Is Apple’s Smartwatch Smart Enough to Make Travel Faster and Easier?

Apps Will Determine Whether Device is Just Another Pretty Face or a Useful Tool

By Paul Riegler on 11 September 2014
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Apple’s new smartwatch can buy a Frappuccino or Big Mac, monitor the wearer’s pulse, and help with workouts. The question remains, however, as to whether it will prove useful when traveling.

At the launch event, Apple demonstrated how travelers can use the watch to pay for coffee, board a plane using a Passbook boarding pass, enter a hotel room, or get directions while strolling about.

From a user perspective, paying for something with the watch is almost gimmicky (at the launch, in order to demonstrate how Apple Pay would save time, Apple showed a somewhat unrealistic video of a woman searching through her handbag to find her credit card) but not having to carry a hotel key and getting useful directions at a minimum sounds appealing.

Apple’s Maps app will provide travelers with walking directions on the wrist, buzzing for each turn, this is something that Google Maps already does on Android Wear smartwatches. Not walking down the street with nose in smartphone screen is not only smart but may also save lives. The number of pedestrians who are admitted into the emergency room each year with a concussion after collisions with lamp posts on the street has doubled each year for the past five years. More serious are instances of people wandering into traffic doing the very same thing.

Apple also showed an American Airlines app that will display your boarding pass, à la Passbook, and can also track your baggage, although this is nothing that a smartphone app couldn’t do if programmed for it.

Starwood Hotels’ watch app will allow guests to check in using the device and also unlock the guestroom door by waving the watch over the lock. This feature, incidentally, will be available at all W Hotels across the globe next year.

Finally, if you are wondering where you actually parked your car, BMW’s watch app will offer directions back to the car and, if it’s an electric vehicle, display the car’s charge level.

Map directions and keyless entry aside, much of what the Apple Watch offers is easily accomplished with apps or even old-fashioned room keys. As time goes on, we’ll find out if it is truly a gamechanger or just another pretty face.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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