Yes, I know I do go off the ledge a wee bit when it comes to the Huffington Post and its Apple Love. But technology is a field I write about, and so is journalism, and therefore I hold both to high standards. And HuffPo is SO egregiously biased when it comes to Apple that it makes my teeth ache. If you don't care to read about such things, feel free to trundle on. Otherwise, let's dive in.
Because on Wednesday, a bunch of reviews started appearing for the Apple Watch. And the Huffington Post released its pheromones
And there on its home page, in all its glory is --
Emblazoned first, for all to see: "Someday Soon, It Will Change Your Life." Well, that's sure impressive. Not bad, not bad at all.
But then, well...you read the article.
I want to be very clear -- this is NOT a slam of the Apple Watch. I've written extensively in the past what I've expected from it and what I think about smartwatches in general. In short, I think they're interesting technology that are in the early stages, and eventually will work out many of the kinks, though perhaps not all, but very likely could become standard products in at least one way or another. But right now, they all (Apple Watches included) have issues -- too big on the wrist, too small a screen, expensive, awkward to use as a phone, require having a smartphone, and smartphones do everything a smartwatch does and better. Moreover, their bulky size (particularly for women and children) risks cutting out half the market that exists for smartphones. I've said I expect the same from the Apple Watch -- the good and question marks. All smartwatches, including the Apple Watch have a future, but it's a future I suspect that's different from what it currently being hyped and isn't here yet.
I've also said that I am utterly certain the Apple Watch will sell massive numbers, and will therefore be heralded as Changing the Essence of Who We Are. (Hey, that's the very first line from adoring HuffPo -- "Someday Soon, It Will Change Your Life.") But eventually, or even fairly quickly people who bought theirs will start wondering about its application.
(I've noted too that one of the boons of Apple products is how their fandom hold the Apple design to their hearts as proud status symbols. You know they are using an iPhone. You know they are using an iPad. You know they are using a Mac Air. And that Apple logo is there for all to see, as well. But the Apple Watch.looks like a smartwatch -- a well-designed one, yes -- but like most any smartwatch. Some other even have long been using that exact some "collection of circles" interface that Apple is now has. So, people won't know for sure that you are using an Apple Watch and are therefore cooler than the average bear.)
But again, I am sure the Apple Watch works nicely, and I know it will have tons of first-day sales. This isn't about that. This isn't about Apple. This is about the Huffington Post. It's about HuffPo's Apple Love telling you how incredibly amazing remarkable Apple is.
So, you see that graphic above. "The Reviews are In"!!!! And you see the first line. The very first line. "Someday Soon, It Will Change Your Life." It must be incredible, right? Amazing. Stunning. Everyone must love, love, love it and love, love, love, love every freaking thing about it!!!
So, I clicked on the review that the Huffington Post itself linked to. It's from The Verge, a pretty good, respectable tech publication. You can read the full article here. It's very long (even by my standards). It's very detailed. And not only is that impressive quote which HuffPo hypes -- "Someday Soon, It Will Change Your Life" -- NOT in this review, but...the very first line of the review that the glowing, jubilant, raving Huffington Post itself links to paint a totally different picture than "Someday Soon, It Will Change Your Life." Because it's very first line is --
"Let’s just get this out of the way: the Apple Watch, as I reviewed it for the past week and a half, is kind of slow."
And this is the very last two lines of the long review, wrapping up the reviewer's opinion --
"But that ambition robs it of focus: it can do tiny bits of everything, instead of a few things extraordinarily well. For all of its technological marvel, the Apple Watch is still a smartwatch, and it’s not clear that anyone’s yet figured out what smartwatches are actually for."
Not quiiiiite the same thing as raving "Someday Soon, It Will Change Your Life", would you say?
The article follows a day in the life of the reviewer, who had his Apple Watch for a week. It is well-done and thoughtful, even if it bends over backwards too often to cut Apple slack when things don't work well, saying regularly things like, "I'm sure they'll fix this." Or "It's designed so you don't use it that much." (Honestly, other than airbags in your car, how many products are designed SO you don't use them?) But it's fair-minded and says a great many very nice things about the Apple Watch, along with its complaints.
I'm going to point out a dozen of the complaints that The Verge makes. (I initially copied about twice as many, but even by my standards using them all would be waaay too much.) And I'm going to leave out the praise. Again, this is not intended as a slam of the Apple Watch, which has a lot of good things about it. The point of this is solely to show how the review that the Huffington Post linked to is just utterly wildly at odds with the Apple Love headline it promoted on its home page, "Someday Soon, It Will Change Your Life."
Here we go --
"Sometimes pulling location information and data from your iPhone over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi takes a long time. Sometimes apps take forever to load, and sometimes third-party apps never really load at all."
“It’s also surprisingly heavy. I noticed when I was wearing it, and everyone who held it commented on the weight.”
“This side button is extraordinarily confusing”
“What’s fascinating and somewhat confusing is that so many of the Watch’s core abilities are only in the Watch app, so interface ideas you learn there don’t work anywhere else.”
“But you simply can’t one-hand the Apple Watch. It’s the simplest thing, but it’s true: because it’s a tiny screen with a tiny control wheel strapped to your wrist, you have to use both hands”
“I’ll just be super blunt about the music app on the Apple Watch: it’s not as good as wearing an old iPod nano on your wrist.”
“You can also dictate a message with Siri, but Siri on the Watch suffers from the same performance-related issues as everything else that requires a data connection”
“It’s not anywhere close to being an actually-powerful communications tool, especially not when it’s competing with the phone in your pocket.”
“ -- there’s virtually nothing I can’t do faster or better with access to a laptop or a phone except perhaps check the time. It’s not just the small screen or the quick in-and-out interaction design, it’s actual slowness, particularly when it comes to loading data off the phone.”
“But right now, it’s disappointing to see the Watch struggle with performance. What good is a watch that makes you wait?”
“It turns out that checking your Watch over and over again [at dinner with a friend] is a gesture that carries a lot of cultural weight. Eventually, Sonia asks me if I need to be somewhere else. We’re both embarrassed, and I’ve mostly just ignored everyone.”
“By the end of each day, I was hyper-aware of how low the Apple Watch battery had gotten. After one particularly heavy day of use, I hit 10 percent battery at 7pm, triggering a wave of anxiety”
All this (and a lot more) for a device that Huffington Post trumpets, "Someday Soon, It Will Change Your Life."
And again, I must repeat: this is not a slam at the Apple Watch. Most of these criticisms hold for all smartwatches. And the article was filled with positive comments -- some the same as with other smartwatches, some better. The Apple Watch seems a nicely made device. It's just...well, as the author ends his piece: "the Apple Watch is still a smartwatch, and it’s not clear that anyone’s yet figured out what smartwatches are actually for."
On the other hand, there is one thing the Apple Watch is actually for: great copy for the Huffington Post to rave about, whether or not it's even remotely matched by the very articles it links to.
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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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