Watch This Space

The embargo date on Apple Watch reviews has clearly lifted, and they are everywhere. My personal favourite is the one at The Verge. It’s hard to say until I hold one, but it definitely seems like Apple has put in a solid effort for a version 1.0. I still predict these will sell in far greater numbers than Android Wear, because lets face it: Apple know how to sell products. Google’s “Let’s release it the second it’s ready and get user feedback” approach is cute, maybe even admirable, but it’s not a good way to launch anything.

Anyone that says the numbers will be ‘disappointing’ or ‘low’ is in for a bad time. That said I do have a few concerns:

  • The glance to look at the time action. Most reviewers seem to comment that it can take a few moments for the screen to turn on, and occasionally it doesn’t turn on at all. I had this exact experience with my Moto 360, and as odd as it might sound, it quickly became annoying. It probably only failed about 1 in 20 attempts, but those quickly add up. Watches like the LG G Watch R that have the ability to have always on, OLED screens are a much nicer experience. Basically when you’re not looking at it, Android Wear goes into ‘ambient’ mode. In this mode you can still clearly read the time and any notifications you might have without needing to wake up the watch. Once you’ve had a watch that does that, you won’t be able to go back. I’d bet that the second or third generation of Apple Watch comes with a similar feature. All that’s really required to enable it are some SDK changes and slightly better battery life. The LG watch I mentioned still has more battery life with this mode on, than the Apple Watch without it.
  • Battery life. Yes, yes, I know! “It’s fine, I can just charge it every night!”. I bet you think that’s ok, trust me, it gets annoying. Again the Moto 360 has very similar battery life, once you’ve had a watch that lasts even just 2 days (which the latest batch of Wear watches manage), you’ll realise just how much of a difference that makes. All it takes is one long night out, or staying over a friends house, or just playing with the thing too much and suddenly you have a dead weight on your wrist.
  • Watch apps that run on your phone. This part concerns me the most. On Android Wear apps run on your watch, and for the most part they are snappy and very flexible in what they can display and do. I’m concerned about Apple’s ‘template’ approach to watch app design, and how responsive that will be over a bluetooth connection.

After reading that, you might think I’m ‘negative’ or ‘down’ on the Apple Watch. You might even be thinking that I’m suggesting Android Wear is the superior platform. I’m not. I honestly think that Apple has the marketing muscle to ensure that developers rush to the Apple Watch and make really interesting things for it. This in turn will make the Apple Watch a far more interesting platform (in the short term at least). So I’m definitely bullish on it, I’m just gun shy about buying the first version. I suspect that version 2 of the watch will be something that ages far better and lives far longer.

Oh who am I kidding? I love new gadgets, I’ll be here in under 10 hours time refreshing the Apple Store if you need me…