Flawed. But still quite nice.
Apple’s grand vision for the Apple Watch, the reason why they think you need one is because they want to save you from the distraction that is your phone. The watch also makes your life easier by putting notifications on your wrist, allowing for you to interact with them or dismiss them, meaning you don’t have to pull your phone out of your pocket, saving you time.
It’s a great idea, if it worked.
Firstly addressing the goal of saving you from the distraction of your phone; real life testing by multiple review sites like The Verge and Wired showed that having notifications on your wrist proved even more distracting. At least with your phone, it stays in your pocket, relatively easy to ignore if you wanted to, but the watch, it’s on your wrist – there’s no ignoring a vibration from the Taptic Engine, or the notification tone, and its even easier to sneak a glance to check the notification out.
Secondly, it should make your life easier. So, that means it has to be quicker then the iPhone at performing some tasks, right? In theory yes, and with Apple’s own apps, that rings true. It does appear to be easy to ping off a quick reply to a text, listen to music, view navigation, but with third party apps it gets trickier. Apple hasn’t yet released the full Apple Watch SDK, meaning that apps running on the watch aren’t native; they are running on your iPhone and being sent over a wireless connection to the watch. This results in plenty of waiting to open apps and even view glances as you wait to retrieve data from the phone – so much so that it would be quicker to perform that task on your phone. Current apps are also limited to the kinds of interactions that they can use; tapping or ForceTouching the screen, or using the physical controls on the device. Swiping and animations within apps are not yet supported – both of which contribute significantly to the user experience.
So to reaching the same conclusion that many other reviews of the Apple Watch have, this is definitely a first generation product. Once Apple release the Watch SDK later this year so that third party apps can run natively; maybe the device will be more convenient and third party apps will have more appeal in use. Hopefully in the second generation product, Apple will find a way to make notifications less intrusive, although currently you can turn notifications off for specific apps, this isn’t really the solution we’re looking for here, the watch needs to know what’s important for you to see.
Forgetting about these issues for a moment, the Apple Watch does look to be a truly exquisite device. It can offer conveniences such as a quick glance at notifications, neat customisation of the watch face to create something beautiful, and is a very good health tracker – if you’re into that kind of thing.
It’s the level of thought that Apple has put into some of the implementation of the watch that gives me hope for its future with the way the display switches on if you rotate your wrist towards you, the different vibrate pattern depending on the notification – which actually feels like a tap, and the gorgeous graphics and attention to detail that makes it feel like a premium product. This is something no other smartwatch has done as successfully yet. So at worst, the Apple Watch is the best smartwatch on the market, at best, it can be a little demanding for attention and slow. I’m looking forward to seeing what Apple brings to the table in 2016.