The hype surrounding the Apple Watch is swelling, as has become the norm with any new product from Apple. And why shouldn’t it be? In addition to providing Apple Watch with an extremely prolonged buildup (the Apple Watch was announced over five months ago,) Apple has just closed the highest grossing quarter for any company, ever.
So what does all of this mean for the Apple Watch? While it goes without saying that Apple fans are a fiercely devoted group, the picture surrounding Apple’s new wearable device isn’t quite as rosy as Tim Cook and Jony Ive would have you believe. In fact, there’s a chance that Apple’s first smartwatch could be somewhat of a “dud.” Here are a few factors that could contribute to a very slow start for the Apple Watch.
1. Battery Life
Recent news from 9to5mac has exposed disconcerting rumors about the Apple Watch’s battery life. According to the blog, the Apple Watch’s battery (which Apple claims should only need to be charged “once a day”) only lasts for 2.5 hours during heavy use. And even under standard app use, battery life is only said to hold out for a paltry three-and-a-half hours. These revelations have not done much to bolster excitement for the watch’s launch, slated for early April of this year.
In fairness, Apple says the battery can last three days when on standby and four days when in sleeping mode (after all, “heavy use” will only encompass a part of a day’s activities.) But smartwatch enthusiasts willing to pay $350+ for the Apple Watch are unlikely to keep it on standby for days at a time. Readwrite points out the possibility of Apple investing in an ultra-fast magsafe charger, though such a feature would only confirm fears that battery life is a serious issue with the Apple Watch.
2. Android’s Head Start
Apple is already late to the game when it comes to wearable devices. And while that’s by no means a crippling disadvantage – remember what the iPhone did to the popular Blackberry Pearl and Nokia N95 – competitors utilizing Android Wear’s budding platform have been making meaningful improvements to their devices for almost nine months. Android Wear’s head start looks to have already provided a serious boon to both the design and functionality of smartwatches like LG’s new Urbane. This advantage can also lead to better wearable security measures and a deeper understanding of what customers are looking for. Apple’s new watch will likely be playing catch-up for a generation or two, which is certainly not an enviable position to be in.
3. Social Acceptability
Wearable devices have had a tough barrier to climb in regards to gaining social acceptability (beginning first and foremost with Google Glass, which broadcasts all the pretense of a bluetooth earpiece, though at a much higher price point.) This has led to a growing number of smartwatches designed to look more like an actual wristwatch, including Motorola’s Moto360, LG’s G Watch R, and the aforementioned LG Urbane. Apple’s new watch, on the other hand, is brazenly bulky and unapologetically “Apple.” It makes no effort to conceal its smartwatch status and appears built to maximize smartwatch interaction, rather than serving as a streamlined method for interfacing with one’s smartphone.
There are even those who feel that creating a device specifically for the wrist may be viewed as a step backward for technology. Nick Hunn, the CTO of WiFore Consulting and expert in wireless technology, believes that the future belongs to devices placed in the ear. He makes the case for these “hearables,” saying that once devices like smartphones came along, conventional watches became nearly obsolete. So while many companies are evoking traditional watch design in an effort to gain acceptance, Hunn believes that consumers may be reluctant to weigh down their wrists so easily. If his fears prove substantial, the Apple Watch could face particular challenges gaining acceptance as one of the more intrusive smartwatches available.
4. No Killer App
Each of Apple’s past product successes has provided an innovative solution to a problem that is common to the vast majority of consumers. So what revolutionary feature does the Apple Watch bring to the table? Beyond the ability to complete transactions with Apple Pay (which is already remarkably simple using the iPhone in your pocket,) the Apple Watch is rather devoid of a killer app or other feature that will make it a must-buy among everyday consumers. So while it appears that Apple’s initial goal was to make the Apple Watch a robust health tracker, many of its original features were reportedly either too complex, too unstable, or required too much regulatory oversight to see the light of day.
With missed opportunities to focus on a more robust app ecosystem, include more compelling cloud computing features, or even offer a more drastic re-imagination (like the groundbreaking Neptune Duo has,) the Apple Watch leaves much to be desired from a company that has made redefining a category seem commonplace.
The Apple Watch may yet prove that a rabid fanbase and strong brand loyalty is enough to overcome any challenge. But unless some of the issues currently facing the Apple Watch are overcome soon, Apple’s first smartwatch appears to be in store for an inauspiciously slow start.
Tayven James is a Utah-based husband, father, and tech fan who loves to discover and opine about what’s new in the world.