As not only a watch fanatic, but a gadget lover that has made most of his living off of applications and sites for mobile and connected devices, I have a huge stake in whatever products Apple puts forward. We knew an iWatch was coming, we weren't sure when, but they began to feel inevitable. During the keynote, Apple proceeded to sell the Watch as hard as possible, citing a ton of features like millions of personalized options, three metals including Rose Gold and Gold, and a whole menagerie of straps using a quick change strap system they came up with.
Here are my thoughts:
1. The functionality is truly in a different league. While I may be on a bit of a rant in this article, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out all the features the Apple Watch has that made it a more serious value proposition than the competition.
I like the payments idea (although tapping my watch face to a register over and over makes me cringe). I like the enhanced fitness tracking, the concept of quick reply to SMS, and the quick dial contacts on your wrist with the touch of a button. I like the idea of using the watch as a viewfinder for your iPhone camera. I like the watch faces they've shown so far and the seamless integration into the notification center without application code changes.
Mostly though, I'm super excited to see what 3rd party developers do with it. An app that motion tracks a golf swing or how fast you throw a baseball, for instance. There will be some seriously cool apps that come out of the interplay between the iPhone and Watch, that's for sure.
2. No mention of battery life = poor battery life. My guess is 18 hour battery life at best. That sucks. Battery life isn't something that can be pushed under the rug these days. I could write an essay on why, but with mobile devices as fast as we could ever need, battery life is the most important feature these days. If the device is dead, none of the other features matter. Its why the iPad was such a winner. Battery life is everything when you actually use a device.
I own a Pebble, and even the 5-7 day battery life is a hassle. If Apple expects you to charge this every day, and wants to record your every movement and sleep cycle, how is that going to make any sense? I hated that I would miss my sleep breakdown when I needed to charge my Jawbone Up, and if I kept it on at night, I'd miss steps the next day. A watch is a different beast than a phone or tablet. A watch is supposed to be your rock, a good mechanical will likely run for twenty years without you ever taking it off, and a quartz just needs a battery swap every few years. A smart-watch should give you at least a few weeks, if not a month. It may be a lot to ask for, but my wrist has a high bar on it and a lot of serious competition. For the general public, this thing will be in a drawer almost as fast as a Galaxy gear once you start to forget it on the charger in the morning, which is propriety so you have to bring it everywhere with you.
3. We got an iPod Nano watch, and could have had so much more. Based on the early hands-on reviews, they have made an iPod nano incredibly well and with great finishing. However there were so many unique concepts out in the world that I feel would have served the brand better. After the presentation, I don't think even Apple is going to make a smart-watch, which looks like it does today, cool. The Moto 360 is cool, the dreamed up concept of the iWatch [below] is cool, even the pebble is cool as a bit of a geek chic statement. I don't feel that it fits their brand correctly, and with Nike's Fuel Band going away, I could really see an option like the one below fitting better.
4. Will everyone with an iPhone be getting a smart-watch? Not likely. The design looks clunky to me, and for once I almost feel like Apple just went and ripped off the same thing Samsung has done six times already this year. That said, I'm sure Apple will take the lion's share of the wearable market in the next year or two, which isn't saying much. People have always underestimated Apple's ability to blow open a new(ish) frontier, but I see the Apple Watch residing mostly on junior high school kids and try-hard adults, and less of the wrists of tastemakers without paid promotion (like the recently acquired Beats headphones).
5. The competition is serious, and out designing Apple. I never thought a day would come where LG and Motorola straight up make a better looking product than Apple, but today is the proof. Hell the Moto 360 looks like it would fit right into a Rado display case. The two watches below, currently on the market, in my opinion blow away the Apple Watch in every way except enhanced functionality. I want something I can wear to a party or job interview and not look like I have out of place technology all over my body. See below:
6. Some effort to make it water resistant. I give them credit for making the circuit board sealed and getting the watch to be somewhat water resistant. We don't yet know HOW water resistant, but I would guess 1-5 ATM at best.
7. Stealing more ideas from Braun and Dieter Rams. It's a fairly well known fact that Johnny Ive and Steve Jobs were such big fans of the industrial design coming out of german company Braun, that they decided to use the same designs on their own products. Well once again they have taken a page out of the Braun playbook, from digital crown to bracelet to shape, here is the Braun watch. Seem familiar?
7. The interface is going to be a whole different beast in the real world. Apple is claiming they are parsing your text messages so they can give you tappable options for quick responses, right from the wrist. In their presentation, this totally works, but 80% of the time we'll be pulling out our phones anyway and there will be an amazing Tumblr in our future of predictive answer fails from the Apple Watch.
Also, you know those calendar invites you get from GoToMeeting with a Proustian amount of text, alternate numbers, urls, etc? Good luck making anything out of those on a tiny watch face. And if that crown doesn't grip as well as a nice chunky Rolex crown, moving around those little homescreen icons and through lists is going to be a hot mess. It looks like it is designed to poke out at on top a bit which may let the user thumb roll the wheel, so here's hoping it works well.
8. Lifecycle and the Apple eco-system. Look, I get it, Apple is all about their ecosystem, so once you buy their smart-watch and other gadgets, switching to Android becomes a very expensive proposition with more at stake. This is wonderful for Apple, but not great for consumers.
Also, I'm trying to figure out what the lifecycle is likely to be for this product category. Will we see a new Apple Watch every year? I feel that the total reliance on the iPhone may mean that Apple will be trying to push a new watch each time they do a major phone upgrade that makes it not work with older devices. Think about it, they do similar things already.
9. Anonymity is strength. Apple's did something very smart by making the Watch a fully fledged product line, with two sizes and many finishes, that can morph and customize in many ways. This is a watch that can take many different looks and I think this may be the smartest part of their offering. As opposed to Samsung who think they can release one watch and get everyone to buy the same thing, Apple smartly realized that watches are very personal and can't be one size fits all. After all, no one wants to see the same watch they are wearing on everyone else's wrist around town. Even if it isn't a gorgeous watch, it has enough style to blend into the personal style of millions of users, instead of appealing to only thousands.
All that said, I'm sure the Apple Watch version 3-4 will be a compelling product, and these are my initial reactions from the unveiling today. Apple throwing their weight into this category will make a big difference and hopefully bring us to some fantastic smart-watches soon. I honestly like the idea of the smart-watch, I just don't feel it is up to our (watch lovers) standards to even sometimes replace a beautiful dedicated wristwatch. Not yet, but soon.
In listening to a podcast today about the new Apple products, an analogy was brought up which I think rings weirdly true. Smart-watches vs. mechanical watches are currently like virtual pinball vs. pinball machines. While virtual pinball can offer some of the same fun, there's nothing like looking down at all the mechanical bumpers and moving parts.