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The iPhone Killer: The Secret History of the Apple Watch

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The iPhone Killer: The Secret History of the Apple Watch
In early 2013, Kevin Lynch accepted a job offer from Apple.Interestingly, he was not told exactly what he would be doing. For reasons of trade secrecy, he only knew that he would be vice president of technology, and he would be working on something completely new. It’s strange that he was offered that position at all – in his 8 years at Adobe he became famous only for a public argument with Steve Jobs over the fact that the iPhone didn’t support Flash video.
Lynch had a lot to prove and do. On his first day on the job, he wasn’t even given the usual introduction to the company. His new boss, Bob Mansfield, told him to go straight to the development studio and get to work. When he arrived at his desk, he found that the project for which he had been hired was not only on the eve of a deadline, but also behind schedule. A design review with management was due in two days.
There were no working prototypes or software, just experimentation and lots of ideas. What was required of him was this: the senior vice president of design, Joni Ive, had the task of making a revolutionary device that could be worn on the arm.
Arrogance or justified expectation? All at once. Over the past 15 years, Apple has succeeded in three areas of consumer electronics, making it the richest company on Earth. Before the iPod, there were mp3 players, and the iPhone transformed the smartphone from a business accessory to a pop culture attribute. The iPad popularized tablets, overtaking Nokia and Microsoft, who had been working on it for years. For the fourth time, the watch was chosen. And it had to be the first step without Steve Jobs. Expectations and attention to this product will be incredibly high. The watch should be unrealistically cool.
Nothing to worry about, Kevin.
Apple decided to make a watch first, and then figure out what it would be used for (besides showing the time). "It felt like the electronics were moving closer to the body, " says Alan Dye, who leads the human interface group. "We felt like the wrist was a natural place with historical roots."
The question of why we needed technology on the wrist and what problems it was designed to solve, the Watch team had to find answers slowly, inventing different new ways to interact with the device. One thing was clear: the Watch’s success will depend on the interface. It would determine whether the Watch would be showcased in different museums, or whether it would be Apple’s greatest downfall since Newton
Alan Dye is just responsible for how you communicate with the device and how it responds to you.
Even Day’s appearance suggests that he doesn’t miss a single detail. He came to Apple in 2006 with a resume that mentioned working for fashion house Kate Spade and working at Ogilvy Mather with brands like Miller and Levi’s. After working in marketing for Apple, he was given the reins of the "human interaction" group.
Ive started dreaming of an Apple watch right after Jobs died in October 2011. He came up with the idea to Dai and a few designers. At the time, they were working hard on mobile iOS. "We were almost living in a development studio, " Dye says, "several people working on iOS 7. It wasn’t just an OS redesign, it was a company-wide change in tone, marking Jony Ive’s ascent to the Apple design throne. They had to reinvent every interaction, every animation, every feature.
Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels is known for encouraging frantic staff overwork because people tend to get most creative and fearless when they’re tired. Such was the case at Apple’s design studio. When the team was working on smartphone software all day, in the evenings they were already starting to talk about other device topics. They started thinking about what a watch could bring to people’s lives? What new things could be done with wearable devices? Ive got into the science of measuring time, studying how tracking the position of the sun evolved into a wall clock, and how it evolved into a wristwatch. And it all came to fruition in the final product.
The iPhone Killer: The Secret History of the Apple Watch
And in the meantime, the Apple team has come to understand what the watch is for : your phone is disturbing your life. Constant calls, vibrations, checking notifications. "We’re all connected all the time because of technology, " Lynch says. "People are dragging their phones around and looking at the screen a lot. People want the balance of engagement back on the phone. How do we empower them to do that in a more human way?
Phones are invading life. What if you could make a device that you couldn’t use and wouldn’t use for hours? One that would filter stuff and serve as a purveyor of only the right information? You could change the lifestyle of modern life. After 35 years of working on devices that absorb all your attention, Apple has decided to go in the opposite direction.
Apple created this problem and now thinks they can solve it with a square piece of metal and a clasp.
The goal was to free people from their phones, so it was rather ironic that the first working prototype watch was an iPhone strapped on Velcro. As Lynch says, "a very well-designed Velcro."
The simulator showed a life-size image of the Apple Watch display on the screen. There was even a digital scroll wheel. But since finger movements on the screen couldn’t replace actual scrolling, they purposely made a test wheel that was connected to the phone with a cable. The first prototype watch looked like a project from Kickstarter, an obscure iPhone case with a weird accessory.
With this prototype in hand, or on hand, the team could test the basic functions of the device that it could take away from the phone. Sending messages–This process originally resembled sending from a phone, but it took too long on the watch, and it was difficult to keep your hand on the weight.
That’s why Quickboard was invented, a robot that reads messages and suggests a set of appropriate answers. When you are asked whether you want to go to a Mexican restaurant or a Chinese restaurant, "Mexican" and "Chinese" automatically appear in the list, and you just have to choose one of them. And for complicated messages, the team equipped the watch with a microphone for dictation. If the message was too complicated to dictate, they suggested using the phone.
It soon became clear that the most important thing in Watch is to perform actions quickly. Any action should not take more than 5-10 seconds. Something that could not be done quickly was simplified, something was thrown away. The software had to be redesigned twice until it was fast enough.
Take the Short Look function – you feel a vibration, which means you receive a text message. You look at your wrist and see the words "Message from Vasya". If you put your wrist down, the message is not read and the message notification disappears. If you hold your hand, the message is displayed. This is how Watch will know if you want to read the message. And this new technology should make it so that you don’t have to stare at the screen all the time.
This was done with the rest of the applications as well. A Glances screen was developed, a single page with excerpts of information like news or competition results. We redesigned the UI, " Lynch says. We rebuilt all the apps, -messages, mail, calendar, -a number of times."
The iPhone Killer: The Secret History of the Apple Watch
All software is honed to present information in a compressed form. If the flow of information annoys the user, they will take the watch off and it will be the first device you buy and return immediately.
But if the software was complex, the hardware was from another planet – the engineers worked on creating a new kind of interaction. The Taptic Engine is supposed to create the sensation of a finger touching your wrist. Since our bodies are sensitive to touch and vibration, Watch can transmit different information by only slightly varying the effort and frequency of vibration. One sequence of taps means an incoming call, another means an appointment in 5 minutes.
Among the prototypes tested there were many different ones – some were annoying, some were difficult to feel, some felt like the presence of an insect on the skin. Then work was done on representing different events through vibration. How do you communicate a tweet? How – important information? The engineers took various sounds and turned them into vibrations.
The small screen required a new approach to the interface. There’s a digital tweak wheel, and the Force Touch system, where a little more pressure opens up access to additional menus. A new font has been developed called San Francisco, which is easier to read on the small screen than Helvetica. The letters are more square, but with rounded corners – echoing the shape of the dial.
All the people working on the project took seriously the difficult task of designing a device that people wear on their wrist. However, Swiss watch designers do it all the time. Adopting their experience, Apple decided to move away from the standard approach and made three different devices: the Sport, Watch, and Edition. The $349 Sport aluminum watch works the same as the $17, 000 gold one, but Dai believes they are different products.
Experience in the watch industry suggests that personalization is very important – it’s the only way to meet the needs of different people with different capabilities. "If you place something on your body and wear it on your wrist, you can’t ignore it, " Dai says.
Watch isn’t just a cool messaging toy – it’s a fashion statement. Now we have to convince users, drowning in a variety of gadgets, that this thing is worth adding to their lives. If Apple can become a company that sells watches for $17, 000, it can conquer other luxury markets — cars, for example.
The business implications are important, of course-but Watch must solve a problem that matters not just inside Cupertino. If the Watch is successful, it could affect our relationship with devices. Technology distracts us from more important things – friends, amazing moments, another person’s smile. But maybe technology can bring those feelings back to us. Whether Apple is the right company to develop this technology is the ¾ trillion dollar question.
Lynch leans forward in his chair and talks about his children : how comfortable he will be just to look at his watch, realize that the last message isn’t very important, and get back to his family. How little he will become distracted by such things.
Then he gets up – he has to leave, to report something to Dai and Ives. The whole time we were talking he didn’t look at his phone once.

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