For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been wearing a Pebble smartwatch to evaluate the usefulness of notifications on my wrist.
The promise of a wrist-based notification system is one of glanceable information. “There’s no need to be rude and pull your phone out,” the wearable market says. “Just discretely look at your wrist!”
What I’ve discovered is that there are lots of situations that looking at your watch is also considered rude.
Several times over the last couple of weeks, my watch has gone off in a meeting. Upon looking at it, I’ve had two different people ask me if were okay on time. Thankfully, neither person was offended, but the opportunity for misunderstanding was present.
While thinking about distractions caused by wearable tech, the vibrate motor on the Pebble comes to mind. While I’m betting the Apple Watch is more discreet, the Pebble’s vibrator is audible when it goes off. In a quiet room, you can hear it pretty clearly.
That — coupled with the fact that it barely looks like a watch — makes people notice it. I’ve gotten a few questions about it, which I didn’t expect when I strapped it on the first time.
All of this reminds me of how it was to carry an iPhone in the early days. Many users — myself included — felt self-conscious about pulling it out in public. The smartwatch wearer has the same social issues to overcome.