One Year On, the Apple Watch Is in Need of a New Direction

Nilay Patel, writing for The Verge:

"I look at the Apple Watch and it's so obviously underpowered. We can sit around and argue about whether speeds and feeds matter, but the grand ambition of the Apple Watch is to be a full-fledged computer on your wrist, and right now it's a very slow computer. If Apple believes the Watch is indeed destined to become that computer, it needs to radically increase the raw power of the Watch's processor, while maintaining its just-almost-acceptable battery life. And it needs to do that while all of the other computers around us keep getting faster themselves."

I agree with him completely. But his argument is not impervious to critiques. As a close friend pointed out, the watch will get faster. Apple's moves to Watch OS 2 and native apps has helped immensely. And it's "a given" that future generations of the device will move more quickly.

But when I look at those truths, I remain unsatisfied. Patel's point is, in essence, that the watch was premature because the tech wasn't there in the first place. 

It's slow and has barely OK battery life from his (a quite a few others') perspective. When you think deeply and critically about those drawbacks, you realise that Apple compromised on performance in order to get the thing to last through the day, and that compromise lead to a poor experience-- consistently labelled as "laggy" -- from Day One. That's the opposite of what we expect from Apple.

My 120mhz Pebble Classic does a lot less than the Apple Watch to be sure, but the interface remains snappy after myriad of software updates and the battery still lasts for days on end. Those attributes are ones that I consider more "Apple-y" than the experience that I felt when I owned the watch for a couple of days before returning it; and that Patel has concluded over the course of a year of usage. 

When Apple lover and analyst John Gruber says he hopes Apple can "take a step back and reconsider some of the fundamental aspects to the *conceptual design,*" he's sugarcoating nothing less than severe dissatisfaction with the product and signalling that the iPhone+Wrist paradigm, with its gestures, buttons and swipes, and mostly-off screen doesn't make for a compelling device. When you combine his take and Patel's it sounds like they would hope that Apple chooses to make the watch less of a computer on the wrist, and more native to a watch experience- because this thing isn't working. 

This is not just an Apple problem. Google-based watches suffer from the same soup of technical yuck. The fact that purpose built, fitness trackers are still a thing rather than being sidelined by last year's touch-screen wonder watches means that if Apple and others want to attract people with their take on this new category, they need to offer truly snappy interfaces (read: quick), along with long enough battery life so that users don't really think twice about it. Charge it every night, sure, but build it so an active person gets an perceptually unlimited amount of use from the thing during the day. Additionally it's got to feel durable enough for users to really not worry about scratches to glass  and anodised paint, and yet retain whatever stylistic grace it's come to hold. And if it can't do these things, and do them soon, it needs to get cheaper. 

Especially when they at Apple's leadership claim such devices have a lifetime of only three years.