I love the Apple Watch.
But you probably won’t.
I remember the Apple Keynote announcing their wearable marvel. Sat around a table in a trendy East End office — wood chip walls and all — surrounded by people from other startups, drinking beer and waiting for the big reveal on TV plugged into a Macbook. As the intro video finished and Tim Cook strode onto the stage lifting his skinny fists like antennas to heaven, one CTO went “shit, they’ve done it,” and I think that’s pretty much how everyone around that table felt. We didn’t know what we had to do, but we knew we had to do something (for what we did at Triggertrap, check out this post). Knowing that every iOS Developer would probably be thinking the same thing and coming up with super exciting apps, the anticipation and hype built for months until the glorious pre-order date, and even more during the agonising 6 week wait. Nearly two months with the Apple Watch on my wrist, here are my thoughts.
Apple Watch, 5/10. Absolutely love the thing. Don’t buy it.
I am probably Mr Apple Watch. I’m in London quite often, where using the watch as an Oyster card brings to mind an awesome sound effect, I enjoy Physical Activities (various) and I’m the kind of obsessive phone user who gets way too many notifications a day. I previously wore a Pebble, which I used as a Go Away machine to screen my texts/emails/phone calls to be distracted less, and so graduating to the Apple Watch was dead easy. All of this combines to one big load of awesome. Kinda.
When I managed to get my hands on an Apple Watch, it was everything I dreamed of and more. It was beautiful, the fit was great, and it was fun to poke. Then the exciting bit — time to install some apps! Uber, Shazam, Slack! Tweets to favourite, Instagram posts to like! My phone was surely dead, reduced to merely a relay between The Internet and my wrist.
See, the Apple Watch is great when it works. The problem is, it spends a lot of time not working. I’ve gone to check the weather forecast on several occasions, and every time I try to grab the info without pulling my phone out of my pocket I’m left hanging for what feels like an eternity. It probably takes as long as my phone takes, but holding your wrist up to your face for a a few seconds looks ridiculous compared to pulling your phone out of your pocket. I’ve dictated texts that end with “full stop delete no delete send” before I’ve given up and just sent the message, complete with a record of Siri’s disobedience. I’ve yet to hail an Uber from my wrist (despite me often citing it as one of the best use cases I’ve seen so far), and using Shazam is a bit of a magical mystery tour of “will it work? why is it telling me to open the app on my phone?”
The “will it work this time?” problem is the biggest issue with the watch. The battery life is great; I regularly go two days on a single charge with it tracking a 90 minute workout each day. The Taptic engine is elegant and informative, and the Digital Crown is — to use Apple’s preferred vocabulary — delightful. The watch is also beautiful, although I still wear a “proper” watch when I go somewhere “fancy.”
So the problem isn’t hardware, it’s software. Crashy, buggy, slow to respond, and often a bit confusing to fully understand where you are in the app itself. All of these things are fixable, and quickly fixable too — Watch OS 2 promises to be a big step forward the first three problems, and the fourth problem will be solved with more experienced developers and getting used to the design patterns. It’s easy, and it’s happening, but that’s not now right now, and right now, it’s not really worth your money. Once it’s fixed, I think it will come to be represent decent value for money, in the way the iPhone line isn’t.
My biggest problem is something else entirely, I love the Apple Watch because when it works, it makes me feel like I’m on the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise (The Next Generation style). I love new things, I love techy things, and I’m willing to deal with the odd — or quite regular — crash. Hell, I’m Mr Apple Watch! But try as I might, I can’t recommend this to my friends, even my techy friends who probably understand it will be crashy. I couldn’t tell them to spend their money on something that will improve their life for a few seconds a day, and then let them down for a few minutes a day.