At Apple’s first event for the Apple Watch in September, the company made a big deal of the “digital crown” – the dial on the side of the watch.
On stage, CEO Tim Cook said, “As it turns out with every revolutionary product that Apple has created, a breakthrough in user interface was required.”
He then rattled off the list of past Apple products that created new input methods: The mouse with the Mac, the scroll wheel with the iPod, and multi-touch for the iPhone.
He put the digital crown in the same category. “It’s a very simple and amazing and elegant input and navigation device,” said Cook.
Considering the importance of the crown, it curiously got no play at Apple’s second event for Apple Watch in March. Cook didn’t mention the crown. During on-stage demonstrations, the crown didn’t seem like it was that important.
There might be a reason that Apple barely talked about the digital crown in its second presentation.
“I think they have totally oversold crown. It’s basically a button,” said Farhad Manjoo, New York Times columnist. We record a weekly podcast, and during this week’s podcast we talked about the watch.
He said he might change his mind if he gets to use the watch for longer, but during his time testing a demo unit at the event, he didn’t think the crown was all that great. He thought the touch screen on the watch was more useful.
The crown allows you to scroll lists, but a touch screen is better for that. It also allows you to zoom in on pictures since there is no pinch to zoom. But, Manjoo didn’t think the zooming was all that helpful.
Here, you can see Kevin Lynch, the Apple executive in charge of Apple Watch software scrolling with the touchscreen, not the digital crown:
“In general, I did not think the crown was that useful in the time I used it,” says Manjoo.
This isn’t the worst thing in the world for Apple or the watch. It’s just interesting that Apple featured the crown as a revolutionary input mechanism in line with the mouse when it turns out it might now be that at all. It suggests that Apple itself is still figuring out how people will be using the watch.
You can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes here. Or just look for it in your favourite podcast app under “Jay and Farhad”. Here’s an RSS link to the show. We use SoundCloud as a host, so you can listen to the show over there, too.
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