How the Apple Watch let me down

It should have been a genuine game-changer but sadly it isn’t
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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.

How the Apple Watch let me down

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.

How the Apple Watch let me down

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.

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Paul Lamkin


Wareable Media Group co-CEO Paul launched Wareable with James Stables in 2014, after working for a variety of the UK's biggest and best consumer tech publications including Pocket-lint, Forbes, Electric Pig, Tech Digest, What Laptop, T3 and has been a judge for the TechRadar Awards. 

Prior to founding Wareable, and subsequently The Ambient, he was the senior editor of MSN Tech and has written for a range of publications.

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