Developing Perspective #201 – On Expedition

The one where David Smith is going on “expeditions” to be ready for the Apple Watch. Where expeditions is code for buy toys to play with!

Apprehensive that he doesn’t have a great idea about what a user would want, and then the manner in which they would try to use them.

1) Jawbone UP 24

When you start to have a device which always on you, you have a different level of insight into your activities. Much clearer and more complete.

Lacking: Not having an actual interface is awkward. Makes sense for simplicity, but… Sleep tracking is really interesting and compelling. …Objectively. “Why am I tired? If it is, great. If it isn’t, is there something else going on. Some other choice I’ve made which is causing this lack of energy.”

We’ve used several of these. They either keep breaking, although that problem seems to be solved, or we loose the end cap. The charging mechanism (custom connector) is also a bit rough. The software is much improved, but overall, the fitness tracker software is really frustrating in it’s emphasis on design over usability. For example, everyone and I do mean everyone has dieted at one point or another. Eat this, don’t eat that. This much of X, that much of Y. But those concepts are not represented anywhere, in a useful, in the apps that come with the fitness trackers. Take Atkins, a hugely popular diet which is foundational for many others, and it’s concept of net carbs: carbohydrates minus fiber equals net carbs. Super easy, but can you represent it? Nope. I’ve tried over a dozen food tracking apps. Not one.

To be fair, the UP app is one of the best. Just not useful enough.

2) Microsoft Band

Awful name, but is really “kinda cool.” Can’t interact with notifications which is really limited. It’s really exciting to think about what might be possible with deep integration with iOS.

These devices untether him from his phone. This allows him to disconnect a bit from his “Internet life.” It’s odd and awkward when you have to have your phone always with you. This changed quickly once he got his UP band.

Strongly reduces that latent urge to look at his phone. “Do I need to check it? Do I need to check it? Which is probably a sign of a problematic mindset.” You don’t worry about it quite as much. I know that you’re not going to miss anything.

> “This is more compelling and useful than I would have initially guessed.”

I agree with that. Frankly I was really surprised by how cool the Band looked. Too bad it’s way late to the party. His points about interaction and limitations caused by Bluetooth & lack of deep integration are spot on.

3) Pebble

Seemed one step too far back.

4) [Withings Aura[( and Nike Hyperdunk shoes

Not mentioned, but must be considered if you’re looking at this category are specific purpose devices. The general case is going to get consumed by Apple Watch and Google Gear devices. It’s the secondary specific use cases, sleep tracking and sports come to mind, where there’s opportunity to do really interesting work without the spectre of having to compete with gigantic companies with gatekeeper privileges. Nike realized this when they shut down their Nike Fuelband. (Really the perfect “band” device with great app support. Did exactly what was needed and did it well.) It was really shrewd of them.

Lot’s of speculation re Apple Watch SDK. He’s excited about what it could be.

Think about this: “If I had a device on my wrist, what would I want it to do?”I’ve been dreaming about this for years… Forever really…