taptic

Matthew Inman wrote a post over at The Oatmeal today about his experience with the Apple Watch. Other than the part in which he’s actually a runner, his experience with the Apple Watch is pretty much the same as mine:

  • It will not replace your iPhone;
  • Battery life is a non-issue;
  • It gets me off my ass,
  • And rewards me for really basic shit;
  • And this is the future.

I’ve resisted doing an Apple Watch review to this point because a) there are a million Apple Watch reviews already and b) with a device of this type, I want to use it for a while before I share my thoughts with the masses.(1) But yeah, I pretty much agree with Mr. Inman.

Except on one point: The taptic engine. Inman writes,

taptic engine

I agree that it could be the death of the ringtone – and oh boy do I hope that’s true – but I wouldn’t call what the Apple Watch does “vibrating.” There are lots of thing out there that vibrate: phones, sports bands, smartwatches, speakers, The Flash…you get the idea.(2)

The Apple Watch is not one of them.

I’ve said since at least high school that rather than buying an alarm clock I would rather pay someone to gently tap my arm and intone just above a whisper, “Hey. Hey…it’s time. Time to wake up. C’mon Bo. There’s coffee out there.” People often joked that having that would cost a lot more than an alarm clock. Turns out that’s true; it cost me around $400.

That’s what the taptic engine does. Imagine the nicest little old lady in the world. She’s stooped and adorable and makes sure you always get a hot meal when you stop by and never busts your balls about how little you stop by. She’s someone of whom Mother Teresa would marvel, “What a gentle soul.”

That’s the taptic engine.

After years of garish ringtones, from that Nokia tone so annoying it became a friggin’ plot point in Love Actually to those über-grating Drooooooooooid tones to your Rihanna songs and, yes, even lightsabers, we finally have a notifier that’s more Buddha than Westboro Baptist Church. More gin-and-tonic than Jägermeister. More Iron & Wine than Aerosmith. More Jarvis than Hulk.

Or perhaps the best way to make my point is this: Apple Watch has absolutely zero functionality for measuring your sleep. This may soon change, now that Apple will allow third-party apps to access the Watch’s processors and sensors. But for the past month since I’ve had my Watch,(3) I’ve worn it while sleeping solely because the taptic alarm is the alarm I’ve been waiting for all my life. I wear it when I sleep because I want it to wake me up.

“Hey. Hey…it’s time. Time to wake up. C’mon Bo. There’s coffee out there.”

It’s not something that vibrates. It’s the most pleasant, most subtle attention-getter out there.


  1. “The masses” here being the three or four people who read this blog.
  2. Keeping it clean here, obviously.
  3. Yes, it feels horribly pretentious and insidiously fan-boyish to capitalize “watch” like that. But…somehow the device commands it. I have no excuse.