Changing Behavior With Wearables

Four days in, Apple Watch hasn't changed my life, but I can already see it changing little habits. And I see so much more on the horizon.

According to the American Cancer Society, sitting for long periods of time "can elevate your chances of dying from cancer and other major diseases". I'm not sure what all the science behind that is, but Apple CEO Time Cook made sure to hit on those points in relation to the benefits of using the Apple Watch.

When I get tapped by my watch to stand up, I take a walk for a couple of minutes to clear my mind and move around for a bit. It's too early to tell how much of an impact that will have in the long term, but I recently noticed another interesting side effect that has already changed my behavior.

One bad habit that I have is that when I open my phone, I go straight to Tweetbot to check my feed. The actual action is pretty mindless; that's just what I do. Even when I open my phone for a specific purpose, I bee line directly to my Twitter feed. It's an embarrassing admission, but I noticed something different once I started using my watch.

Because the information I find most useful is piped directly to my watch, I find myself using my phone less and less. This means that I only go to the phone when I'm notified of something important that cannot be taken care of on the watch. In consequence, I found that I am checking my feed far less often than I usually do. This is exciting to me from the standpoint that the watch is helping filter out some of the detritus in my daily routines and instead fill it with things that have greater meaning and importance.

What's also interesting is that I think this is a microcosm of other things to come. Because of the display size of the watch, traditional information architectures are wholly inappropriate. Screen real estate is limited, input mechanisms are constrained, which translates into a traditional mobile experience just not working on a wearable. In many cases it may not ever. That's OK, but the implications are that only the things that work best on wearables will get the most attention, while all the other things recede into the background.

How firms measure engagement will also have to change. Many institutions measure effectiveness through visits to a site or how long they spend in an app. With wearables, both those metrics are woefully inadequate and even insulting. Going to your site or opening your app in many regards represents a failure to know what my needs are. Success instead ought to focus on how many times an app solved a need without taking the phone out, or surfaced the right information at the correct time and place. This is where wearables can really shine, but require a whole new level of sophistication that few firms currently pull off. Those that don't get deleted from the watch--I have already done this.

Wearables are ushering in new era of experiences focused on microinteractions. We went through one major phase with smartphones and it's exciting to see it again with wearables. The challenge for the future is making sure that, as creators of these experiences, we get invited to stay on the wearables and not get voted off.

Posted on Apr 28
Written by Wayne Hartman