What’s that? You didn’t know?
Yup, I’ve recently stopped wearing my Apple Watch.
At least, I’ve stopped wearing it for anything other than exercise, for which I find it exceptionally good at what it does. Every other use case, however, has been slowly waning away from my interested attention over the last several months. Notifications are erratic and unreliable, Glances are a tap-and-swipe-filled nightmare of fail, and quality third-party apps are virtually nonexistent. Worse, even when those apps actually make sense, their novelty wears off pretty quickly. Then there’s the whole problem of wearable’s busted UI, which is so input-heavy and short on smarts that it hardly lives up to Apple Watch’s “smartwatch” product category. More and more, I’m interested in simpler, more useful solutions like my current favorite, the crowdfunded ReVault (provided it makes it to market and lives up to its claims).
All that said, I’m not quite ready to sell my first-gen Apple Watch. I still use it to track my progress on the elliptical and weight-loss fronts, and — of course — I kind of need one if I’m going to continue writing about the thing. Maybe I shouldn’t continue covering the wearable, but that’s a decision for someone else to make. For now, I am happy to bring my (perhaps over-)critical eye to the storm. I remain an “optimistic” skeptic, and I see incredible value and utility in the health-monitoring future Apple Watch is working towards. But that future is a ways away.
Still, if Apple really wants to, they can get me to put this thing back on every morning and keep it on all day. Taking the current Apple Watch’s technical limitations into account, here’s what I need from this slow, infant product to make it viable again as I wait for the health features of generation-three or -four units to hit the market:
A Face Store filled with interesting, artistic third-party Face designs would be immediately compelling for me, and being able to choose from hundreds or thousands of kitschy, interesting designs would probably get me wearing my Apple Watch again. I’ve been wanting custom Faces since day one, and though I recognize that such a roll-out would be best suited as a big marketing push for the next model, I think it needs to happen sooner rather than later, as a lot of holiday giftees are likely to give up on this thing within the first few months of 2016.
There’s no denying that watchOS 2 fixed pretty much nothing, nor did it make the platform any more attractive to third-party developers (at least considering all the junk that keeps cluttering up the Watch App Store). That’s because the navigational framework of the OS itself is horribly counterintuitive and time-consuming for such a “quick use” device. That constellation? Frustrating and useless. Glances? Slow and useless. Apps as sandboxed, independent experiences? Nonsense. And useless. The fix is pretty simple: Kill the constellation, rework the concept of wearable apps in a vacuum far away from the established iPhone/iPad paradigm, and make the Faces the thing. Every app should be its own Face with its own app-specific layout and complications. Anything heavier than that and there will always be problems, both technologically and philosophically. We’ve discussed this sort of approach on numerous episodes of the podcast, and it makes more and more sense every time I take another look at the idea. (Abdel has long been a proponent for this, and I’ve never agreed more with anything he’s ever said — and we agree on a lot.)
Make Digital Touch Live
Digital Touch was supposed to be a fun, useful, new way to communicate that — in the beginning — I couldn’t wait to try out. Tapping out Morse code to my gal, sending my heartbeat in real time to friends and family, and popping off workflow-disrupting animated emoji — I’m still waiting for that middle finger — were all high on my list of fun things to do with the new platform. Of course, that’s not how things worked out. Instead, Digital Touch is a mere recording sent as a mere notification for playback whenever the end user decides to open the message. Where’s the fun or spontaneity in that? Nowhere, that’s where. And that should change. Sure, Apple should offer a setting to turn these pleasant and amusing “interruptions” off (i.e. revert back to the current system), but me and mine should certainly have the option to enjoy an intimate, comical, touching direct line.
Allow Basic Alphanumeric Text Entry
As I wrote before, communication on Apple Watch (short of phone calls) is a one-way street. Siri simply isn’t good enough to handle the modern connected vernacular of the digital age. Ever try to compose a Tweet in the Twitter Watch App? It’s so painful it makes me want to bang my head against my desk. And Apple Watch makes it almost impossible to convey the true sense of self that individuals and friends cultivate through their unique, half-invented vocabularies when talking (or typing) with one another. The solution, naturally, is simple: T9. The Apple Watch display is plenty large enough to show a traditional touchtone dial pad, and that means that — while texting and messaging would be taken back to the pre-QWERTY days, it would still be a usable mechanism to hammer out some specific, customized text in a pinch. Heck, as it stands right now, Apple Watch users can’t even dial a previously unsaved number directly on their wrists. Need to call 911 but forgot to add it to Favorites? Better have your iPhone handy. Leaving out functional T9-style input is a frustrating decision on Apple’s part, as the company has forgone usability in favor of not seeming “regressive,” even though that regression — due to obvious size constraints — is the only workable solution.
All of the above could be fixed on the current, speed- and memory-limited first-gen Apple Watch, and most of them are sure to show up in future iterations. Hopefully, Apple will stick to its multi-generational support strategy when the new model and its new OS hit the market next year. However, maybe the company would be better served rolling out said new OS before the next Apple Watch comes out, because let’s face it: This is not a yearly upgrade product for most consumers.
Anyways, here’s hoping Apple really starts caring about this thing sometime in the near future. Because the more they dont, the more I dont.
And I’m certainly not the only one.