It’s been about 3 months since Apple launched their first new device without Steve Jobs at the helm: the Apple Watch. Pre-orders went live on April 10th at 3am New York time and I didn’t want to miss the chance to get one of the first shipments. But there was a problem: I was already headed to London at that time. While I love Richard Branson, I wouldn’t jeopardize my odds at getting the watch by relying on transatlantic wifi. Luckily, I have a very understanding girlfriend. While flying to London Business School to take a class and complete my Columbia EMBA, she woke up in the middle of the night to secure me an Apple Watch in the first round of preorders. I’m a lucky guy.
Now that I’ve had the Apple Watch strapped to my wrist for 90+ days, I thought it was about time to answer the most common questions that come up when I talk with friends and colleagues who aren’t quite sure what to make of this new wearable.
Is it an iPhone replacement?
Let’s not mince words - current smart watch screens are really small. From what I’ve experienced so far, apps (or app functions) that are driven primarily by gestures and swipes are where the Apple Watch really shines. For apps with a heavier navigational element (e.g. phone calls), I tend to just cut to the chase and pull out my phone to get the job done faster.
Aside from the difference in form factor that make certain apps impractical for direct porting to the Apple Watch, it also requires an iPhone 5 or later to perform its most important functions – that is, until the native SDK that’s part of watchOS 2 becomes available. For example, 3rd party fitness apps that rely on the Apple Watch’s sensors for data collection have to push that sensor data directly into a paired iPhone for the data to be usable. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently conceded to Fast Company that the need for that pairing “creates a ceiling” for the device that will certainly limit sales. You can bet Apple is doing everything in their power to address that issue in the upcoming rollout of the native Apple Watch SDK.
How is the payment experience?
Mobile-payment systems have been slow to catch on so far. However, with the likes of commercial giants such as Starbucks allowing for wrist-ordered lattes or Chipotle paving the way for buying burritos via your watch face, Apple Pay looks like it will be hard to beat. I’m already convinced. The payment experience is great via the iWatch and I haven’t seen any glitches or awkward moments. Over time I can see this mode of payment feeling even more natural than pulling out one’s credit card ever did.
Is the notification experience really that much better?
Where the Apple Watch really shines is with contextually relevant notifications. For example, it’s great to know when I have important emails or texts coming in without having to pull out my phone constantly. It’s much more natural to take a peek at my watch now and again.
And I’m not alone in this sentiment. In an online survey conducted by Battery Ventures, 109 early adopters of the Apple Watch were asked to discuss their usage of the device. 2 of the 3 top use cases - in terms of time spent on device - were checking email (72%) and text messaging (62%).
Should I use this to replace my wearable health & fitness devices?
From the same Battery Ventures study, the number one feature for Apple Watch users in terms of time spent was fitness tracking (72%). For me, tracking my health & fitness data and activities with my Apple Watch is “the” killer app. For wearable category leaders like FitBit and Jawbone, the advent of the Apple Watch and similar devices may be just a plain old killer. Some pundits agree, and are predicting that Apple Watch and other smart watches will cut into the single purpose fitness/activity tracker market, reducing its current size by up to 75% by the year 2020.
Evolution, not revolution.
The Apple Watch is a great device, but it won’t ever replace (at least for me) a well made “dumb” watch. Still, it’s hands down the best product in the smart watch category that’s been released to date. I can’t wait to see how the ecosystem and apps around the Apple Watch continue to develop.