I love gadgets. I’m what you’d call an “early adopter.” Exploring new technologies is fun and enjoyable for me, and when I heard Apple was going to make a smartwatch I knew I’d be among the first to buy one.
To me, it’s a special device that represents a potential new generation of computing. From the earliest mainframe computers to mini-computers, PCs and smartphones, the Internet of Things has ushered in a new world of connected devices that I’ve been eager to explore.
My Fitbit counts my steps, my home security is now remote controlled by an application, and I admire the new Teslas where the latest software updates allow the car to drive itself on the highway.
Before buying an Apple Watch, I had hoped it would be the device that would truly vault us into the new Internet of Things world and that it would herald a new generation of software development. But it wasn’t.
I bought the sport version with a white strap, the cheapest model available in the large 42-mm size, for around $500. It arrived on April 24 – Day 1. After using it for five days, I’ve decided it’s not for me. At least not yet.
First, the watch needs an iPhone to work. I knew that before I bought my Apple Watch, but now that I’ve tried it, the dependency bothered me. I already use my phone to check the time so the watch felt unnecessary immediately.
Second, the applications available on the watch are not nearly as interesting as I hoped, in part because of constraints of the user interface. The weather app kept giving me Ottawa weather reports, for instance, even though I only used my watch in Toronto. The annoying part was changing the setting on a tiny screen – the interface is just too small.
Fat fingers will not appreciate the watch’s security unlock function. The touch-screen buttons are lilliputian. I managed to get it right most of the time but I think it’s going to be a problem for many.
As a purveyor of hundreds of millions of app downloads (I’ve founded and worked with several app startups), the Apple Watch reminds me of the late 2008 AppStore, where farting apps and other gimmicks proliferated. I tried several made for the new watch, including health apps, games and a roll-the-dice function, and found they were not that compelling and, quite frankly, so much better on your iPhone, which is almost as reachable (thanks to that dependency issue).
There were a few things I did like, however.
There’s no doubt it’s aesthetically pleasing. The watch straps are remarkably nice, and easy to swap in and out (I tried this in the Apple store). Wearing the Apple Watch on your wrist also makes you look cool, if you are into that sort of thing.
Plus, the box is elegant, like it’s holding jewellery not just a watch. The Apple Watch marketing has been admirable and the trailers are amazingly slick. Let there be no doubt, Apple is now a luxury goods brand – I longed for the unattainable gold watch but prices run as high as $22,000 – instead, I settled for one of the lesser species.
Once I took my watch out of the box, I was enthralled by the spectacular iPhone/Watch sync process where you look through your phone camera into the watch and a 3-D dance of coloured bits dazzle like a kaleidoscope. It’s like a computer coming to life in front of you and it’s cool.
Despite these perks, I haven’t worn a watch for ages, and the Apple Watch didn’t convince me that I should start. For now, my more subtle Fitbit, which measures my heart rate, calories, daily steps, plus it has a handy alarm, is a better choice.
Before giving up the watch, I offered it to my 12-year-old son. He tried it out for a couple days and passed on it for the same reasons I did. (While I was very close to returning my watch to the Apple store, some colleagues wanted to use it as a test device and it’s on their wrists now.)
I expect this Apple Watch is a lot like the first iPhone – it’s a beginning not an end, and the good news is that software developers are starting to fool around with the sensors to see what else can be done. But it needs more work and, while this version didn’t impress me enough to keep it, I’ll certainly give newer versions a chance down the road, especially one that includes Apple Pay so I can get rid of my wallet.
Ray Sharma is an entrepreneur and executive managing partner of venture capital firm Extreme Venture Partners.