How the Apple Watch let me down

It should have been a genuine game-changer but sadly it isn’t
How the Apple Watch let me down

So, we've published our Apple Watch review. More precisely, our senior editor James Stables has published his Apple Watch review. He's been living and breathing the Cupertino smartwatch for the last week or so and, although Wareable is a democracy, reviews are a still a very individual thing, there's no escaping that.

That's not to say that myself and contributing editor Sophie Charara didn't have input on the highest profile wearable tech review so far. Like all reviews, there was a fair amount of deliberating when it came to delivering the final verdict. For the Apple Watch, the debate was possibly a little bit more full-on than is usually the case; so much so that we decided to publish our final score discussion in full for complete transparency as to how we arrived at its star rating.

If you read that exchange you'll notice that I'm probably the most negative of Wareable's editors with regards to the Apple Watch. (I'm also the most sweary, sorry Mum). I'm definitely the most vocal on the matter of it not being the best smartwatch so far. In my mind, that honour still belongs to the Sony SmartWatch 3 – for a number of reasons, but that's a different story.

My Apple Watch negativity is fuelled by disappointment. The Apple Watch should, and could, have been so much more. Apple is better placed than any other tech brand to establish a genuine paradigm shift in consumer technology. Its first foray into the embryonic smartwatch market should have been with an almost-faultless game-changer; a device so feature ridden that the smartwatch naysayers – the ones who believe the genre is the latest tech fad – would have been blown away and had their views completely shifted.

That's not to say the Apple Watch is a dud. Far from it. I totally agree with the 7/10 score that James finally awarded the new smartwatch. A 7/10 score represents a solid product and there's a lot the Apple Watch gets right.

But it's the stuff that it falls short on that has really wound me up. Basics that Apple should have smashed out of the park. Hardware and features that are on offer from other (much cheaper) smartwatches that Apple should have improved upon greatly. I really feel that Apple had an open-goal with the smartwatch market and it's missed the target.

For starters: GPS. It's not rocket-science getting a GPS radio inside a watch. Garmin has been doing it for years in its running watches and Sony and Samsung have both, in the last few months, proved that it's possible inside a wearable already packed with the kind of hardware and chip architecture a modern smartwatch requires.

I know that some people like to run with their smartphones. That's fine. I'm not one of them though. When I run, I want as little kit on me as possible.

The Apple Watch isn't a dedicated running watch. I get that. But you can bet your life that the next-gen Apple Watch comes with GPS skills. Its non-inclusion is typical Apple; holding back hardware it could have included to make the next-generation device all the more appealing. Remember the original iPhone with its lack of 3G connectivity or the first-gen iPad's missing camera.

The GPS fudge is easily fixable by Apple. The bigger issue, and my bigger concern is that Apple didn't really address the fundamental smartwatch problem; why do you need one when your phone can already do everything it offers?

Now, I've no idea what the feature set for the game changing smartwatch is. But I'm not paid millions of dollars by the world's biggest tech company to solve that conundrum. However, I'm not convinced it's a fiddly zooming control and I'm certain that it's not sending your heart beat to another Apple Watch user. There's gimmicky and then there's just plain daft.

I do know some simple ingredients that I want to see in the Apple Watch 2 though. Ingredients that I'm surprised and disappointed weren't included in the original.

As you've probably gathered, I want to be able to go running sans-smartphone and have my run accurately tracked by GPS. On that run I'd also like to be able to listen to my tunes, whether that be offline Spotify synced tracks or stored MP3s, direct to my Bluetooth headset. After my run I want to pop into Starbucks and get a coffee and pay using my untethered watch. I then want to scroll through my emails and Facebook messages and reply to a couple while drinking my coffee. After all, I'm online through the free Wi-Fi and my Apple ID is all synced up.

When I get home I want to unlock my front door using my Apple Watch and my smart NFC lock (already possible, I know) and I want Nest to have cooled down the flat because it knows I'm all sweaty after my run and ill-judged hot coffee.

I want these things to happen without me really thinking about it. These things are all pretty much possible on an iPhone, so there's no reason they can't be included on the Apple Watch.

And they're things that I foolishly assumed would be included on Apple's latest must-have device. Included along with a fantastic design (which, admittedly, they did nail) and some other mind-bending features that my little brain couldn't possibly even imagine, but features that would become essential parts of my everyday life.

That's why I feel Apple has let me down. I started a wearable tech site so obviously I think this future will get here; hatched in the labs of Cupertino or elsewhere. There's a lot of love for Apple - from indie developers to big brands to the fashion world - so it's likely it will be the company to take us there.

But Apple didn't invent wearable tech and, before we get to wearable utopia, there's plenty to learn from all the other potential game-changers working in wearables right now.


  • jponline77 says:

    Relax...  All Apple needs to do with the first version of the product is make wearing a computer on your wrist cool and fashionable...  That I think it has succeeded where others have failed.  All your complaints will be filled over time.  You just need to be patient.  The original iPad didn't have a camera and the original iPhone was slow and didn't have a lot of apps.  

    The amount of energy and ingenuity that went into solving that first problem (making wearing a computer cool and fashionable) probably tapped them out.  GPS for example would have killed battery life and that would not have gone very well with the public.  Instead, they get the product out in the field and start building on it in generation after generation.

    It will not be long now where the Apple watch will be a stand-alone product with built-in LTE, GPS and native apps.  Integrated circuit technology is about to make a big leap in power savings with finFET technology.  This is not a technology that Apple is yet employing in their smartwatches.  This will allow for drastic reduction in power for wearable technologies.  You will see a very very big difference in performance and capabilities for the next generation...

    Just be patient.

    • BadDobby says:

      Good point. In the meantime, the iSheep are already flocking to this product even when the most entertaining thing they can do on it are cock doodles. 

      Suckers! :)

  • appl3-1010 says:

    um what are you on about?

    GPS is the only substantial point you made but apart from that...

    Firstly you don't need your phone with you for apple pay.

    Second, you CAN store music native to your watch, but that's just limited to your iTunes tracks. However you did mention Spotify and other "tunes" 

    Thirdly, native apps are coming later this year to the 1st gen apple watch. The only reason they wouldn't have done it is to get extensive real life battery testing from consumers.

    So yes it is game changing, you're just not educated well enough on it. So before you write an article like this, do read the facts that are already out there.

    • Bendito says:

      Not at all.

      We're a crowd thinking same way. I have -I guess- all Apple devices... except Watch, and I've waited for it almost a year. Finally, cannot find only a good reason to buy it.

      GPS is not a detail. If you read carefully, you can check how dissapointed it is for a "sport watch". Yes, you have GPS on iPhone, but as well as wifi, photos, date and time, so, a watch... what for, taking into account you even have to carry the iPhone anyway?

      I've bought a cheap sport watch instead of Apple Watch and, of course, it has GPS, Smart notifications, etc., etc., just for 1/5 of Apple Watch price. Even more, I don't have to pay an annual fee (what the h.... is this new way to make money?) for a sport app in order to use it: it is already included, as well as its service.

      You 're referring just to small details, not the main reason of the article, which refers the main feeling of the people who does not want the watch just for the apple, the zirconium or the gold, but to use it in many ways, as we're using others Apple devices.

  • amazingrugs says:

    While the Watch can't do everything in your wants section, it can play synced music directly to a Bluetooth headset, and you can use the passbook app to open your stored cards and pay at Starbucks that way.

    My hope is that in the next software update, Apple let's the watch connect directly to wi-fi, instead of only using the network that the iPhone is connected to.  Another option is syncing more things through iCloud, like all notifications so you could leave the phone at home and still get notifications while on another wifi network.  Now that it is on people's wrists, Apple can get a better sense of wants from users and address some of these issues through software.

    That said, some of these things are just easier and quicker to do on a phone.  Do you want to dictate a long email response, with Siri most likely messing something up?  Do you want to browse your twitter feed on a tiny screen?  Like other reviews say, the best apps on Watch right now are ones that make access to info quick and with a short glance.  The Instagram app for example, while nice that you can scroll through photos, is just silly.  It is trying to put a large screen app on a small screen, and it doesn't work.

    The Watch has never been positioned or advertised as a standalone device, so you can't really say that's what you were expecting.  That is though what you wanted, and I can understand that.  We've seen Samsung have a cell radio in one of their smartwatches, and that along with better wifi use would help achieve most of what you are asking for.  Remember though there are always trade offs, battery life being the main one, thickness and case size another, so you probably won't see that until Gen 2 or 3.

    • p.lamkin says:

      Re: Passbook - you can't do that without a tethered iPhone.

      • Peteo says:

        yes you can. Passbook is a native app on the watch and can be used with out the phone nearby. Also Apple pay will work with out the phone nearby

  • Peteo says:

    I think the 7/10 is fair, but I will say you need to come back in a month and do another review.

    Yes gps would be great to have. But you can still do allot even with out gps i.e. running inside, doing elptical, stair master does not need gps, and allot of fitness trackers can not track them, Apple watch can.

    Also you can train Apple watch to give accurate distance/pace when you do not have your iPhone with you. (Consumer reports, wsj and other reviews have pointed out this along with pretty accurate heart rate monitoring)

    All this health data gets automatically put into the health app, which can share it with countless fitness apps that can analyze and combine data to make more sense of that data.

    I find charging every day 100% a non issue. I charge my iPhone and plop my watch right next to it.

    I love getting notifications on the watch (filtered of course with the Apple watch app)

    And some 3rd party apps are very useful (dark sky, transit, overcast, Gaia gps)

    Throw hey Siri into the mix along with answering a phone call, replying to txt with dictation, paying with Apple pay (so easy it's crazy) passbook you have a device that easy blows away these fitness trackers.

    Overall I'm liking my Apple watch more and more each day and it's only going to get better when native apps launch (hopefully @ wwdc)

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