A couple years ago my friends were comparing step counts when they asked about mine.
“Oh no, I care about my privacy,” I told them, acting all high and mighty. “I don’t need those money-grubbers in the Valley tracking my whereabouts or knowing anything about my health. I never set that up.”
My friends laughed at me. “Your iPhone does it automatically, dummy,” one said, opening my phone’s health app—which I had conveniently shoved aside into a grouping of unused default apps, along with Tips, Books, Watch, and whatever else—to show me.
I, the dummy, was floored. I wish I could claim I stuck to my guns. But no. I instantly became hooked. That’s how little I’ve been walking? Yikes, better step it up.
For months before the pandemic struck, I was commuting to work by foot. I would hike each morning through Brooklyn, over that borough’s iconic bridge, to ’s offices in Manhattan’s South Street Seaport. Along the way, I would listen to podcasts, music, or set my thoughts adrift. (I too many and many a time cross’d the river of old…)
I’ve kept up the habit. While I no longer live in the city—ah suburban life, we meet again—I still go for an hourlong stroll most mornings. I’ve given up podcasts in favor of tree-spotting and audiobooks; for those curious, I’m partial to the river birch, and I’m listening to the late David Graeber’s financial opus, Debt: The First 5,000 Years. (Thank you to my colleague David Morris for shaming me into the selection.)
Now on the eve of my 30th birthday, which arrives later this month, I’m finally planning to treat myself to an Apple Watch. Why? Because I want the ability to leave my iPhone, and all its distractions, at home during my neighborhood jaunts. But I also want to retain that addictive step counter and the ability to binge audiobooks. (I’m generally satisfied by Apple’s privacy controls too.)
Yesterday’s Apple event solidified my interest. The debut of two new Apple Watches took center stage. With no iPhone to soak up all the attention this year, the two new models—the premium Apple Watch Series 6 and the lesser Apple SE—shone. The bells and whistles of the former—a blood-oxygen level sensor, an elevation-reading altimeter, and an always-on face display—add to the base price tag: $400 versus $280.
The pandemic has only strengthened the case for such personal health-tech. I suspect I’m one of many prospective customers considering a similar purchase this season. But I’m as yet undecided about which one I should buy.
Help me choose?