Apple Watch: My thoughts

Apple Inc.’s entry into the smartwatch game sure did garner a lot of attention, at least.

The new device from the tech giant promises to change the smartwatch game forever, or that’s Apple’s hope. I, personally can’t see it happening with this initial offering. Maybe when the inevitable new edition comes out in a year or so, my opinion could change. But for now, it’s a hard sell for anyone but the staunchest Apple fanboys with deep pockets.

Not to say that this thing isn’t cool as hell, because it is. Apple made the device quite a looker. The Apple Watch comes in two sizes, 42mm and 38mm. A great idea since not every wrist is the same. This is a feature I wish more smartwatches employed. The Watch also has three tiers; Sport, Standard, and Edition. The Sport and Standard are essentially the same, except the Sport comes with a different (cheaper) Ion-X glass screen as opposed to sapphire crystal on the other two models. The Edition, however, is a different beast. It has identical internals and features to the Standard, and Sport save the screen, but is cased in 18 karat gold and costs upwards of $10,000. Yep. 10 grand for a watch that will no doubt be obsolete in a year. All three tiers offer different colors and band styles, so there are lots of options to choose from, which is lovely for those who want options.

It has a great look, and is made with premium materials, as expected from Apple. The rounded bezels, large screen and multiple (proprietary) band designs make this a fashion statement as much as a wearable device. That’s good to help alleviate the “geek chic” stigma that befalls most smartwatches now. If Apple has any hope of mass appeal, that was key.

However, looks are not everything. The specs and details of this watch are not entirely impressive, especially in the battery life department. At an estimated 18~ hours with “regular use,” this thing is gonna be on the charger most every night. That’s not ideal for most people who already have enough devices to charge on a nightly basis. It also isn’t any better than 90% of the other smartwatches available already.

Besides battery life, the Apple Watch does little to truly separate itself from the pack and make this thing a “game changer.” The UI and navigation are intuitive, but not anything one would say is radical. The “Digital crown” that adorns the side of the watch and allows for scrolling and zooming is a nice touch and adds to the “watch” look and feel, but since it’s also a touchscreen I can’t see why they didn’t go all in with either interface. Also, the tapping and buzzing vibration feedback and “Force Touch” technology that can “differentiate a tap versus a press” seem more like gimmicks than actual features. Not to say that they won’t be novel and perhaps very useful once more developers make use of them, but for now they are kinda gimmicky.

One feature I love about the Apple Watch is the Apple Pay integration. I love using NFC payment on my Android, and I’d kill to see Google Wallet integration in an Android Wear watch so I can tap my wrist to the scanner and be all futuristic and stuff. That’s the kind of killer feature that I want to see out of my smart devices, convenience and cool factor that I would actually use in everyday life. C’mon Google, step it up!

Besides all the features, the UI is still very Apple and iOS. Familiar animations, looks and feel make this device easy and great looking, without being too confusing. It boasts tons of apps, over 1000, already and that’s good news for everyone. If there’s one thing Apple does, it’s drive the market. We should see all smartwatches soon get that kind of app support.

My biggest complaint about the Apple Watch isn’t it’s feature set, or it’s lack of “killer apps,” to me, there are two reasons nobody but the wealthiest Apple fanboy should buy this device. One is the price, and the other is the proprietary bands.

The bands, oh these bands… As great as they look, and as nice as I’m sure they feel, are Apple exclusive. This means that the only bands you can use, at least until the third party knockoffs come out, are the ridiculously expensive proprietary Apple bands. That is crazy to me. Every single other smartwatch, save a few exceptions, let you swap out the band with any band that a normal watch can use as long as it’s the right size. That is great, since not everyone is sold on the bands these devices ship with, or may want options depending on the setting or whatever. Apple does offer a wide range of bands in different styles and materials however, so there is that. But besides the lack of freedom in band choice, is the price. These Apple Watch bands are hella expensive. Some of the offerings go for upwards of $200. That’s on top of the $350 price tag for the cheapest model, the Sport. Sure it’s optional but that is unacceptable in a world where I can get a device with near similar functionality, albeit without the sexy looks and flashy features, for $100 less in a Pebble Time Steel and still have the option to get a cheap band for $30 at a store and swap it out no problem.

The price is coupled with the band issue, but has it’s own problems, specifically the Apple Watch Edition. The base model, Apple Watch Sport is already more expensive than any other smartwatch at $350. The next tier up only gets pricier. That’s to be expected from Apple, who regularly charges more for their products than their competition simply because they can. The Edition model however, is different. Marketed towards what I only assume is collectors and the super rich, it costs $10,000 for the base model. This model has nothing differentiating it from the other models except the 18 karat gold case. Same specs, same battery, same screen, same features and functions. What.

If you’re gonna charge that much and alienate a large part of your customer base to cater to the rich and stupid, at least make the damn thing worth the price. Give it some feature or functionality that separates it. Helicopter valet, laser blaster, something! You can get a car for the price of the Apple Watch Edition, or a college education! Don’t kid yourself and lie by telling me it’s not going to be obsolete and replaced by a newer model in a year anyway. What are you thinking Apple?

Besides the crazy price, poor battery and overall average features of the Apple Watch, it is still a fine smartwatch. It is certainly one of the more stylish options out there, and it undoubtedly will sell like nothing else. However, I simply cannot recommend anyone buy this thing purely on principle. It’s too expensive and doesn’t do enough to justify the costs. I’d wait for the inevitable Apple Watch 2.

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