Apple’s entry to the watch game sadly doesn't change anything…
Over the past summer, Samsung (and the other manufactures of Android phones) have been busy coming out with endless designs for a smartwatch. Yet none of them have really been any good. They have suffered from having a screen too small to use, a battery to short to live with, and no fundamentally useful technology. Fortunately Apple was due to enter the market and show everyone how it was supposed to be done.
One month ago Apple did enter the market, and the result was just more of the same.
The problem is not actually with Apple’s approach to the watch market (which is far more classy then anything to come from elsewhere), but the fundamental idea behind the product in the first place.
Smartwatches promise to help in 4 key areas (telling time, receiving phone notifications, tracking exercise, and playing music). Yet they are a sorry excuse for all of these activities.
Even in my days before caring around a cell phone, I have never been one to wear a watch so simply telling the time is not a big enough feature for me. Furthermore, for LCD based watches that are not powered 100% of the time, I fail to be convinced that looking at my watch will be any less effort then looking at my phone…
Tracking exercise is an interesting concept, but also one I have never been interested in committing to. I run nearly every day without tracking anything at all about my runs. I don’t know exactly how far I went, how long I took, or what my heartrate was. The fact is that I simply do not care. For the most part these stats are a reminder that not everything that can be measured is something that actually matters.
Even if I were to care about tracking my runs, the Apple watch has another flaw in that the most important aspect (tracking how far I ran) isn’t really possible as it is dependent upon GPS tracking which the watch is unable to do. For anyone how actually does want to monitor their activity the best answer would probably be a (much cheaper) fitbit.
Playing music is another feature I am not sure really belongs on a watch. Some devices lack the storage space to really offer this, but Apple insists that their watch will have the capability. Still, I fail to see the point. Most of the time you will still be carrying your phone (which offers a far superior experience) so the only time this will be useful is once again when you are out exercising.
Yet at this point there is no reason to want music playback to be coming from all the way down on your wrist, and would be much better off just using the lighter (and cheaper) iPod Shuffle.
Notification control is the one feature that smartwatches are actually good at. While the small screen of the watch makes it useless for any significant reply, very few notifications actually require an immediate response. A connected watch can give you a way to quickly glance at incoming notifications and see if they require a follow up, or can be ignored until later.
Personally I would argue that this feature is not important enough to make up for the inconveniences that come from having to strap a computer to your wrist. Fundamentally I still believe that the smartphone is the ultimate convergence device and that watches are an ill-fated attempt in the opposite direction.
Yet if anyone does want notifications on their wrist, the best offering is not from Apple, but a little company called Pebble. The Pebble watch features a e-ink display that is on 100% of the time, and allows a single charge of the battery to last a full week. Yet while the Pebble comes out ahead, it is still less then a third of the price of the cheapest offering from Apple.
Really I am not sold on the fundamental concept of having a wrist computer. Apple’s entry to the market has done nothing to change that.