindedly thrust hands into their own pockets at every ding or buzz.

Indeed, in what's arguably an Apple marketing tour de force, one of the key selling points of the Apple Watch is that it will make you look at your iPhone less. It's almost as if Apple is selling us an exceedingly addicting device and then another device to make the first device a little bit less addicting.

The entire Wired piece is a must-read as it provides first-hand accounts of how Apple's watch team came up with the UI. From quick Text responses to the device's digital crown, everything had to be drawn up from scratch to provide for a seamless, intuitive, and above all, easy user experience.

One of the more particularly interesting passages centers on the balance Apple engineers had to strike with regards to notifications. On one hand, you want to provide users with notifications so they can keep tabs on what's going on. On the other hand, you don't want to drown users in a sea of incessant taps and vibrations.

Again, there's much more in the full Wired article that's worth checking out. It's sometimes easy to forget how many engineering hours goes into creating the products that, when they work well, we tend to take for granted.

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