Will Apple's Newest Gadget Ignite A Smart Watch Movement? : All Tech Considered As Apple's smart watch goes on sale, there are some big questions about the whole idea of the wrist watch as a computer, including whether consumers come to see them as a luxury or a necessity.
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Will Apple's Newest Gadget Ignite A Smart Watch Movement?

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Will Apple's Newest Gadget Ignite A Smart Watch Movement?

Will Apple's Newest Gadget Ignite A Smart Watch Movement?

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/401714750/401917271" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

There are two ways to look at this Friday. If you listen to publicity surrounding Apple, today is the start of the next great chapter in the history of innovation.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

OK, Steve. On more practical terms, what's happening today is that some customers are taking delivery of a new watch. Apple is hoping to make it a product that people have to have.

Here is NPR's Aarti Shahani.

AARTI SHAHANI, BYLINE: We've asked this kind of question before.

What is the first smartphone you ever owned?

ALEXANDRA SANDERS: I owned a BlackBerry. I forgot what the number was, but it was a BlackBerry. It was a little one from, like, forever ago.

JIMMY PICHOTTO: The one I have now. I just got it, like, a year ago - this one. It's a Nokia.

DESIREE NGAI: It's a Samsung touchscreen. I actually don't remember the model, but...

SHAHANI: But regardless of when Alexandra Sanders, Jimmy Pichotto and Desiree Ngai decided to buy, they all agree, at the time, it was a luxury item. Ngai's smartphone was pink, pretty and kind of dumb.

NGAI: Back then the Internet reception wasn't that great on your phone, so it's actually mainly just to download online games and stuff.

SHAHANI: Pichotto got his against his will. His wife made him.

PICHOTTO: I would just like to call, you know? But she likes - she would just text me. So in order to have a conversation I'd have to text her back, and it'd take me forever.

SHAHANI: Many of us agree the smartphone has become essential. It's liberated us from our desktop computers, changed the way we socialize and learn. Alexandra Sanders...

SANDERS: When I got further into my studies, you know, like junior, senior year especially, I really needed to have a smartphone to do all the research.

SHAHANI: The smartwatch - a minicomputer connected to the Internet that sits on your wrist - does not today carry the same appeal. Pichotto can't imagine using it, literally.

PICHOTTO: I mean, I can barely work this phone. It's like...

SHAHANI: Ngai is confident she could maneuver the tiny screen, but she doesn't want to.

NGAI: I don't need it. I know I personally won't need it.

SHAHANI: You're sure?

NGAI: I think so.

SHAHANI: You're positive?

NGAI: I'm positive for now.

SHAHANI: Smartwatch makers say that'll change. Apple is not the first smartwatch on the market - it's the loudest. And that's helping competitors, like Pebble.

ERIC MIGICOVSKY: We saw a very specific spike when the Apple Watch came out.

SHAHANI: Eric Migicovsky is founder.

MIGICOVSKY: In fact, the rate of sales doubled when the Apple Watch was announced in March.

SHAHANI: The purpose of the smartwatch is unclear. Motorola says its Moto 360 is meant to be fashionable first and foremost. Samsung says its Gear S is meant to help with routine activities when a smartphone isn't nearby, like emails, exercise, turn-by-turn navigation. Migicovsky says Pebble is meant for busy people.

MIGICOVSKY: They don't want to have their whole life locked up, staring down at their phone. They want to be able to live - live your life.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAHANI: This point really struck me a couple nights back at a concert. The woman three seats over, who paid good money to be here, kept glimpsing at her phone. Out in the atrium, a guy was flipping through Tinder, that app that lets you geo-locate singles nearby. Completely uncivilized, I thought. In the old days, he would have just scouted out this room for a hookup. I also met Mary Anne Shaw. She has been to just three concerts in the last 20 years, and she was staring at her iPhone.

MARY ANNE SHAW: I was playing Scrabble with my 93-year-old mother (laughter), so that's how we check in every day.

SHAHANI: Endearing or distracting? The smartphone has created a problem. We'll see if the smartwatch is the gadget to solve it.

(APPLAUSE)

SHAHANI: Aarti Shahani, NPR News, San Francisco.

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