When Apple introduced the iPhone, it reinvented the cellphone and brought about the modern smartphone market. When it launched the iPad, it created an entirely new segment of personal computing. Now, the world waits to see if Apple will be able to do the same for wearables with Apple Watch.
In some sense the Apple Watch bears resemblance to its sibling product launches: It’s initially limited to a few functions, its battery life is so-so, and it’s a costly alternative to the flood of wearables currently on the market. Despite its drawbacks, no one is saying the Apple Watch won't sell -- it will. UBS predicts sales of 24 million units in the first months. And even on the low side of estimates, which range around 15 million, those sales can easily match first-year iPads sales, which topped 14.8 million in 2010.
But unlike the iPhone and iPad, the use case for the Apple Watch are much less clear. And out of the gate, the Apple Watch has many more obvious flaws: It's dependent on the iPhone's Internet connection, duplicates a number of functionalities already available on the latest iPhones and, well, young people stopped wearing watches years ago. On the eve of Apple's most important launch since iPad, here are the most glaring shortcomings of Apple Watch:
The Apple Watch is touted as a multifunctional tool that can do everything from keeping time to tracking your health. But potentially setting it back is battery life, which is expected to only last for the day.
“We think people are going to use it so much you will wind up charging it daily,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said during the WSJD Live Conference in October.
To Apple’s credit, the Apple Watch is expected to maintain the current status quo of color display wearable battery life, most of which lasts less than a day, save for the Samsung Gear 2 with its two-day battery. But if the company wants developers to find ways to use the Apple Watch at night, such as through a sleep tracker app, they’ll have to improve battery life so users aren’t charging it on a nightly basis and develop a charging method that doesn't block the heartrate sensor.
Limited as a fitness tracker
As a fitness tracker the Apple Watch will only be able to do a few things such as tracking heartrate, steps and measure distance moved using GPS. But it’s not clear whether or not it will be the best tool for the job. And for users that currently own a fitness tracker, many already choose a device that is catered to tracking a specific activity, such as walking or run monitoring.
“People who have sports as a hobby often choose a sport watch such as those from Polar or Garmin that have a UI customized for people wanting to track their run,” Gartner Research Director Angela McIntyre said. “Whereas, the Apple Watch is mostly bringing new kinds of convenience to consumers connecting with their social media or receiving alerts and calls.”
While Apple could eventually add more features to the Apple Watch to track more aspects of a user’s health, future designs will also have to comply with draft guidelines issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which govern what wearables can do without needing to be further inspected by the regulatory body.
Unlike Apple’s current lineup of iPhones, iPads and Macs, the prices for the Apple Watch are expected to range from a starting price of $349 for the Apple Watch Sport to as high as $5,000 for the 18-karat gold Apple Watch Edition. While Apple is not known for selling “low-end” products, the price points delineate which financial demographic it’s looking to appeal to with each model.
On one hand, the prices allow for users of all demographics to get a piece of the wearable. But on the other hand, even if you're able to get your hands on the high-end gold model, it's expected by police to be a potential thief magnet.
Useless without an iPhone
Beyond the Apple Watch’s merits as a fitness tracker and social communications device, Apple is also tasked with convincing users that they need a device beyond the iPhone. After all, a lot of the capabilities of the Apple Watch are already baked into Apple’s iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, such as step tracking and heart rate monitoring through third-party apps.
While the Apple Watch will be able to do a number of new things through various apps and built-in tools, it’s still reliant on the iPhone’s Internet connection for many of its functions.
“People still need to be convinced of the value the smartwatch wearable on the wrist,” McIntyre said. “Apple Watch is certainly raising the awareness on how the smartwatch could be a lifestyle product. But many of the younger generation has gotten away from wearing watches and don’t feel the need for it.”