09/11/2014 09:44 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Is the Apple Watch Really a Breakthrough?

Is it true that the new Apple Watch is a "breakthrough in user interface" as Tim Cook declared (September 2014)?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.


Answer by Abhinav Sharma, I work in tech

I'm going to put my money on a yes, assuming it has enough battery to get through a day.

Here's why -- Apple has taken into account a range of input, output and fashion considerations specific to the form-factor instead of just putting a miniature phone on your wrist. That's what this makes the Android Watches seem like in hindsight.

Here's a few select highlights along those lines.

Rich Haptic Response

This part depends on execution but if they pull it off, I think this is a real leap forward in haptic feedback.

Walking directions on the Apple Watch will give you different taps on the finger for left and right. You don't clumsily stare into a screen all the time and run into the person in front of you, this is so elegant (if the GPS works)!

With tap messages, people can develop a whole micro-language for 1:1 communication. You can send someone a short message like "I'm on my way to pick you up" without them even looking away from what they're currently doing.

The only risk this runs is an overload of notifications but when used right this brings into play a much better version of what was previously tried with phones doing varying haptic feedback but ultimately failing because the precision was lost in the pocket.

Digital Crown Interaction

Tapping is great when you have to click between a couple of things but when scanning through a lot of data, having a fat finger constantly in front of the screen is annoying. Imagine your finger covering up half the screen when scrolling through lots of messages.

The crown eliminates this problem and also serves as a fashion bridge between the classic and modern. I could've imagined them using a capacitive sensor on the rim but it was likely more prone to accidental touches.

Tap vs. Press Detection

Input is a very scarce resource on this form factor so this whole new ability to tell a tap from a press virtually doubles the number of touch interactions possible and gives developers a lot of breathing room for designing new interactions.

Fashion & Identity

Watches are as much about self-expression as they are about timekeeping. The Android watches did a good first stab at not looking like gadgets but functional things but the Apple Watch is actually elegant, fashionable and has enough permutations that you can express yourself in its watchfaces and look.

The gold doesn't hurt either for those who care to go down that route.


I loved the data my Fitbit would give me but it was simply not vital enough to other aspects of my life that I remembered to keep track of it. What's exciting to me is the fact that the health sensors are one part of a larger ecosystem that is indispensable for other reasons.

I also think health along with low-weight, well timed haptic feedback is very promising. For example, I really like how the Lumoback gives you a gentle nudge when your back posture gets bad.

Apple Pay

If they nail the execution, and early signs are that they will, paying by tapping your wrist is so promising!

Both physical and online payments are promising but the watch always being on your wrist is what's so appealing to physical shopping. Apple having ubiquitous brands like McDonalds, Disney, Walgreens and Duane Reade, coupled with just working out of the box with cards from banks most people have already is what makes this really promising to me.

I think Apple Pay is likely to succeed because it's a simple extension of today's world instead of too radical of a paradigm shift like Square Wallet.

I think Android Watch actually did a pretty good job of setting in place a good set of UI paradigms for the form factor, mostly by limiting what a watch should and should not do.

Where I think Apple blows it out of the water is by building great hardware for this form factor, playing to their strengths. This is the most excited I've been about an Apple product since the iPhone in 2007.

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