Time has flown by since Apple released its watch in April 2015. But for a product that turned two yesterday, the Apple Watch feels stubbornly stuck in its infancy — it’s a cute product without the skills to thrive on its own.
I’ve been using an Apple Watch from the start, back when the colors were more limited and you had to pay $10,000 or more for a gold-colored watch. Since then, I’ve lost a watch, amassed a sizable watch-band collection, and upgraded to the latest model. I still wear the device every day.
Apple has made improvements along the way. The Series 2 model, released last fall, is faster than the original. It’s waterproof and tracks your progress via its own GPS chip. You can technically leave your phone at home now. Recent operating-system upgrades have also made necessary improvements. We like the ability to scribble a text reply, for instance, which seems less obnoxious (and less error-prone) than dictating a reply.
The original appeal remains, as well. You get a quick tap on your wrist with every text message (that begins to feel strangely natural after a few weeks). You can set activity goals and cheer your watch-wearing friends on as they accomplish their own. You can swap out bands easily to get a new look — just make sure to buy the cheaper third-party models from Amazon. And you can view the time, temperature, and moon phase — as well as the next event on your calendar — with just one quick glance.
But still, the watch remains a niche product, and it’s hard to justify the purchase for all but the most dedicated Apple fans. Here are some ways the watch could expand its appeal.
Better battery life: You won’t be able to make it through two full days of Apple Watch use on a single charge, and that’s a problem. Rival companies make smartwatches that can last a week or longer in between charges. Those products allow you to take advantage of third-party sleep tracking apps and generally give you more flexibility.
An always-on screen: As it stands, the Apple Watch face only lights up when you raise your wrist to look at the screen or tap on the device. And there’s still a short lag even after your raise your watch. No one should have to wait for the time. This is a battery-saving measure, but the watch’s battery doesn’t last long enough anyway. Battery life could be Apple’s greatest challenge with the watch. The small space doesn’t allow for much battery. Maybe the company needs to rethink its screen; an e-ink model, like the screen used in Amazon’s Kindle, would allow for far more battery. Garmin uses a type of e-ink display in its smartwatches and they last for a week or more.
A slimmer case: The Apple Watch Series 2 is actually heavier than the earlier version. Apple needs to find a way to make the watch lighter and less bulky. That’s another area where competitors have an edge. Here, though, Apple is probably working against the physics required for…