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Condé Nast's First Apple Watch App Tells You When It's Time to Eat

A "smart timer" from Epicurious won't change the world. But it will make money for the publisher, and it might help you make a better steak.

Conde Nast
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

The last time Apple introduced a brand new piece of hardware, Condé Nast thought it might help reshape the magazine business.

Five years after the iPad, the magazine publisher (which owns Bon Appetit and Epicurious along with Vogue and Vanity Fair) has more modest goals for the new Apple Watch: It thinks it might help people cook a steak.

Here’s the first app Condé Nast has created for Apple’s new device, which starts shipping this week — a “smart timer” that syncs with recipes provided by Condé’s Epicurious site:

Now that you’ve watched the video, you’ve pretty much got the gist of this one: You pick a recipe out of a couple dozen basic options from the Epicurious app on your iPhone, and then use the watch app to remind you of cooking time, offer some pointers and provide a visual reminder about what the finished product should look like.

Since both the iPhone and the Apple Watch already have their own timers built in, it’s hard to argue that this is much more than an interesting tweak — instead of manually reminding yourself to flip that steak in a couple minutes, the app automatically sets the reminder for you. Whether you see that as useful or frivolous may be a pretty good Rorschach test for the way you view the Apple Watch, period.

The Epicurious team isn’t claiming that the timer is going to change the world, either. It’s something Eric Gillin,’s executive director, assembled in less than two months. And the finished product is scaled down from his team’s initial ambitions to put the entire recipe on the watch, once it realized that Apple wants people glancing at the device, not gazing at it.

“When we saw [Apple’s] usability guidelines, it became clear that this is something that you look at for half a second,” Gillin says. “You’re not putting a recipe on it.”

Five years ago, Condé Nast and the rest of the magazine business spent a lot of time, money and ambition building iPad apps in the hope it might create a new paradigm for digital magazines. But no one’s making those claims now. This is one of several wearable ideas Epicurious has played with — a never-launched Google Glass app was another — and since no one on this team has actually used an Apple Watch outside of an Apple store, this falls firmly in the “experiment” category.

But one good thing about being Condé Nast is that even experiments can be revenue opportunities. The sales team at Condé’s “Food Innovation Group,” which encompasses both Epicurious and Bon Appétit, has signed up Lexus as the app’s exclusive sponsor.

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