Is Apple’s smartwatch more watch than smart?
The Apple watch has been out now for over a month now. For many people who haven’t purchased the watch yet, the question is: How smart is Apple’s smartwatch? Is it more watch than smart? Let me be clear. I do not own an Apple Watch…yet. At least that is what Apple is hoping everyone will be saying. I don’t own one, yet. Everyone’s circumstances are different. I am a gadget guy but for me, before I shell out $400 dollars, I need some important answers answered:
- Why $400 and not $250?
- Does it track activity well?
- Does it do a good job for running?
- Will it make my life easier?
After reading the reviews of those who have had the watch for a while now, some of my questions have been answered.
Why $400 and not $250?
Apple enters an already crowded market with several excellent Android Wear watches from the likes of Motorola, Samsung, LG, Asus, and Sony. The Kickstarter funded smartwatch, the Pebble, is one of the best Smartwatches on the market selling over 1 million watches . Pebble’s entry level watch is priced at $99 and works with iOS and Android. The other companies offer Android powered smartwatches ranging from the Moto 360’s new low price of $149 to the LG Urbane selling for $350. Most Android Wear devices sell around the $250 dollar range. Some of these watches are now in their second and third generation. When you look at these prices and what Android Wear and Pebble is offering you wonder what on earth Apple is thinking with an entry price of $350 (smaller watch) for their first generation offering? Is the device that good? Isn’t 350 a ridiculous price? Now if you could get a smartwatch, a fitness tracker, and a running watch in one device, maybe that would make more sense. After all, my Nike running watch was $170. A Fitbit is around $87. Subtracting those two prices from $400, that makes the smartwatch only $143, a price under the cost of the Moto 360.
Truth be told, pundits and analysts have for years on end exclaimed that Apple’s prices were too high. And yet, every single year, for well over a decade at this point, Apple has sold hundreds of millions of products at prices that are typically higher than the competition….Relative to other smartwatches, the Apple Watch premium is actually less than the premium Apple tacks on to its other products. And relative to other offerings within the watch industry, the Apple Watch pricing matrix is not nearly as jaw-droppingly high as some critics would have you believe.
The over all purpose of an activity tracker, at least for me, is to be more active. It sounds like this is what this watch does well.
Brian Dalek from Runner’s World said:
The motivating part of it mostly comes from the taptic pulses to your wrist and notifications that you’ve been idle for a long period of time. Maybe you’ve been sitting at your desk for more than an hour, so you’ll get a note that it’s time to stand.
Late in the afternoons I’ve often gotten messages that I’m just short of my Move (calorie burn) goal. And it was pretty amazing that as soon as I arrived at work on a Monday morning, I received a notification that my weekly Move goal was adjusted down because I wasn’t reaching the higher mark. Apple doesn’t want to let you slip into lethargy.
Does it do a good job for running?
Apple employed respected marathon runner Christy Turlington Burns to take it for a test drive and help market the watch for runners.
Most reviews lean toward the negative on the Apple Watch being good for running. Lack of GPS is real issue. Apple claims that once it learns your stride by running with your phone then the watch will be accurate. This has not been the case for many as Dalek points out:
On probably half a dozen standard runs around town, where I generally know the distance covered and others’ watches agree, the distance seems to be almost half a mile off when I go about five miles. Maybe I need more time tied to my phone at this point, but I can’t say I recommend trusting the watch on your 20-mile training run.
So what about running with your phone? Many do carry their phone with them. As Matthew Miller of ZDNet.com pointed out:
I saw about 10 other runners during my morning run with every person, but two, running with their phones in their hands or strapped to their arms. I prefer to run with my phone for a couple of reasons; I enjoy capturing photos on my routes since I often run when I travel around the world and I want a means to call my wife or 911 in case of an emergency.
Water interfering with the touch interface is another concern as Dalek’s experience highlights:
When we took off, I hit start like everyone does with their watch, except after five frustrating taps it wouldn’t begin the workout. At this point among a crowd of runners, I wasn’t going to stop and try to fix this. So it went ignored and I just focused on the accurate information and splits coming from the four-year-old GPS watch sitting on my other wrist.
Perhaps Dana Wollman of Engadget said it best:
Even in its first iteration, though, it’s a great fitness tracker and has the potential to one day be a good running watch.
Will it make my life easer?
What Serenity Caldwell from iMore.com stated in iMore podcast (episode 456) should be the mission statement of all smartwatches:
In other iMore podcasts the cast talks about how they were surprised to find that the watch allowed them to keep their phone in their pocket or out of sight now and stay engaged with the world around them. Previously, they were constantly looking at the phone to see if something important is going on. With the watch, they are able to screen out what is important and allow those notifications to their watch.
History has shown that the success of Apples mobile products come from their App store. Over 3,000 apps work with the Apple watch but as wall not every app is a gem. Some of the apps are nice but reviewers say many are slow loading and not polished yet. The consensus seems to be that in the Fall we will see better apps as developers dial them in and understand what customers want. The early apps were developed on simulators and will be refined once users report back on their experiences.
Three apps that look promising in making my life easier are My Diet Coach, Todoist, and Daily Bread.
- My Diet Coach provides a simple interface on the watch to enter food and water intake.
- Todoist is a simple todo list that show what needs to be done today.
- Daily Bread is an app that tracks your shopping list and uses proximity to come up and remind you of what you want next time you are at that location.
Does it do a good job with running?
- Maybe. With carrying the phone, it works great but sweating may make your touch interface unresponsive. Maybe this can be addressed with a software update but I don’t see how.
Does it record activity well?
- Yes, as good as any. Just like all of it’s predecessors it gives data that is subjective but seems to accomplish the real goal-getting active.
Does it make my life easier?
- Maybe. As the apps improve, there are some promising ways I can see the Apple watch helping to manage my time better.
Why $400 and not $250?
- Maybe this price point is ok. If Apple can fix the sweat problem, then the watch is pretty good for running ($170). The activity tracking seems to do well at doing what we really need activity trackers to do-get us moving ($87). The only thing left is for the watch to be a better smartwatch than the other smartwatches on the market and one can rationalize the $400. As of right now, the watch is not dominating the competition. Once again it will fall on the App store developers to convince us why we need this watch.
As of right now. I am not buying an Apple watch…yet.
Caldwell, Serenity, iMore Podcast Episode 456), iMore.com
Dalek, Brian, “The Runner’s World Apple Watch Review”, Runnersworld.com
Heisler, Yoni, “No, the Apple Watch isn’t too expensive“, bgr.com
Miller, Matthew, “One month with the Apple Watch: Pain, joy, and daily experiences”, ZDNet.com
Miller, Matthew,“Running with the Apple Watch: Yes, you can leave your iPhone behind”, ZDNet.com
Wollman, Dana, “The Apple Watch as a fitness device (as written by a runner)”, Engadget