I’ve given up on the Apple Watch

I’ve given up on the Apple Watch. It’s been 2 months since I last wore it and any feelings of regret that I may have had from it not being on my wrist are now long gone.

It wasn’t really a slow burn down either, I just needed a break from the constant buzzing and took it off and decided not to wear it the next day. It’s just sat on the charger since, literally gathering dust.

Lack of granular notifications is certainly part of it. Some mail is important and getting it on my wrist is genuinely useful, but so much more of it is not and there’s no way to differentiate. Fitness data is nice, I enjoyed getting the occasional little rewards from it too, but I’m not sure having all that extra data has any real purpose. Apple, like every other fitness band manufacturer is doing nothing to provide insights into all the data you end up recording.

As for apps, I never used any of them. I just wasn’t interested in running anything on a screen that small. And despite all the demos that Apple have done showing what apps can do, I still can’t see any compelling reasons why my opinion on that is going to change.

So instead I’ve gone back to my stainless steel Fossil watch. I don’t need to charge it, it tells the time better and it doesn’t keep vibrating just because I got an email which really could be dealt with later.

Apple Watch Experiences

I speculated before the Apple Watch was announced, and apart from the high end pricing, I think I came pretty close to what was ultimately released. It’s been 5 months now, and I’ve had my own Sport Edition since May, so it feels time to write about it again.

As a Pebble user since the original Kickstarter, and a happy one at that, the Apple Watch wasn’t a difficult purchase decision. I even switched from an Android handset back to an iPhone 6S so that I could use it. But the common question I get whenever people see me with it is “any good?” and even after 4 months, I’m still not sure I have a good answer.

Notifications are the bread and butter of the smart watch world, that was my main use case for the Pebble, and continues to be my main use case for the Apple Watch. I get a lot of server notifications from our Nagios monitoring system throughout the day, and getting those on my watch is genuinely useful. As are WhatsApp notifications when my wife is asking me to pick up milk, or when my NAS finishes downloading a file. For those apps that extend their notifications to be actionable, being able to approve my Duo Security two-factor push notifications without taking the phone out of my pocket is also great.

Battery life is also just fine, always making it through a day without a problem, almost two days at a push. I don’t find the user-interface confusing or difficult to understand, but I do sometimes find force touch unresponsive and I had to ratchet the Taptic engine up to full strength before I could feel alerts properly. The fitness features aren’t much more comprehensive than the Garmin fitness tracker I wore before, and in the area of actually being a clock, yes it tells the time just fine.

And now we’ve reached that point where I’m unsure what else to say about it. Not everyone is going to find notifications helpful, and even the most basic Casio watch can tell the time just fine. Apple call this the most personal product they’ve ever made, but I don’t think that’s because everyone can see it on your body, I think it’s because it’s usefulness is so varied from person to person.

I have a whole bunch of apps installed, but I never feel any reason to launch any of them. The slowness of launch and the random failures of not launching at all is definitely a factor in that, issues that I would hope are resolved by Watch 2.0 later this year, but even if they launched instantly, I’m still not sure what I do with them. Holding up the Shazam app to identify a song from your wrist is cool, but I find Shazam only useful about twice a year as it is. I don’t need to know the weather often enough that I need it right there at all times, and I never have a reason to follow directions, set alarms or timers, check stocks or view my Instagram feed on a tiny display.

For all intents and purposes, the entire screen of apps is pointless to me. Much the same as it was on the Pebble. I’ve used the directions once, and it worked pretty well, using different styles of tap on my wrist so I could tell when it wanted me to go left or right without looking at the screen – but the experience wasn’t that much better than just holding my phone out in front of me.

A whole button for communication? Never needed to use it. Ability to send drawings to other Apple Watch users? Don’t know anybody else with one. Apple Pay? Super futuristic when you use it, hobbled by lack of contactless payments at the shops I visit, and the £20 limit when I do. Siri? Something I wish was smarter, but constantly mis-understands me, or can’t do what I want anyway.

It doesn’t paint a rosy picture of a device that starts at £300.

Yet I put it on every day, and I like my notifications, and I miss it when it’s not on. That’s the real reason it’s personal, because it’s mine and I don’t want to give it away.

Just don’t ask me if it’s any good, because I still don’t think I have a good answer for you.

Apple Watch Speculation

The Apple Watch event may only be a little over 24 hours away, but that still leaves us with plenty time for idle speculation.

Like Gruber, I think it’s a lot of fun to play the guessing game, but unlike him, I don’t think the Apple Watch is going to have the stratospheric price points Twitter has been counjouring up over the past few months.

At first, I really believed all the comments that the tech-press was was going to have a shit-fit over the pricing, when it was finally announced. That the solid gold versions were going to be priced like luxury watches from Rolex, and come in at $10,000 and above. But further thought has lead me to believe that this is all wrong, because Apple are just not Rolex, and you don’t become them simply by releasing an expensive watch. Ford can’t become Bentley just because they release a Focus with a fancier leather and wood interior.

Collectors of luxury watches are not simply buying them because they’re made of gold, they’re buying them because they’re made by companies with a long history of craftsmanship. Hand built mechanisms with finely tuned components that will last your lifetime and beyond, heirlooms for future generations, an investment as much as a timepiece. An Apple Watch, mass-produced in a Chinese factory does not meet that criteria, and wrapping it in a gold box does not change that. Even if that model is assembled in the USA, the comparison is still not the same, since the expensive model is just the cheap model in a different outer. Those with a real interest in watches will find the Apple Watch crass.

And, even if they didn’t, Apple are also woefully under-prepared for selling that luxury. A man of gentry does not buy his timepiece from a spotty kid standing next to another customer buying a pink iPhone case. I can certainly believe it possible that Apple could create a special carpeted back-room for the sole purpose of purchasing one of these theft-magnets, but it would feel so out of place with the rest of what they do it would almost feel tone-deaf to their customer base.

And that’s my main argument against the high pricing, Apple is not a luxury brand. In the tech world, it may have a reputation for high prices, but that’s because most of their competitors are racing towards the bottom of the market as they try and stay relevant. Their rivals often chosen cheapness as a USP rather than quality or invention. Instead, Apple is a brand of the people. It is an aspirational brand, no doubt, but it makes products for everyone, and even high end devices like a Macbook Pro with their useful life of five years or more can be seen as a good value proposition versus buying a new Cheapbook every 18 months because the hinges broke, or the battery failed, or Windows has become unusable. There are many who will argue against that fact, who will always see them as just an expensive brand for snobs, but their success over the past decade is based on their wide range of customers, like the families that fill their stores, all of whom recognise the inherent value of quality design and integration.

Gruber quotes the section from the Apple website discussing the manufacturing effort which goes into one of their bands as a sign that they have to be expensive. To me, that just reads like typical Apple marketing copy, no different from their single piece of aluminium in the Macbooks, or the way the glass bonds to the screen in the iPhone. It’s part of that same affordable luxury message, and what allows them to convince you that $349 and above is a good price for a smartwatch, rather than Pebble’s $99.

I simply don’t believe that there’s a market for selling $10,000 smartwatches. Sure, the Kanye Wests of the world would be the first to show off their gold edition, but Apple didn’t build their business on that kind of customer. That is not an aspirational price, that is a ridiculed price. And in a world where most people have given up wearing a watch completely (largely thanks to the iPhone), and most of whom did before were unlikely to spend more than a couple of hundred dollars on one, I’m not sure how much market there is for a $1000 one either.

Which is why I think the top end models, even gold, will be more like $2500. I expect that top end to be more like a Mac Pro than a Rolex.

In the middle, the Steel, is probably priced like an iPhone, ignoring the irony of an accessory costing more than the item it’s an accessory for. Somewhere in the $500-$600 range.

And then at the bottom, we know, $349.

All of these models will have a number of straps available which will no doubt push the price further. A gold link strap for the gold edition is probably another $500-$1000 on it’s own. But the base prices, I think they’re all going to be much more sane than we’ve been lead to believe.

At $349, with the option of paying $100-$150 more for a nice metal strap, I think that’s a nice business to be in, with the potential for selling a lot of watches as you drive the pricing down to closer to $199 or $249 in year 2 or 3. But I question how much life there is in even a $600 watch business, let alone a $1000 one. It simply doesn’t smell right.