On this week’s event Apple – as anticipated – announced its upcoming wearable: the Apple Watch. But it did not solve the problems smart watches are facing.
It turns out that I was wrong in hoping that Apple would actually solve smart watches. They simply announced another one. It appears to be a very good specimen, but it still suffers from the same two basic problems as all the other smart watches already on the market.
1. Battery Life
In Tuesdays presentation, Tim Cook carefully tip-toed around the battery problem, saying only that they expect “usage throughout the day to be incredible,” therefore users would have to “charge it at night.” It seems safe to assume that battery life of the Apple Watch will be no better than competing watches with an LCD screen. And those don’t always last a full day. If the Apple Watch would fare significantly better, Cook would have surely made a point of it during the keynote.
Not getting a full day of battery life out of a wearable is a non-starter. You can’t expect people to take off their watches in the afternoon to charge them for the evening. This is the current Achilles heel of all the smart watches1 – and Apple’s probably is no different in this regard.
Admittedly this is hard to judge without seeing it in person, but the Watch looks quite massive. This might not be much of an issue when actually wearing the thing, but making fun of the size of the Moto 360 seems out of the question now.2
I really like the design of the hardware and the software. And sure, the build quality seems amazing. I kind of want one, but not at that price3 and not without assurance that the battery will indeed last a full day.
Right now, the Apple Watch is a 1.0 product with obvious flaws. But, like the original iPhone, it is a solid foundation for Apple to iterate on in the coming years. I can imagine that, in four or five years time, smart watches will have become as ubiquitous as iPhones. But it will be an evolution, not a revolution.
One exception is the Pebble which can go for a week on a single charge because of its low-res e-ink display. ↩
According to interpolations the Apple Watch is 12.46 mm thick. By comparison, the $250 Moto 360 is slightly thinner at 11.5 mm (although the Apple Watch looks thinner because of its pebble-like shape). ↩
The price is announced to be “starting at $350.” I expect that especially the premium gold models will retail at a much higher price. ↩