Apple released its long rumored Smartwatch today, and I'm very underwhelmed by the specs. In fairness, I haven't seen the device in person, so this isn't a full judgment. But I suspect I'm somewhat close to the truth since all Smartwatches have built-in limitations.
They're big for men and huge for women, they have tiny screens, you need to have a Smartphone for them to connect with, they're an added expensive device, and everything they do a Smartphone can do much better. At some point this might change as technology adapts, but a) that's in the future, and b) some of these hurdles are inherent in the product. For instance, the screen will always have to be tiny.
The device seems to me mostly centered on health & fitness capabilities -- like pulse, calories burned and such -- and that's fine (and, in fact, it's where "Smartband" products most shine), but solid as that market is, it's a niche market. The Apple Watch as it's known comes in two sizes, and while I initially suspected that one would be much smaller and closer to a Smartband, it turns out that the two actually differ with face sizes of 1.5" and 1.65" diagonally, not all that significant.
Here's the core of why I was underwhelmed: the Huffington Post is well-documented for its Apple Love, so as much as anyone they will go to lengths to seek out ways of explaining why the Smartwatch is so spectacular. And about the best they could come up with is -- "One cool feature getting people talking: the ability to share your heartbeat with your friends who also have Apple watches."
Seriously? That's a cool feature for this product? How many of you have ever thought of sharing your heartbeat with someone else??? If that's what makes the Apple Smartwatch cool, it has a problematic future.
The other notable features highlighted are that it has a touchscreen and an application for wireless payment called "Apple Pay." Given the size of the screen and that wireless payment has not caught on yet with the public, these are not what are referred as "killer apps."
Also, while Apple tends to pride itself on designing devices that stand out from the competition, the Smartwatch is pretty standard in it looks. The company didn't discuss battery life at the roll-out, but an Apple spokesperson later said that the device would have to be charged every night, something that's standard on the low end. So, there's a lot here that's fairly standard, for a product that hasn't yet shown great demand or functional needs.
There might be more here that I'm missing. But given the realities of Smartwatches, the technology itself is limited today, so I'm guessing not much. But yes, that is a guess.
Mind you, Apple has fooled people before with products that were at first dismissed. And has had some setbacks. Of course, being Apple, it's not unthinkable that people will stand in line to buy it "just because." That's not certain, obviously, but even if it happens, it remains to be seen if people actually end up liking it. Consider, after all, that they are likely going after a generation that isn't especially used to wearing a watch anymore. Now, you have to get them to not only wear a watch, but one that's expensive (at $349), and doesn't do as much as their iPhone and iPad which they already own, and won't leap out in its design as "See, you can tell I have an Apple Watch and am therefore cooler than you!" And it only works if you have an iPhone to connect with.
So...we'll see. But for the moment, it seems a bit underwhelming. Like most Smartwatches at the moment.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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