This week, Apple introduced the world to the Apple Watch. Opinions are mixed as you'd expect. Some think the device marks the turning point for the company as the true beginning of the Tim Cook era, and that the device will be largely successful. Others think it's a big disappointment or an otherwise unnecessary product destined to fail.
What do you think? Will the Apple Watch follow in the footsteps of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad as a groundbreaking success story or will it fail to gain significant traction? Somewhere in between? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Apple calls the device its "most personal device ever".
“With Apple Watch, we’ve developed multiple technologies and an entirely new user interface specifically for a device that’s designed to be worn. It blurs the boundary between physical object and user interface,” says Jony Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of Design. “We’ve created an entire range of products that enable unparalleled personalization.”
It features an iOS-based user interface, which has been tailored for a smaller device. It has a "Digital Crown," which lets you scroll, zoom, and navigate without having to get your fingers in the way of the display. This also serves as a home button and a way to access Siri. The display does feature a touchscreen with a "Force Touch" feature, which senses the difference between a tap and a press. This lets you access controls within apps.
The device also comes with the "Taptic Engine," and a built-in speaker. Together, these enable alerts and notifications (both audio and vibrations). It features features Wi-Fi 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 4.0 to pair with your iPhone. And yes, you must have an iPhone, which is one of the biggest criticisms of the device. Why create a device that requires you to have another expensive device to use in the first place?
Apple is playing up the health and fitness applications of the device more than anything else. Unfortunately, it uses the Wi-Fi and GPS in your iPhone to track how far you've moved, so you still have to have your iPhone with you, which isn't the most convenient thing in the world if you're jogging or biking.
To be fair, some Apple Watch competitors also require phones, but Apple was starting from scratch here. It's unlikely that they wouldn't have been able to come up with a way to make the device usable on a standalone basis.
Speaking of competitors, TechHive has a good comparison of features between the Apple Watch and Android Wear - Google's wearable platform, which is extended to a variety of device-makers. Apple appears to have Google beat on some fronts, but just like with iPhone vs. Android, a lot of it is going to come down to different devices for Google's platform. Some will be better than others. There's also the fact that Apple's device doesn't come out until next Spring, and Google could launch all kinds of updates in that time.
Other competitors have spoken out about Apple's device. Fitbit, for example, notes that it already has a 70% market share in the connected health and fitness space, and that it offers the "widest range of all-day trackers" and price points".
Ben Thompson at Stratechery wrote an interesting post this week comparing the introduction of the Apple Watch to those of Apple's other big product unveilings: the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. He points out that in those three cases, Apple spent some time explaining the markets that made those devices must-haves, and that such an explanation was lacking from the Apple Watch intro (which you can watch below).
Thompson writes, "Now it’s very fair to note that the biggest difference between the introduction of the iPod, iPhone and iPad as compared to the Apple Watch is that Steve Jobs is no longer with us. Perhaps the long introduction was simply his personal style. But the problem is that the Smart Watch needs that explanation: what exactly is the point?"
He goes on to criticize some of the demos for the watch, pointing out that they were bad because they're activities "better done on your phone." The good ones he says were for activities that "extend your phone" in ways that wasn't possible before, but that even these activities "make the Watch seem less capable as a self-contained unit."
The fact that they took the time to show off a feature that lets users draw doodles and send them to each other is questionable. This seems like such a dumb and insignificant feature that it makes you wonder how little the device has going for it if that made it into the presentation - especially given Thompson's point about leaving out the "why".
Ditto for the feature that lets you record and sent your heartbeat to someone. Here's how Apple describes it: "When you press two fingers on the screen, the built-in heart rate sensor records and sends your heartbeat. It's a simple and intimate way to tell someone how you feel."
I'd argue that it's more weird than simple and intimate. It's also kind of one of those things, where it's like: Okay, it can do that, but is it really one of the most significant features that it should be part of the demo?
Battery life is said to be about a day, though the company aims to improve it ahead of launch. As it stands, users would have to charge yet another device each night, in addition to their phones, unlike most traditional watches, whose batteries tend to last a really long time.
Apparently the device is water resistant to the extent that rain, hand-washing, and cooking are okay, but swimming or showering with it aren't a good idea. I guess that doesn't bode well for all kinds of exercise or cleaning up at the gym.
Some have criticized the device for not catering to left-handed people. It does work either way you use it, but the positioning of the Digital Crown might be a little awkward for the lefties.
Gizmodo does us all the service of reminding us that the Apple Watch won't even be released until next year, and that any so-called "reviews" that are out so far are basically meaningless. See: 5 Apple Watch Reviews From People Who Wore It for Like Maybe 3 Minutes.
Here's what people are saying about the Apple Watch in real time:
Some are questioning the brand strategy Apple is employing. The device was largely expected to be called the iWatch, which would obviously fall in line with Apple's other iDevices. Even Tim Cook referred to it as an iWatch at one point. Yet they've elected to call it Apple Watch. They also called their new payments product Apple Pay. Why are they moving away from the enormously successful "i" brand?
Apple Pay may actually be the biggest thing the Apple Watch has going for it, and that has more to do with adoption by retailers than any technological aspect. Apple revealed that 220,000 retail locations are going to let users pay with Apple Pay (which also works on the new iPhones). With the Watch, users should be able to pay for things at a lot of common locations by bumping their wrist, and not even having to get anything out of their pockets. But if not, they can still take the phone out their pocket and do so, which doesn't seem all that complicated. For that matter, swiping a card the old fashioned way doesn't either.
Apple Pay could be an added convenience for those who have the Watch, but I'm not sure it's a good enough reason to get one in the first place. The offering is also missing some key retailers like Walmart and Best Buy, which have refused to support it.
A lot of people wear watches more for fashion than for functionality. Most people carry around phones with them that tell time. Watches are basically jewelry, and though the Apple Watch comes with a large variety of styles and customizations, the fashion characteristics are debatable. In fact, the fashion world is apparently divided. Apple Watch comes in three main varieties: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport and Apple Watch Edition. Prices have yet to be revealed for the Sport and Edition editions.
The Apple Watch Edition collection comes in six designs, each made from 18-karat gold. These will likely be at the high-end of Apple's pricing scale, and will arguably be the most fashionable. We'll see how much they end up charging for them, and how much the type of people willing to shell out good money for watches prefer them to more traditional watches.
The low-end Apple Watches start at $349. And remember, that's on top of the price of the required iPhone.
What do you think of the Apple Watch? Hit or miss? Let us know in the comments.
Image via Apple