Within many English-speaking countries, there exists a children’s story which involves a small engine which could pull a train over a rather difficult hill. For the age level, it teaches courage and the power in small things. A few months back, fellow writer Justin Wack wrote a piece on what his thoughts were on using (and owning) an Apple Watch. Many people have praised Apple for designing and perhaps refining a new product category. In history’s past, both the iPod, iPhone, and iPad have been seen as such devices by some. Others might argue that all of their products have made a less-gradually decreasing impact.
One point which still remains solid: The Apple Watch, in its almost year of existence, has made strides where it impacted Android Wear. Tim Cook at the time was correct when he made fun of Android watches which used IceCream Sandwich as their base OS, only making it a sized-down version of that operating system. This was true to a point, as the very early watches (or some) did this exactly.
Recently, Google announced Android Wear 1.3. This new update brought with it an “Android together” app” which provides a watchface for people to use and send emojis, photos, or sketches with. It also has new single tap actions for expanding information easily, a feature which the Apple Watch cannot yet do (tapping an item opens the app associated with a glance or main complication.) Ultimately, both platforms will influence each other. And yet, there exist very few Android Wear watches which have a built-in speaker — so Screen Reading services are not yet usable on them.
The Apple Watch has potential, but the software limits it severely.
Might you be surprised by this statement? Virtually every first-generation product gets this conclusion. It just launched this year, there is no way for features to be developed instantly. The Watch is useful, but unfortunately my initial impression of it not being a need (though a smartphone-driven tool if that) stands.
For a first-generation product, the watch is pretty well built and useful in hardware.
The one key advantage to having entered this market is that when it comes to hardware, it appears as though the Watch will keep its ground for another year. Recently announced Android Wear watches (like the second-gen Moto 360) do not add comprehensive new features, besides additional customization and a physical redesign. Being a square watch, many say the Apple watch does not fit the category of this market, but I might argue otherwise: It was a small fad in 2011 to wear an iPod Nano as a makeshift watch, so much so that Apple designed watchfaces with a software update. 16 Of them, to be exact.
And then we have the new smartphone model in the US that just went mainstream.
A few months ago, I would have told you that the Apple Watch will eventually become iPhone-free, perhaps pointing at the recent update which allows for wi-fi calling on phones through at least T-mobile even when your phone is not nearby. Yet there’s another theory which compells me to think otherwise.
Recently, Verizon Wireless in the United States joined its competition (that of T-mobile, Sprint, and AT&T) in completely getting rid of the 2-year contract and lowering prices, but placing the burden of a device payment into the hands of consumers. Apple, more strategically, announced their carrier-free iPhone Upgrade Program, which allows customers to get a new iPhone with each passing year. This is huge for the Watch, though by nature, only the Apple Watch. From now on, the company can calculate roughly how many of its users will still retain iPhones, because a year later, there still exists $300+ on the payment plan. A fraction of these people, no doubt, will keep a Watch as well. Apple Watch, in many ways, will forever remain the small engine that will help pull the iPhone faster over the hill, and it’s possible that over time will offer exclusive features unique to the interaction model provided by the device.
The nature of Android means…
Android wear already supports the iPhone to an extent, but as any article will tell you, this gamble is not worth the price and value. While some actions (such as sending e-mail and reading texts) are possible, sending text messages is, for example, not. Unless Apple opens up its operating system further (a concept more likely under the leadership of Cook,) the Android crossover option for Wear will not be the best in idea. Unless, of course, a super cheap yet usable watch hits the market at a $50 pricepoint, which, predicting Android, could be possible.
Things that even a Fitbit can do that Apple Watch yet NATIVELY can’t
There exist three Fitbit features which I miss (from having owned such a device) which Apple currently natively lacks.
- Sleep tracking is not natively included with the Apple Watch, possibly because the device needs a nightly charge. In my real-world uses with the 42MM watch, this was, most times, not the case. I have taken perhaps a few naps (and even fewer nights!) With the device, and I consider the experience semi-comfortable. That is because the watch has an added weight to it, a weight the fitbit Flex or HR will never really have. With that said, a few apps that are third-party do sleep tracking, though will never reach the deepest integration that the calory tracker does built-in.
- Same goes with food tracking. There exist a few alternatives here, but native built-in food tracking? Not yet.
- The Fitbit (or devices similar to it) have the most “silent alarms” that a device could possess. The Watch does vibrate silently one one’s wrist, but with the screen reader, requires a person to manually turn it on and use speech to dismiss the alarm.
The Watch and Fitbit still serve two markets, and this probably will not change anytime soon. Apple is not known for extending battery life beyond original specifications. Both the iPhone and iPad (plus iPod Touch) still gets their respective hourly battery lives that Apple prescribed upon their first releases. This is fine, but it means that we are locked in the 18-24 hour window wich each generation. Watch fans, accept this now.
Will developers be the small tiny engines to an even bigger watch?
This must remain my final yet strongest point. The Watch does have a “chicken or the egg” problem. When the iPad came out, many developers jumped on the bandwagon of this tablet. The Watch has a few good ones, but there exist others such as Facebook which have a hard time making a presence on the device. Whether it’s due to its nature and the social network or the hesitations of knowing the market cannot be said.
What frustrates me even more is the creative potential developers could have, especially with Watch OS 2. A radio which lets you listen to a station on your watch’s speakers and turn the crown as though it were a dial? Apps which used the speaker as a tiny guitar tuner? Perhaps a way for people to alert emergency services quicker than they could from their phones? There’s just so much potential, and I’m surprised at how little Watch OS 2 has taken off in the hearts and spirits of developers and creativity.
Even existing apps, such as Trivia Crack, remain severely limited. One cannot start a game with a specific friend; The ability only exists for random players to be chosen for you. This is limiting, and if integration through the side button could be part of the OS, the watch could be far more integrated. As it stands, we require time and power to see which engine of our story the Apple Watch will become.