So Tim Cook walks on stage at the Apple headquarters in Cupertino and unveils the latest flashy attraction that Apple drones have been speculating and perhaps salivating over: The new Apple Watch.
The display, a polished and pridefully named Retina display, shows practically every colour of the spectrum in shades that would appear dull in real life. Introducing the new Apple Watch interface that comes with both a touch screen and a digital crown that allows you to scroll through options in case your fingers are too stubby to mash the right icon. A beautiful curved watch face with customizable straps. Sexy and James Bond-esque. Finally a watch that you can wear for a jog in the park, a dinner date and even to just gloat at lesser mortals (the Apple Watch Edition series is priced 10 grand and up. Gasp!).
It has been expected of Apple to create a beautiful device, and yes, it is world renowned for its award winning and common man loving designs in both hardware and software. 40% of smartphone users in the UK are on Apple iPhones and that’s just the first statistical estimate that came up on my Google search! The actual figure could very well be much, much more. It has also been expected that the Apple Watch would cram in all the functions that competing smartwatches already offer — and then some — in an attempt to monopolize this new market-base and make any Apple aficionado’s dreams come true. The Apple watch sounds sexy and rich and luxurious and everyone is so going to want one on their wrist.
So why am I having reservations?
Easy. It’s the first of its kind. The Apple Watch is lovely to behold and it really hugs the wrist like a gorgeous girl who’s had a really great first date… and is expecting more and better to come. But this dream lover is also likely to come with her own crazy quirks and a rather short fuse that might make you feel like the $400 dinner you spent on her was wasted, and you might have better luck waiting for her younger sister to grow up. In the same way, the Apple Watch is likely to be glitchy; has an astoundingly unimpressive battery life of 18 hours per overnight charge; and a crazy starting price of $350 USD for the lower end Apple Watch Sport that has a stainless steel bezel and a glass face that is not as luxurious as you would expect from Apple. Above all, it’s a watch that’s too ambitious. A watch that can not decide whether it wants to be a smartphone or a smartwatch and packs everything into a tiny little cuboid that leeches away the very essence of what a watch should be.
In my humble opinion, a smartwatch is a watch first before it is smart. At the very least, a watch should be able to tell time without me worrying that if I check too often it’ll eventually blank out by the time I commute back home! What if I’m out with my pals till sunrise — will I be able to see if I can make it back before Mom wakes up so I don’t get into trouble? Sure, I can use my friend’s dumb watch for that but then, what would be the point of a watch that I wear on my own wrist that basically becomes a bracelet when the juice runs dry too soon?
I feel that Apple could have given up a few functions for better battery life, especially for something that should function as a watch first, because I don’t need another phone! I already have one in my pocket. A watch doesn’t need that many functions, and a smartwatch is basically just a tool of convenience that works in conjunction with a smartphone. I want a watch that can tell the time, a watch that can tell me what I’m missing without having to reach for the phone, to take away the distraction of my phone and let me be distracted by life! Yes, the Apple watch can let me view notifications, can let me send (sort of creepy) taps to people who also have an Apple Watch to let them know I’m thinking of them. But is that necessary?! I think not.
The smartwatch age is still in its infancy and perhaps if you want a watch that is as beautiful and functional as the Apple Watch but is packed with battery life and can be worn just like any other watch, it’s best you wait till Apple Watch 2 — assuming “2” means having improved much from “1”.
Note: However, those who are excited to ride the smartwatch hype but think the Apple Watch falls short of its potential, there are existing substitutes. Pebble Time watches are a great alternative to the Apple watch. Its most luxurious design (the Pebble Time Steel) is only half the price of Apple’s least luxurious design. It may not have wrist prestige but it’s straight up water and scratch resistant, with 7-day battery life and comes with an AppStore featuring 6,500+ apps and watch faces for personalization purposes and is iOS and Android compatible. Although it has a somewhat geeky appearance with its 64 colour e-paper display and huge bezels around the screen that reminds me of a Tamagotchi, what’s a smartwatch without it screaming geek?! More importantly, it really is a smartwatch in essence, with satisfactory battery life and the convenience that will make you feel like living without it would make your life slightly… deficient. With potential too! Smart straps are coming to Pebble in the near future, which will add to the functionality of the Pebble watch that has been quite Spartan in comparison to its competitors. But the Pebble’s reliability immediately levels the playing field.
It will be interesting to see how the nascent smartwatch market will shape up as it continues to evolve, and how competition will continue to drive innovation in design and functionality. As consumers, we will always be the one that benefits through the variety provided by this hugely competitive landscape. But it certainly is crucial to keep up to date with the latest developments so that rather than blindly jumping on the bandwagon, you can make the best consumer choice for yourself.