Quickly! Kill the Apple Watch before it lays eggs

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

I've been a believer in that smartwatch thing right from the start, because... I don't know why. The wrist just seems like a good place for mobile computing to expand to. After all, smart gadgets are slowly but steadily replacing the not-so-smart utilities in our lives, so it's only logical for the traditional timepiece to start giving way to a new, more functional version of itself.

Makes sense, only it hasn't happened. The traditional wrist-watch has turned out to be a resilient accessory that doesn't seem to have the slightest intention of going the way of the dodo anytime soon. The last couple of years have been marked by a hearty offensive by smartphone makers who also saw the wrist as the next frontier, but their efforts have mostly been in vain. With other players failing hard, many were waiting for Apple to enter the game, and thus properly kick-start this new niche, inspire interest in consumers, and get things moving. Geeks and nerds from around the world had been waiting patiently for the Watch to walk the oddly long road from announcement to release, and now that the much-hyped smartwatch from Cupertino has finally seen the light of day, been on the market for about a couple of months, we can safely say that the wait has not been worth it.

And when Apple thinks it's ready to explore and exploit a niche with a product that promises to be superior to current offerings, and fails, then I would personally start feeling somewhat skeptical about that niche, even if I tend to be a believer.

Of course, Apple's failure — or lack of success, if you will — by no means proves that smartwatches have no future, but it does show that if there's indeed a success formula for this niche, discovering it would be very, very tough. And once we finally get there, it might turn out that the journey has been more exciting than the destination itself, which, in this particular case, may not be a good thing.


Living with the Apple Watch



As a believer, I was looking forward to living with the Apple Watch. However, once my journey with the sporty wearable began, it wasn't long before I realized that our relationship isn't meant to be. More than that. It was a catastrophe.

Sure, I may be dramatizing slightly, but for someone who happened to have relatively high expectations from Apple's promising wearable, I have to admit that I was left quite disappointed. Let me explain why...

Design


Even though I was never blown away by the Watch's appearance, I remained level-headed whenever I discussed its physical attributes, prior to having the pleasure of wearing it myself. I was still trying to wrap my head around the reasoning that it's supposed to be a unisex accessory, that it's going to mostly display content such as lists, hence the rectangular screen making more sense than a circle...

Eventually, I ran out of excuses once I actually got to hold and wear the Watch. Reinforcing the negative impression was the fact that I got to use the 38mm dark gray aluminum Watch with a black sport strap, which is arguably the dullest configuration possible. Even so, I've also seen the 42mm variant with more fashionable straps, like the Milanese Loop, and the thing is still not as convincing as a traditional, stylish wrist-watch can be. The chubby, squarish, pebble-like body of the Apple Watch is probably to blame for this. It's neutral, yes, but being neutral probably isn't the best thing a wrist-watch can be, having in mind it's such an important accessory when it comes to expressing one's style.


So, we're talking a $350 (minimum) watch that doesn't even look that attractive. Shelling out more for a stainless steel body and a more premium strap will indeed get you a better looking Watch, but your wallet is also going to be hit much harder. And by harder, I mean something in the domain of $650 - $800. You can buy a legitimately luxurious watch for that kind of money – a watch that will probably adhere to your personal taste much more than the unisex Apple Watch. But the even bigger trouble for the Apple Watch is that you can easily get something that looks better and is made of equally high-quality materials for much, much less.

Wearing the Watch in public


Wearing the Watch in public didn't feel good, at least to me. First, by wearing this watch, I felt I projected myself as too much of a geek – more than I actually would like to be. And second, I knew it wasn't a watch that will impress others with its appearance – it didn't impress me, and I was sure others won't like it as well. Exactly zero people said “Oh, that's a fine watch you got there!” A couple of people did notice I was wearing the Apple Watch, and they were like “Oh, what's that? Is that the Apple Watch?” Then I'd hand it to them so they could check it out, and then they would return it quietly a minute later with the indifferent “Here you go.” Ouch, that almost hurt. I guess it didn't actually hurt, because I knew it wasn't my Watch. I was just testing it for a few weeks and that's it. It did not express me, it was “a work-related thing”, as I explained to almost everyone who showed any kind of interest in it. It tuned into my excuse for wearing the Watch. Somehow, I didn't want to be associated with a person who had spent so much on a watch this... unsightly. I'm not sure if the exact problem was that I'd be seen as a squanderer, or simply a guy with a terribly weak sense of style. Both prospects were equally dreadful.

In comparison, my own, $100 non-smart wrist-watch, which arrived a few days after I was done testing the Apple Watch, immediately started turning heads – people noticed it and wanted to take a closer look; pretty much everyone made sure to note that they find my new timepiece quite attractive. Why would I want to switch to something like the Apple Watch then? Oh wait, there's more to smartwatches than how they look. After all, we're talking about computing for the wrist here! Let's see what a minimum of $350 gets you in the way of functionality!

Functionality


Right, so we already know what the Watch is capable of from reviews and other similar articles that explore the device's functionality. What I'd like to share with you now is how useful I found the Watch's features to be in my everyday life.

To be honest, for the several weeks during which I was using the Watch, I felt that it takes too much effort to get it to do something beside its core, most general functions. And even if we assume that its main features are enough to warrant its 'smart' status, there are still issues with the way those work.

To me, the biggest value of a smartwatch is found with its ability to relay notifications to your wrist. However, while the Watch handles this task relatively well, the experience does falter on certain occasions. The prime issue I had was related to email. Some mails just won't fully appear on the Watch's screen. Instead, after the first one or two sentences of text, it simply says that the full contents of the message aren't accessible on the Apple Watch, so you should just go check it on your iPhone... This is such a sad, sad story, every time I tell it, it brings tears to my eyes. But I'm going to stay strong for you, guys, and write on. Good thing I'm not writing on paper, otherwise my tears would have stained the ink.

I assume there's some technical explanation why certain emails are fully readable, while others aren't, but I honestly don't care. A quick web search didn't lead me to anything close to a fix, so I have no intention of digging any deeper, especially when even the “full” experience, when emails display in their entirety, doesn't satisfy me. The Watch can show only plain text emails – no graphics, no HTML, no nothing. And I'm not really sure if that's good enough in this day and age. It does let you know if certain parts of the message (like images or other content) have remained hidden to you, with the line “This message contains elements Apple Watch can't display. You can read a text version below,” which is good to know, but in many cases, that may once again cause you to just have a look at it on your iPhone, which defeats the purpose of wearing this watch. Or does it? Let's see what else it can do!

Phone and Messaging... Doing calls through the loudspeaker is something I very, very rarely do, if at all. It may be useful to some people, but those, I think, are quite a small group. Therefore, I never chose to take my call through the Watch. Instead, I picked up and answered through my phone as usual. I don't have much to hide from colleagues or family members, but I do not want them to hear the entirety of my calls. Hearing only me – my part of the conversation – is fine most of the time, but I prefer keeping the rest of it (what my callers say to me) to myself. It's good that the Watch can do speaker-calls, but I'll almost never use this. Thank you. I will also NOT dictate replies to text messages to my watch, as this would mean that 1) people around me will hear this part of my otherwise private, text-based conversation, and 2) I'll still have to double check if it got each and every word of my reply right, by reading it on the watch's display (meaning that replying when occupied, while driving for instance, would still be distracting). If I have to go through this much trouble, I'd rather take my phone, type out the reply, and hit send.

Apps... The moment I paired the Apple Watch with my iPhone, several of my 3rd-party apps immediately attempted to install on the watch. Of those 3-4 apps, only two managed to completely install, the rest were stuck in some form of “pending installation” state, so they ultimately didn't install for some reason. Shazam was among the few that managed to install fully. Sadly, after I tried to use that same app from the Watch a few days later, it didn't work, but prompted me to reinstall/update it from the phone, or something like that. As I was driving at the moment (one of the few states in which I might prefer to use Shazam from the watch, rather than the phone), it was next to impossible for me to perform such an advanced maneuver like going to the Watch settings app from the phone, and looking for a solution to my issue... What I could do, I admit, was to take my phone, launch Shazam, and seamlessly look the song up. I guess that's one of the big problems I have with the Watch: unlike the iPhone, the Apple Watch obviously doesn't just work. You should expect random prompts, issues, hiccups, all of which contribute to a decidedly non-Apple-ish experience.

Photos, yay! Only thing is, the Watch can host up to 500 photos max, which isn't a problem for someone like me, who doesn't keep tons of photos on their phone, but who would want to view photos on the Watch's tiny display anyway?

Without a doubt, there are some neat ideas and features to be found with the Apple Watch. The Activity app, for instance, introduces this really cool concept of the three rings that you have to complete, representing the amount of stand-up, walking, and work-out time you've had during the day. What I don't like is that I have to know, or remember that there's more of the app that I can explore, if I scroll up/down, or use the force-touch gesture. There are such “hidden” screens and options scattered throughout the entire Watch OS, and I have to admit – I almost always forget about those, seeing that there are no visual reminders about their existance.

Force Touch: promising but rushed


Force Touch is a really promising new technology, but I feel that its execution in the Watch isn't really that good. The major problem I see is the complete lack of indication that Force Touch is available in a certain app. This way, the user can simply forget that Force Touch exists altogether. If you do get into the habit of using Force Touch, it's still a bit of a hit-or-miss thing, as the system doesn't notify you that there's more to explore, should you do a harder press anywhere on the screen. Instead, you need to figure it out yourself by doing random force-touches here and there, until you learn where it works and where it doesn't. Once again, the intuitiveness and 'it-just-works' foundations of iOS are nowhere to be found with Watch OS. And since Watch OS isn't Android, which can excuse its complexity with flexibility and openness, it simply ends up being an inferior product.

Force Touch is a technology with potential, but I do hope that should it come to the next iPhone, Apple's going to give it a lot more thought to make integrating it with the normal user experience smoother.

The Digital Crown: a retrograde attempt at UI


Another new interface tool that came with the Watch is the notorious Digital Crown. While mostly critically acclaimed, I'd like to offer my point of view with regards to its execution. While most sources are correct in their opinion that it functions rather well, with minimal amounts of lag, I'd like to add another perspective to the matter: operating the digital crown doesn't feel as good as operating a touch screen. There's something magical about working with a capacitive touchscreen, right? Once we pick our phone up and check our latest notifications, we always do a few additional swipes across the home screen, just to play around with it, before hitting the power key to put it to sleep.

Using a touchscreen is fun and modern, but rotating the digital crown isn't. It can even come across as a weird, retro kind of thing to do. It's an interface idea that no longer gets me excited, now that I've spent time playing around with it. It's indeed comfy in certain situations, but it just doesn't feel like the future. Plus, its positioning and function as a 'back' button aren't ideal for the purpose.

Battery life is just wrong


The Apple Watch has a pitiful battery life. If you don't charge it every single night, chances are you'll be finding it dead in the morning. Which means you'll have to start your day with a useless smartwatch on your hand. It's not very slow to charge – it'll be ready to rejoin you in all its glory at around noon. That's what I call bad user experience. The good thing for me is that I didn't really get to rely much on any of its features, so finding out it doesn't have any battery in the morning wasn't such a problem, but I can imagine the irritation of someone who's managed to get into the habit of seriously using it.

It all depends. If you're the type of person who thrives in such an ultra-connected reality, the need to put the Watch on the charger each night may not be so much of a hassle, but to me – a mostly mainstream mobile consumer who even has some interest in computing for the wrist, that's simply too much. The functional advantages are nowhere near what they have to be, in order to convince me to go through so much 'battery management', compared to just wearing a normal 'dumb'-watch, the battery of which can last for years.


And while I'm on the subject of comparing the Apple Watch to a regular watch, allow me to explain why I think it doesn't even do its main job very well. While Apple made sure to talk up the Watch's extremely accurate time keeping, it all goes to waste with the Watch not having an always-on state (in contrast to its Android Wear counterparts). Seriously, a watch without an always-on state is no better watch than my smartphone. It relies on a gesture to detect when it should turn the display on: you have to raise and/or turn your wrist so that the Watch's display faces you. I have to admit: it works very well, like in about 95% of the time. Which makes it almost usable. The result, though, is that it leaves you with a bitter taste, as those 5% when it wouldn't work prove to be catastrophic for that whole gesture-based concept. The thing is that there are certain body positions, or angles, in which it simply won't “read” your wrist-twisting gesture correctly. More than once, I experienced its inability to show me the time as I was ineffectively twisting my wrist back and forth numerous times in 'alternative' positions such as laid-back, semi-upright, or lying-to-the-side. In some of those cases, I not only had to repeat the gesture in a more exaggerated way to get it to work, but also to change my whole body position a bit, so it could detect the move and bring up the clock. Yep, terrible stuff indeed.

So much for generation 1


All the issues that I went through in the above lines are more than enough to push me far, far away from the idea of getting a first-gen Apple Watch. As of right now, the Apple Watch is neither the iPhone of the smartwatch biz, nor is it the iPad of the tablet business.

Hopefully, nothing is lost yet, as Apple can make radical improvements to the second generation, potentially reigniting interest in the category. A number of things can be done. First, Apple needs to introduce larger displays than what the current 38mm and 42mm form-factors offer. That will make viewing any type of content on the screen a much better experience, plus it will make interacting with the touchscreen easier, which will mean less digital crown usage. Next, Apple should really think about doing a round watch-face, as such offerings tend to be seen as more elegant. Finally, in addition to a vastly superior battery life, big improvements should also be seen in the software area, with the introduction of features such as an always-on mode, and making UI navigation, including Force Touch, more accessible and organized.

It's easy to understand why Apple's once again going for the premium segment with the Watch – it's just what it does, but it has probably had too much trust in its fledgling product. As I said, this is neither an iPhone-grade product, nor an iPad-grade product. The Apple Watch is noticeably inferior in a number of areas, from hardware and software design, to user interface and usefulness. Because of that, Apple needs to either drastically shake things up with the second generation of the Watch, or drop the price it's asking for it.

Until then, the smartwatch space will be waiting for its true hero device.

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41 Comments

1. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Nice article Ray.

2. darkkjedii

Posts: 31083; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Glad I passed.

24. Salazzi

Posts: 537; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

The author doesn't know what he's talking about. To me it seems like he just had overly high expectations, and because they weren't met, he's s**tting on the product itself. The Apple watch is actually quite useful. More useful that at first is clear. I found myself being pleasantly surprised by it time and again, despite the fact that I was hesitant with myself for spending such an amount on it... but every time I put it on, and it does what it does, I'm again reminded of how worth it it was. Things such as directions directly on the wrist as well as haptic feedback dependent on which direction you need to turn. Notifications on the watch, leaving the phone undisturbed, which is especially great if you're working out and have your headphones plugged in.. the notifications doesn't interfere with your music, or the workout app you're utilizing. An extremely accurate heart rate sensor with polite health recommendations (such as a reminder to stand up every now and then). There's more, and will be even more as Apple develops new things for it. As for the aesthetics of the watch, it looks great! I've had countless compliments on how great the watch looks, as well as how it's able to match what I'm wearing quite well (I have the Milanese loop stainless steel watch). The author shouldn't bitch about the aesthetics, if he skimped out and bought the cheap version with sports band, which obviously is only intended for working out, rather than the more premium bands which are designed to also serve as multi-use. The only way you know if it's good or not, jed, is to actually use it yourself, and for beyond a week. I have a feeling you'd actually like it :)

27. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

I would say for extra money (compared to android wear) you pay for the watch, it doesn't offer much. whether or not the watch looks good depends on ones perspective and choice and the ones which actually good watches costs starting from $950 (seriously apple??, that make price of just band $400). The sport model has ion x display which is easy to scratch, how does making it sport edition makes sense? I do think that trying the watch out is a way to find out if it's good or not, but considering the price tag and quality I get for it, I can't and I won't. My opinion, I know you didn't ask me to try it out.

29. darkkjedii

Posts: 31083; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

I passed mainly due to the reviews I saw. I decided to wait for the 2nd gen, it'll be better in almost every way. I still find it nice looking, and a solid device, but I think the next one will be for me.

28. Busyboy

Posts: 731; Member since: Jan 07, 2015

You say you're glad you passed, yet you pre ordered it...

33. maherk

Posts: 6884; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

But he did say that he canceled his order when he saw early reviews of the watch. He never claimed to own one.

38. darkkjedii

Posts: 31083; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

+1 Maherk. I really wanted one at first, then the reviews forced me to wonder, rethink, and eventually cancel my order. Now if there was one floating around Craigslist for like $200, I'd get it. That would be a really good deal. Haven't found it yet though. The money eventually went to the s6 edge. I call that a great decision.

39. maherk

Posts: 6884; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

You should get the Moto 360 for $150 and give it a try. I have one, and take my word on it, you will LOVE it.

41. darkkjedii

Posts: 31083; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Would it work with either of the phones I have? I honestly haven't even thought about it, although I do think it's nice looking. Another reason I've kinda went south on wearables is the gym. I don't want to tear it up, dings and scratches ya know. Apples watch would be dead after my 8.5 hr shift at work, if I tethered by Bluetooth long enough to actually enjoy using it. The reviews I searched for, were the ones about practical uses for it. They're the ones the ultimately steered me away. I also like the Gear S, but running Bluetooth all day on the edge would kill it before my work day is done. Battery life is my main concern.

42. maherk

Posts: 6884; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

I hear you. Here is a cheap alternative to all those, Gear Fit. Had it for couple of months back when i was in the States, and used to wear it daily while i am at the basketball court. Light, has that futuristic design, superb screen and battery life, and again it is cheap.

36. darkkjedii

Posts: 31083; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

See post 33. Preorders can be cancelled. I'll put it like this, since you're trying to make me out to be a liar. I HAVE ZERO INTEREST IN THE CURRENT APPLE WATCH! I absolutely love my s6 edge though.

3. wallyb09

Posts: 2; Member since: Apr 19, 2010

I love my Android Wear watch... I picked up an Apple Watch and I like it just as much, if not a little more. Not a failure by any stretch of the imagination. The only really bad thing about it is the price.

8. MartinR

Posts: 67; Member since: Jul 26, 2012

Like all Apple products, right?

12. wallyb09

Posts: 2; Member since: Apr 19, 2010

The iPhone 6 and Apple Watch are the first apple products I've owned since my iPod with video I got in 2006. I haven't used apple products long enough to make that statement.

21. Kstud1

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 21, 2015

No not like all apple products, all other apple products stand on their own ipad, iphone, ipod, macbook, this one requires you to have at least an iphone 5 to use and it's only an extention of the phone, way over priced.

9. TheGunnyPT

Posts: 252; Member since: Feb 12, 2015

Been using a Zenwatch for months and I love it. Got to try out the Apple Watch for 2 weeks with the iPhone 6... Felt..Limited..more limited than my Zenwatch, just didnt felt right.. Atleast I did some stuff on my zenwatch like sending quick message reply with wear messenger or look up with stuff on the internet or talk via facebook, check for buses. I dont know for some reason i only used apple watch for notifications and oh i got home at 20 with 10% left..

4. boosook

Posts: 1442; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

The whole proof of your theorem is based on a flawed assumption: that the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch. With that assumption in mind, it's clear that if the A.W. fails, then every other smartwatch must fail. This is what you say at the beginning of the article: "And when Apple thinks it's ready to explore and exploit a niche with a product that promises to be clearly superior to current offerings, and fails, then I would personally start feeling somewhat skeptical about that niche," So, if the AW fails the whole niche must fail. The problem is that, as I said, the proof is based on a wrong assumption.

10. Ray.S

Posts: 457; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

The Apple Watch wasn't so much supposed to be the best smartwatch, as it was supposed to be the breakthrough model that will make the category popular among a wider audience than the handful of geeks who're already into Android Wear. It did sell more than all Wear devices combined, but has thus far failed to truly kick-start a revolution.

23. imran86

Posts: 208; Member since: Sep 14, 2012

Which non-smart watch did you get? I am in search of one right now and may like the one you got.

31. SamDH1

Posts: 419; Member since: Apr 21, 2015

What is crazy though is how many apple watches have gone for resale on EBay and Amazon etc. It's just too complicated for a smart watch. I tried my dads' for a day, and it was no way easier or more useful than my android wear, which I was surprised with because Apple had so long to investigate what people wanted from Wear, and the idea of being able to do more compared to Wear seemed like a good thing.... But it does more gimmicks than useful stuff. Wear does the same useful stuff, but better, with no gimmicks, which is a complete flip around for Apple and Android

5. SIGPRO

Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

The apple watch is a piece of sh!t, would not wear it even if it was free!

7. iusshpandeh

Posts: 250; Member since: Jul 23, 2014

But I'll have one if I could get one for free so that I can sell it to some iSheep later and get another Android Wear!

22. SIGPRO

Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

Hahah yes you are right :)

11. Kruze

Posts: 1285; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

If I got it for free, I would sell it off and get myself a new phone, and stick with my Casio wrist watch.

25. Salazzi

Posts: 537; Member since: Feb 17, 2014

You call it a piece of s**t without having tried it. That makes YOU the piece of s**t.

6. iusshpandeh

Posts: 250; Member since: Jul 23, 2014

many were waiting for Apple to enter the game, and thus properly kick-start this new niche, inspire interest in consumers, and get things moving"""" Really? I don't think so! Apple played catch up here too, they didn't want to loose all possible smartwatch market to other manufacturer! Apple watch brought nothing new except Force Touch and hefty price tag!

13. tedkord

Posts: 17358; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

It's not that they were expecting Apple to kickstart the new niche by coming out with a revolutionary new idea. Everybody pretty much expected the iWatch to be a rehash of what existed. It was expected to kickstart the new niche because Apple. Apple has enough diehards fans who buy simply because of the logo that it was guaranteed to sell more than anyone else. Everyone expected a great looking watch, that functioned really well. What they got was pretty far removed from that. So, while the hardcore Apple fans ran out to buy it and were (of course) blown away, everybody else was "meh." I just ordered a Galaxy Gear S. I'm going to give it a try, but I suspect I'll just wind up selling it. I don't see any compelling use for any smartwatch, plus I hate the feeling of anything on my wrist. I think they won't be compelling for many years to come, the tech just isn't there yet.

18. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

Gear S is a good device but now all most a year old. Don't expect a lot of software updates. Few good things that make Gear S better are 1. Tizen, might sound opposite but it performs smooth as apps being ran on native OS rather than on VM 2. Can be used as standalone device. It got problem with it charger though, It breaks. Gear A (orbis) will be interesting watch this year, do try that out too.

17. Ruturaj

Posts: 1484; Member since: Oct 16, 2014

Hefty price tag is the only thing which made difference and that wasn't in android wear. Android watches (and even tizen watches) are very good with price tag (when launched) of $200 to $350. Now it will go higher because of apple's new trend.

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