The Apple Watch is Good, Not Great (it just needs a little zip)
It was just over a year ago that we all got our first look at the Apple Watch, and what a year it has been! We’ve all gone from excited, to disappointed, to ecstatic, and we’ve talked about everything from what a solid gold watch could cost to the very nature of a smart watch and what they should do. It’s been a blast, and I’m very happy that I bought one at launch and also that I’ve had a platform to share my thoughts and get feedback on how other people are using their Apple Watches. Having long, heated debates about watches was not something I thought I would be doing a few years ago, but it seems to be the norm lately (big shout out to Abdel Ibrahim, who is relentlessly pushing to figure out where this whole watch thing is headed).
But now as we start to think about 2016, I’m also thinking about what the inevitable follow up to the Apple Watch will be. I’ve been using my Watch for almost 7 months, and those inside Cupertino have been using theirs for much longer. The Apple Watch is more than just a concept now, it’s real. And like all real products, it has flaws.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my Apple Watch. It’s one of the more expensive things I’ve bought all year, but it’s also probably my favorite thing I have bought. Consider this: I would much rather give up my iPhone 6S Plus (which I also love) and use a 4 inch iPhone (shudder) than give up my Apple Watch.
When I step back and look at the big picture, I think there are 2 things Apple should work on with their follow up versions of the Watch: speed and price. Now, price is a big one. At a starting price of $349, the Apple Watch is already one of the most expensive smart watches you can buy, and it only goes up from there. No matter how good the Apple Watch is, the market for $349-12,000 smart watches is only so big, so price is definitely something that they want to address down the line. However, I don’t think that time is now. To look at a first generation Apple product and suggest that the main thing they need to do is lower its price is to show a fundamental misunderstanding of how Apple works. Yes, the Apple Watch is pricy, but their first get products are always expensive compared to the competition. The Apple Watch will have it’s "iPod mini moment" in a couple years and they will start to sell in huge numbers, but that’s more of a version 3 or 4 move.
Speed has got to be the name of the game with Apple Watch 2. Hell, they could call it the Apple Watch S. If Jony Ive and crew have a whiteboard with their ideas for the next Watch, I really hope the word “FAST” is written in permanent marker across the top. All changes made to the hardware should be in the interest of ensuring they can get a much faster device on people’s wrists in 2016. Whether that’s getting a significantly faster CPU in there, improving the Bluetooth connection, or whatever else, they need to be thinking faster, faster, faster… I don’t want one that thinner or lighter, I just want one that’s faster.
Some things on the Apple Watch are really fast: setting a timer, checking notifications, and media controls all fly. The problem comes in when you are using Siri or launching an app. These things aren’t horrendous, but they feel slower than they should. When you compare that speed to how fast your phone can do these things, it’s night and day, the iPhone is way faster. And isn’t the whole point of the smart watch that it lets you do things faster than on your phone?
Speed is a big opportunity for Apple to move forward with the Apple Watch next year. The speed that the current Watch does things limits it to being a good product, but they need to have a great product on their hands before they start to think about making it cheaper. There’s also GPS, a camera, and LTE that Apple may also want to add in the near future, but none of those will improve on the existing Apple Watch from a usability perspective as some damn fast hardware. Apple should make the core experience great, then add features and make it more affordable.