The shipping of Apple Watch started on April 24, and the initial reviews have been mostly favorable. There have been some complaints and issues pointed out, however. We have here listed some of these Watch-related usability problems.
The Apple Watch is, expectedly, off to a quick start. Although the first weekend sales figures have not been officially released by Apple, it has been confirmed that more than 2 million units of Watch had been pre-ordered between the April 10 and April 24 window. In the United States, nearly 23% of those who had preordered the smartwatch received it last weekend – and Apple CEO Tim Cook has stated that the general response and feedback to the device have been ‘overwhelmingly positive’. However, the first generation of any smart device is hardly ever free of glitches (even 1st gen iPhone and iPod had their fair share of problems), and Apple Watch also has the following problems:
- It is not a standalone device – At least not yet. The over-reliance on a paired iPhone (without a paired iPhone 5 or iPhone 6), Apple Watch is little more than a fashionable wristwatch. What’s more – the smartwatch mostly replicates the things that can be done with the iPhone (although on Watch, things like replying to messages are easier). As long as people viewed Watch as a mini-iPhone, they would not be motivated enough to actually order a piece online. Over time, Apple Watch has to build an identity of its own. Remaining as a mere iPhone-companion won’t cut it.
- Unstable wi-fi connectivity – According to a section of early adopters as well as mobile software and app developers, not all is okay with the wi-fi connectivity of Apple’s very first smartwatch. There have been reports of difficulties in connecting to the networks that are already available to the paired iPhone, the signal strength fluctuates, and connection drops are not uncommon either. To be fair, once the wi-fi connection is stable, Watch-users can use a host of features – right from Digital Touch messaging, to interacting with the new and improved Siri.
- Users need to ‘Wake Up’ Watch – As a timepiece, Apple Watch is mighty accurate – there are no two ways about it. Tests have revealed that the time displayed on the smartwatch was invariably within 50 milliseconds of the Global Standard Time. The problem lies in another way though – a wearer has to lift his/her wrist up and give a conspicuous jerk to the Watch, to ‘wake up’ the smartwatch. At all other times, the Watch surface remains dark – as a battery-conservation strategy. What’s more, if you remove Watch from your wrist and put it back on after some time – you’ll have to re-enter the Passcode as well.
- Scratchgate – Remember the hullabaloo over the ‘iPhone 6 Plus bendgate’ controversy? Well, Apple-haters have been quick to point out that the stainless steel model gets easily scratched (hence the name ‘Scratchgate’). Now, it is fairly easy to remove such accidental scratches with a good polish – but ideally, you would like an expensive gadget like Watch to be scratch-resistant, right? In terms of screen durability though, both Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport are top-notch.
- Quality of third-party apps – On paper, the App Store already has more than 3000 apps for Apple Watch. Most of these apps have not, however, got the thumbs-up from the first set of users of the smartwatch. The general quality of the third-party WatchKit apps is disappointing, and the onus is on mobile app companies across the world to come up with better, more customized applications. Whatever might be the visual charms and technical excellence of Apple Watch, without enough good, compatible apps, it will go nowhere.
- Is Apple Watch slow? – Of course it’s not when it comes to displaying the time – but for many other basic functions, the speed of Watch has not been found to be up to the mark by users. Simple tasks like pulling location information from the paired iPhone, or receiving the push-notifications from the built-in Watch apps can be surprisingly time-consuming (particularly when Watch is connected via Bluetooth). The notification system in general is well-conceptualized (thanks to the Taptic Engine), the interfaces are nice, but the slowness of the device sticks out like a sore thumb.
- Syncing data with iPhone – Several users have tried, and failed, to sync playlists from their iPhones to the Apple Watch. This is a problem – since on many occasions, a user might want to listen to music without having to tag along his/her iPhone (playing songs while working out, for example). Pairing Watch with a Bluetooth is fairly quick, but when it comes to syncing with songs saved in the iPhone – the process is either too slow, or gets aborted on its own.
- Battery life – Prior to the launch of Apple Watch, Tim Cook had assured people that the device would have 18 hours of battery juice – with moderate to heavy use. However, many users as well as mobile software/app development experts have found that the actual battery life of Watch is much lower (at times, as low as 7-8 hours). The problem is further compounded by the fact that the recharging process is fairly slow. Of course, if you are only checking the time and doing little else, the Watch battery can last a day. But then, more and smarter functionality is the reason you got the smartwatch, right?
- Getting email notifications – Users expecting to receive real-time email and text notifications from their Apple Watch have been in for a surprise. There have been many instances of such notifications either being significantly delayed, or not showing up at all on the Watch screen. To get around this problem, the Apple Watch app has to be activated, and from ‘Notifications’, ‘Mail’ or ‘Message’ has to be selected (choose ‘custom’ over there). Most of the people who have not done this have reported about time-lags between notifications arriving on their iPhones and the Watch.
- Weight – A relatively minor issue, but nevertheless, is worth a mention. As predicted in online iOS software and app development forums, the smartwatch is fairly lightweight – but some users have still noted that it feels ‘sort of heavy’. Watch with the leather loop band (which has been, till now, one of the most popular bands) weighs 2.9 ounces – which is a full one ounce heavier than the Moto 360. Glancing at the Watch for navigation guidance while driving can be slightly distracting. However, if the other problems are ironed out, people won’t mind this little bit of extra weight.
- No options to delay the sleep time – Glances and Watch faces, Digital Crown and Force Touch – there are a lot of things to learn about the operations of Apple Watch. Doing so might not be interruption-free though, since the smartwatch goes to sleep (i.e., the screen becomes dark) after every 5 seconds or so. There is no way in which this sleep time of Watch can be delayed. It is being expected that more customization features will be present in the 2nd generation of Watch – if and when it is released.
- Affects the iPhone battery – The battery performance of Apple Watch is ho-hum at best (the Pebble smartwatches perform much better in this regard). Many early buyers of Watch have found that it can cause excessive battery drain of the iPhone it is paired with. According to wearable technology experts and iPhone app developers, the Watch companion app is the culprit behind this – and force-quitting it can solve the problem. Even so, this is an issue current users are not very satisfied with.
In comparison with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the screen real estate of Apple Watch is way smaller – and this makes user-navigation on the latter less intuitive. There are plenty of high points about Tim Cook’s ‘most personal device’ – with making payments via Apple Pay, text messaging, and browsing across the different Watch faces being some of them. However, the price tag of Apple Watch (starts from $549) automatically makes it a niche, premium product – and until the above issues are resolved, not everyone who can afford it will actually go for it.
If you have bought Apple Watch, do share your experience with us.