Robert Berris / Digital Strategy / August 5th, 2015

An Underwhelming Month With the Apple Watch

As the lead of our pitch team, it’s critical I stay up to date with technology, creative and strategy – along with as many new digital products I can get my hands on. You never know when a client is going to ask our team to leverage new ideas or new platforms to support a product idea. It’s also vital to come to the table with unproven ideas that can engage early adopters.

But while I appreciate the need to stay on the leading edge, I’ve never been much of an early adopter when it comes to hardware – even if it does have a shiny Apple on it. So, against my better instincts I bought an Apple Watch.

Despite our VP of Marketing, Jennifer Fix, insisting I feel otherwise: I don’t like it. Like every Apple product, it does many things correctly. Yet even as a complement to one of my most-used devices – my iPhone – it falls woefully short, particularly for a creative professional.

Robert-Apple-Watch-Calvin-Klein-Ad-1-2

The Good Stuff

Bar none, it’s the best fitness band I’ve ever used. I started running about a year ago, and I’ve tried several fitness bands to track activity. Every one I tried had a similar threshold of accuracy (completely not accurate), and the Apple Watch does a considerably better job with the interface and data-point tracking.

I mention fitness because it starkly highlights the Watch’s strength. I was skeptical about how the smaller screen would handle interactions, and it recognized my taps much more accurately than I imagined. There’s still some issues with button hit states, but I’m pleased to see it working as well as it has.

Fitness first.
Fitness first.

Here’s the problem. (And honestly the problem may very well be, me.) I turned off the majority of my notifications on my iPhone well before Apple announced the Watch. Between Slack, Skype, Email, Twitter, Facebook, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, Instagram, and my pride of cats (I have three), I can’t deal with more notifications. There are already too many services, noises and creatures competing for my attention.

Turning off all notifications that weren’t critical for my daily routine was the best decision I ever made. It allowed me to regain some much-needed focus.

The Apple Watch seems like it’s really good at keeping my phone in my pocket, but just opens me back up to all of the distracting notifications that I now have to navigate on a smaller screen, albeit more discreetly and politely.

While many of my co-workers found the light buzz notifications highly productive, I found my gaze pulled down to my wrist rather than to my phone.

The Apple Watch Needs More Google Now

The slow death of Google+ shows that Google isn’t perfect, but there’s a lot we (and Apple) can learn from Google’s product development process. As wearables go, a smartwatch is far more practical than Google Glass and is more likely to be adopted since there are fewer barriers to its use (ie, vision correction). However, Apple drops the ball here because it doesn’t bring enough to the party.

Google’s efforts succeed because its wearables are a conduit for all the sweet, sweet data provided by services like Google Now. So, rather than being reactive, it’s very proactive.

Maybe I’m being selfish, but I need my Apple Watch to be my white glove service – my mini wrist-butler who can say, “Morning sleepyhead, it’s going to be 75 degrees outside, so you probably should wear something light today. Oh, and you can sleep in a little longer, I’ve already auto-snoozed your alarm because traffic is light. And if you like, I’ll order you your favorite latte to be picked up on the way to work.”

Don’t tell me you’re not waiting for our incredible mini-butler future.

For me, this was always the challenge inherent to the Apple Watch – the entire product is geared to shift your attention away from its flagship product (the one that you love). With little-to-no contextual, proactive functionality, I find the transference of notifications from phone to watch provide little-to-no value for me.

The Product View

Of course, this isn’t a hardware issue; this is a software-development and product-vision issue. I don’t dispute that wearable technology is likely our future, and the parts of Apple Watch that work prove that. The fitness tech is great, and with the right app ecosystem, I believe many of the health-related bells and whistles will make Apple Watch come alive.

Right now, however, Apple’s product vision boils down to, “Now you can keep your $700 phone in your pocket!”

In the past, Apple products have succeeded by making us realize we were already living in the future after all. The Apple Watch just makes me wish the future would get here a little bit quicker.

Image credit: Shinya Suzuki

  • Paul Traylor

    Thanks for keepin’ it real Robert. Hype drags me into bad decisions sometimes.

  • http://www.helloericritter.com/ Eric Ritter

    Robert, as a day one adopter I feel a lot of your pain. It’s important to keep in mind that Apple always controls the user experience with a slow, step-by-step roll out of software updates. Hopefully future OS versions will make notifications more interactive (and less annoying) so the you really can keep your phone in your pocket unless you need to type something. Just think how far we’ve come in a few short years from an appstore-less iPhone 1.
    I also agree that health-related bells and whistles will take the watch to the next level. And, I also can’t wait for the future to “get here a little bit quicker.”

    • https://www.352inc.com Robert Berris

      Hey Eric, thanks for the feedback.

      I agree, Apple does a good job of incrementally building upon their OS with each update. I’m sure 12 months from now we’ll see a lot more from them and the watch.

      It’ll also be interesting to see how Android Wear devices play a role in shaping the Apple Watch’s future, as they now have real competitors at way lower price points in some cases.