The biggest reason I’m massively skeptical of smartwatches in their current incarnations is because many companies seem hellbent on using these devices to bother us with even more annoying notifications. If you want to see an example of us, look no further than Re/code’s report detailing news organizations’ plans to deliver breaking news right to our wrists. The scariest sounding plan comes to us from CNN, which apparently has ambitions to make our wrist vibrate multiple times during the day with “important” news and information.
“CNN will let people personalize their news feeds by picking from among a dozen topics and choosing how they’d like to be notified (a tap on the wrist or no?),” reports Re/code. “Mobile devices already account for nearly half of CNN’s digital traffic, so Chief Product Officer Alex Wellen didn’t need to think too long or hard to recognize the importance of developing an app for a device that’s warn against the skin. ‘It’s important to go to the user,’ Wellen said. ‘No longer can we ask them to come to us.'”
Oh. My. God.
OK, so I know that CNN will give you the option to turn off taps for your notifications. But that doesn’t change the fact that your smartwatch will demand your attention every single time CNN thinks there’s a piece of breaking news you’ll click on.
What sane person would subject themselves to this? The supposed point of the Apple Watch is that it will be less of a distraction to your daily life than your smartphone now is. But if anything, the apps that organizations like CNN have planned are going to be even more intrusive because they’ll be asking for our attention in ways that they currently aren’t if we’re browsing CNN on our smartphones.
This is not to say that app developers won’t eventually figure out how to make smartwatch apps that aren’t overly bothersome — in fact, I think developers will find very quickly that users aren’t going to tolerate an app that makes their wrists vibrate every time Kanye West says something out-ray-gee-us. But there’s absolutely no way I’m even thinking about touching a smartwatch until developers get this key issue sorted out.