Before the Apple Watch was announced I wanted one. Actually, I’d say I really wanted one. I had a smartwatch with my old Android phone, but it stopped charging right around the time when I switched to an iPhone, so I waited patiently for the day that Apple would release a smartwatch.
When Apple finally announced the Apple Watch, I was excited, until I heard the price: US$349 ($449 this side of the border). All that hope for an Apple Watch seemed to be in vain. With such of a stratospheric price, I couldn’t imagine being able to justify buying one, and when I got around to playing with the Apple Watch in the Apple Store, I was underwhelmed with it. I particularly remember not being fond of the really confusing interface.
But I missed having a smartwatch, so I gave the Pebble Time a try. I wrote about it extensively here. But long story short, it wasn’t for me. It was missing the apps I wanted and a lot of the functionality I needed wasn’t there either.
But as the seasons change, as they do in life, the Apple Watch with all of its functionality suddenly made more sense in my life. Although the steep price tag was very hard to take and it was pretty obvious that the user interface would definitely need some getting used to, I bit the bullet and sprung for it.
A few days after getting the watch someone asked me my opinion of the watch. It still pretty much stands to this day: The Apple Watch isn’t suited for most people at the moment. Period. It’s really quite simple. I could end it there, but this would be a short post. I also told him that it’s crazy expensive and really unreliable, and oh boy, is it ever.
I felt if the watch wasn’t so reliant on the iPhone, it would fix a lot of its reliability issues. We’ll get to this in some detail later, but it seemed that many of the watch’s apps were connected to apps on the phone that were pushing content to the watch, rather than having apps natively on the watch get content through Wi-Fi.
The laundry list of problems can go on and on. The Apple Watch needs a better and louder speaker. You know, one that you can use to play music… It needs more watch faces, a more secure charger, better battery life, a more intuitive UI and a better way to compose texts and emails, too.
But enough with the preamble, here’s everything that I think is wrong with the Apple Watch:
Even the pope has to look at these prices and be like “Are you friggin’ serious?” (screenshot via Apple Store app)
The cost: The Apple Watch is expensive. It’s stupid expensive. I covered the ridiculous cost of the Apple Watch at length in the Pebble Time review, but to save you the time of reading it, the Apple Watch is probably two times as expensive than what I wanted to pay for it. I think the watch’s cost is its biggest hurdle. Who would want to pay $449 for a watch when you can get a very good tablet or a low-end computer for the same price? Don’t get me started with the Apple Watch Editions, which is such of an egregious waste of money that I think even the Kardashians had to be like, “Really? You’re going to charge that for something that’s going to be obsolete in a year?” Who am I kidding? They don’t care how much anything costs.
A glamour shot you’ll see when you set up your watch (Screenshot via Watch app)
The design: While some people praise the Apple Watch’s design. I’m not convinced it’s that great. It looks okay, I suppose, but I think Apple has done better and they should’ve done better with their watch. The main problem is that it’s kinda thick, which can look a bit awkward when you compare it to what other watches look like. It’s also square which looks weird when not only compared with traditional watches, but some smartwatches as well. Some of the newer Pebble and Android Wear watches are round.
When you pay a couple hundred dollars for a watch, you’d think you’d get a decent band to
Doesn’t it look cheap?
go along with it, but the one with the stock Apple Watch Sport leaves a lot to be desired.
While the plastic doesn’t feel cheap, it feels weird getting a plastic band for a watch that costs this much. I know it’s the Sport model, but let’s get real, that’s just a marketing term to differentiate the (slightly) cheaper models from the more expensive models. Anyway, the band that comes with the Sport model makes it hard to put on the watch. I went for months feeling like I was always going to drop the watch when putting it on. The band doesn’t have a traditional buckle either. It kinda folds under itself with a pin holding it in place. It doesn’t sound very secure and doesn’t feel terribly secure in practice either. If you’re walking in a bad neighbourhood, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d feel like someone would walk behind you and swipe it off your wrist without you knowing.
The Digital Crown: The Digital Crown can feel a bit silly at times. It’s usually used to scroll and to zoom into stuff when you turn it, but it’s also supposed to take you to the home screen with one press, bring up Siri if you hold it and switch between apps if you double press it. I find that it isn’t clear what the digital crown will do when you turn it in some apps on the watch and that it mixes up the button presses regularly. For example, double pressing on it sometimes brings
There’s the Digital Crown and the side button. Keep in mind that I have a case on the watch.
you to the home screen or Siri instead of to the last used app. It’s an art to get the Digital Crown button to work, one that I haven’t fully mastered despite having the watch for months with rumours of Apple launching a new watch to replace it in full swing.
The side button: Here’s one of the most baffling things about the Apple Watch: The side button, that big honking button under the Digital Crown, randomly brings up your top contacts if you press it. Who would’ve thunk it? I think it would have been far more natural as a select button. It almost seems like that’s what its original purpose was, but Apple reneged last minute and gave it a new purpose to avoid redesigning the entire watch. Anyway, you also use the side button to power on and off the device and launch Apple Pay, I believe. Who knows really? Does anyone use Apple Pay in Canada?
Siri is as useless as ever on the Apple Watch (screenshot via Siri)
Siri: Apple’s virtual assistant has been next to useless to me on the iPad and iPhone. She’d tend to misunderstand me or bring up something irrelevant, when other voice assistants like Google Now would actually do something useful. Well, take that miserable experience, slap that on your wrist, take away her sassy backtalk, strip away a lot of what makes her useful, slow her to a crawl and there you have Siri on Apple Watch. Much like on iOS, Siri responds to your voice, but she doesn’t speak back to you on the watch, and she’s usually pretty slow. Siri sometimes has a hard time
You’ll have to get used to seeing this after a long, long wait (screenshot via Siri)
understanding what you say, too. She doesn’t bring you web results a lot of the time on the watch, so she tells you to pull out your iPhone. She can’t even do some simple tasks like switching an appointment on the watch either, not that it would matter because a lot of the times she’s just unresponsive. I’ve had trouble getting her to respond to “Hey, Siri” or when I did, she’d typically take forever to connect to the Internet or the phone and crap out. It’s a miserable experience, and it’s pretty disappointing because voice recognition is primarily what you have to rely on to get any content into applications on the watch.
So I’m 2:11 into the track, but how long is the track?
Music: Yes, there’s a Music app on the Apple Watch; and yes, the Apple Watch has speakers, but get this, you can’t play music using the built-in speakers. I know, what? You have to play music through your phone or Bluetooth speakers/headphones. So if you’ve had dreams of blasting some tunes with your watch while washing the dishes or if you’re an oddball and want to take it in the shower to listen to some music, you’re out of luck. Having tunes on your wrist while you’re working away, would seem like
Some of the options you’ll find in the Music app
a selling point for a smartwatch, but maybe they didn’t bother with it because the speaker is kinda quiet on the device. If that wasn’t disappointing enough, you can’t do much with apps like Spotify with the watch. While you can switch between playlists and pick out songs for iTunes/Apple Music tracks, you only get simple controls like skipping a track, pausing it etc. for almost anything else. Also, you can only sync up to 2 GB or 250 iTunes/Apple Music tracks to store on the watch…to not play on the watch, but the random Bluetooth speakers or headphones. It gets worse, you can’t even see how long the track you’re playing actually is. It may say that you’re 2:15 into the track, but that’s about it. Needless to say, Music on the Apple Watch is a big bummer.
Photos: I didn’t expect much from the Photos app on the watch, and it turns out I was right to feel that way — I shouldn’t have expected much from it at all. The Photos app is kinda useless on the watch since the screen is so small, but it’s particularly useless because you can only sync up to 500 photos or one album at a time. Next!
Good luck trying to make Maps on the Apple Watch usable
Maps: This is another application that suffers because of the small screen size. If it wasn’t for that, it would be because the app is slow. If it wasn’t for that, it would be because of the clumsy controls. If it wasn’t for that, it would be because the Apple Maps directions suck when compared to Google Maps. Thankfully, there is a Google Maps app for the watch, but it suffers because of the screen size, the overall slowness of the watch and the clumsy controls like the Apple Maps app. Are you noticing a pattern here?
The pretty but UI nightmare that is the Apple Watch home screen
The home screen: This one is kinda obvious. If you’ve ever seen the Apple Watch’s home screen, it’s a bunch of tiny dots. It’s hard to get the right dot or application you want by tapping it. I’d get the app next to the one I want sometimes. If you use the Digital Crown, you can zoom out to the point where all the dots become a tiny dot on the screen and you can also zoom to the point where it throws you in an
Why not use a set up like this for the home screen? (screenshot via Settings)
app. That’s quite useless because you’d have to line up the app you want directly in the centre to get that to work, which is kinda hard. I’d prefer to see something closer to the menu that they used for the Settings app for the home screen. You see a list of apps, scroll down to the one you want, tap it and you’re golden. What’s wrong with that? Don’t overthink it, Apple.
Apps: While Apple Watch’s apps are far superior to the ones on the Pebble AppStore, they’re very slow sometimes to the point where they’re unusable. They’d literally take so long to come up that the screen would go dark before they’d come up.
You’ll have to wait for some apps, and wait, and wait (screenshot via Google Maps)
Even when you wake the screen, they’d still be loading at times. To get them to work, I’d have to toggle the watch off and on Airplane mode. I’ve only tried that a few times, but it seems like that works. There doesn’t seem to be too many Apple Watch apps when compared to what I’d seen for the Pebble AppStore, but a lot of those Pebble apps were useless or barely functional. However, much like the Pebble AppStore, it’s hard to find apps that work with the Apple Watch. If they’re not featured, you won’t know about them. And I can’t remember seeing many new featured apps in the store since I got the watch ages ago, which makes me think developers aren’t developing for it
Todoist brings along a lot of the features that you’d find in other versions of the app (screenshot via Todoist)
and don’t see the Watch as a priority. That not only makes me nervous for the Apple Watch, but smartwatches on a whole.
Force Touch: While it’s a hyped feature and one that sets the Apple Watch apart from the competition. It’s not clear what Force Touch will do most of the time, which is pretty bad because it holds some features that you can’t access any other way. I find that it hides a lot of important menu options that could’ve easily been put in the app elsewhere. Also, when you press down on the screen and don’t have any Force Touch options, the screen moves, but you don’t feel anything, which I think is weird. I also think the implementation of Force Touch or 3D Touch on the iPhone is better. It’s not mandatory, but it’s like an added bonus for those who want an additional shortcut to navigate through their phone.
Here are some rather important options hidden in the Music app’s Force Touch menu (screenshot via Music)
You’ll have a variety of options to respond to texts and email (screenshot via Messages)
Texts/emails: Unlike some Samsung Smartwatches, you don’t have the option of inputting text with a keypad. Some of the Samsung watches allow you to compose texts much like how you would compose a text using a flip phone with a numeric keypad. You have to rely on your voice for a lot of things, which is a pain considering how much Apple’s voice recognition technology sucks. You do have the option of choosing from a limited set of canned messages, using an emoji or sending a voice recording response to messages, too, but those options are still very limited. At least you can change the limited number of canned responses that you can send with the watch. Email suffers a lot of the same problems as texting on the Apple Watch, but when it comes to email, I found that it’s only possible to sync one inbox or folder at a time.
The impossibly frustrating Apple Watch charger
Charger: If you want to talk about a real pain in the ass, let’s talk about the charger. It’s pretty much a magnetic puck that goes on the rear of the watch, which sounds like an elegant and simple solution, but when you use it, it’s clear it’s not. You’ll probably have a hard time telling which side of the charger you’re supposed to use to charge the device. If you pick the wrong side, the charger awkwardly slides off the watch. To make matters worse, the magnets that they used to charge the watch aren’t very strong. It feels really flimsy, like it will fall right off. You definitely can’t pick up the watch by the charger, as you might be able to do with an iPad and a Smart Cover (not that many people would want to do that anyway). Perhaps most troubling of all is that there’s a good chance your watch will slide right off the table and onto the floor with the charger due to its design. Thankfully, this is easily solved by buying an Apple Watch stand. A good stand will hold the charger the right way so you can easily slip your watch on it, and it will be study enough so you won’t have to worry about your watch falling off your table. Hurray.
A lot of the options from your iPhone’s Phone app make their way to the Apple Watch (screenshot via Phone)
Phone calls: Yes, it is true that you can accept phone calls on the device, but the speaker is really quiet, so it’s not ideal. You’d have to be in a quiet room to use it effectively. I mean it is possible to use it in a noisy environment, but it’s far from ideal. You’d probably have to hold your wrist to your head, and you’d look like a dork. When calls do come in, you’re presented with accept and decline buttons, but you gotta remember a few things. The green button answers the call on the watch, not your phone or headset, to answer the call on your phone or headset, you have to use the Digital Crown to scroll down to find the answer on iPhone option. It will then put your call on hold, so you can answer it. It’s not quite an elegant solution — no one likes to be put on hold — but the option to answer calls on your phone is there.
You should be okay with the Apple Watch’s battery life unless you’re into sleep tracking
One time I got roughly half a day out of my Apple Watch, and I think it was because I asked Siri to check my heart rate. Apparently, that’s a glitch they fixed with a recent update. Typically, I’d estimate you’d get a day or a day and a half or two days with a single charge. That’s nothing compared to the estimated seven days that you’d get with several of the Pebble models, but I bet that would be enough for most unless you’re up 24/7 or want to do some sleep tracking.
This is pretty much the only Watchface that makes any sort of sense on a smartwatch (Screeenshot via Clock)
Watchfaces: Watchfaces are quite limited on the Apple Watch. There are only a dozen or so, and while you can add a bunch of complications to some, you can’t with others. On a whole, what you can do with the watchfaces is quite limited when compared to what you can do with a Pebble.
I’ve heard mixed things about
I’ve a lazy guy (screenshot via Activity)
the fitness tracking. I don’t workout, but I’ve noticed that the Apple Watch will harass you to move if you haven’t moved in a while. (You can turn those notifications off like I did.) There are also random fitness notifications it will throw at you throughout the day. I’ve noticed at least on one occasion that the watch stopped tracking my heart for a few hours. I’m not sure what that was all about.
So why put up with the Apple Watch when it has so many flaws?
I’m a very lazy guy (screenshot via Activity)
It’s because when it works, it works well. There’s something great about looking at your wrist to see a text, email or call coming. It’s really handy to reply to texts with canned messages. Pulling up a grocery list on your watch beats paper or holding your phone in the supermarket. Having the weather on your wrist is brilliant. The health information is a great novelty. Dictating texts and accepting and making calls are great features when they work and are practical. The Apple Watch is the only game in town if you want all of those features in a smartwatch. While it has fallen on its face hard in some respects, I’m fairly confident that with a few software updates, things will run a bit smoothly; however, there’s a good chance that by then, the watch will be so slow that the only solution would be to buy a new one. Oh, Apple.