The smartphone is eventually going to die, and the Apple Watch could be collateral damage

    The Apple Watch Series 3 offers a tantalizing glimpse at a world where we’re not all attached to our smartphones. However, if Apple CEO Tim Cook’s vision for augmented reality comes to fruition, the Apple Watch could be collateral damage. It’s a first version, not the goal.

I’ve been using an Apple Watch Series 3 for the last few weeks, and I’ve surprised even myself with how much I like it.

It’s certainly got its limitations, but I’m finding it to be both fun and useful.

It’s the little things, like being able to check a text message while I’m doing dishes, dismissing a spam email without putting my book down, or knowing that I won’t miss any calls while my phone is in the other room charging.

I know some people find the Apple Watch to actually increase their anxiety, giving a sense that you can never escape your phone and its constant calls for your attention. I totally get that response, what with the constant buzzing. However, I actually find it has the opposite effect: I don’t feel the need to pull my phone out of my pocket and fidget with it, if I’m assured that my watch is making sure I’m not missing anything truly important.

It actually reminds me a lot of something Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a recent sit-down interview: “I don’t like our products being used a lot, I like our products amplifying us,” Cook said.

Apple CEO Tim Cook shows off the Apple Watch.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook shows off the Apple Watch.
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Stephen Lam / Stringer / Getty Images

In other words, he likes it when Apple products are used passively, like when I use the Apple Watch to get tomorrow’s weather while walking the dog.

So, for me at least, the Apple Watch is a beautiful thing. However, given Tim Cook’s own roadmap for Apple, it really seems like the Apple Watch may not be a product that stays relevant in the decades to come.

The new hotness in Silicon Valley is augmented reality (AR), the technology for projecting digital imagery over the real world. Apple has gone full steam ahead with AR, making it a core component of the iOS 11 operating system. Cook himself thinks that AR could be as big as the smartphone itself.

The biggest promise made by AR is a future free of the tyranny of the smartphone. Why carry a separate device, when long-promised AR glasses can project your texts, e-mails, and photos straight into your eyes, right when you need them? It would be the ultimate expression of Cook’s point about amplifying, not distracting.

The Apple Watch offers a tantalizing glimpse of that future, essentially laying out the information I want and need in front of me, sans smartphone.

But if Tim Cook’s vision of an AR-driven future comes through, it’s hard to see how the Apple Watch would fit in, at least in its current form. People aren’t going to stop wearing watches – they’re too much of a cornerstone of the fashion world. Smartwatches like the Apple Watch would be totally redundant, though, when the best way to get your information is floating in front of you, not in your pocket or on your wrist.

In other words, the Apple Watch is a taste of a future where information is literally at our fingertips, but perhaps not the main course. And, in that sense, the Apple Watch seems like an intermediate step in the future of tech.