It’s that time of the year again: Apple announced a bunch of new products. First, the iPhone 6 and iPhone Plus – 4.7″ and 5.5″, with upgraded silicon, better camera, and a new design. They both look like fantastic and worthy upgrades for iOS users, although I’m sure some are going to cringe over the camera bulge and the hilarious, Samsung-y one-handed mode called Reachability (yes. That is a thing. A thing Tim Cook showed off as a feature).
Moving on, the biggest news, of course, is Apple’s entry into the smartwatch market. It’s called the Apple Watch, and to sum it up: they put an iPhone on your wrist – including a homescreen, endless applications, a long list of features like using it to control other Apple devices, and so on. The user interface is operated through a combination of a crown on the side of the device and the touchscreen. The touch screen can sense the difference between a tap and a press, with the latter being used a right-click sort of thing.
If this sounds complex for a watch, you’re not alone. The interface looked incredibly cumbersome and complex to me – far more so than what I’ve seen of Android Wear. For instance, the homescreen is a grid of round, zoomed-out icons that you navigate by panning with touch, but zooming in with the crown on the side. In other words, you have to shift from screen to crown to screen to launch an application. Add in the various up/down/right/left swipes, touch+holds, and the difference between taps and presses, as well as the tiny display, and it just sounds cumbersome and complex to me. Take a look at the photos application – now zoom with the crown, pan with swipes, zoom with the crown, pan with the screen, until you find the photo you want (and remember: you have to do it all that with just one hand!). Good luck, with that.
As for the hardware – it’s square, and that will most likely be the most dividing aspect of it all. Some prefer square watches, some round. I’m firmly in the round camp, and combined with the ‘bulgy’ and curvy design of the Apple Watch it just looks entirely unappealing to me – not to mention uncomfortable, with that huge sensor bulge pressing into your wrist. It looks and operates like a tiny computer strapped to your wrist – and that’s exactly not what I would want in a smartwatch.
Then there’s the weirdest thing about the Apple Watch: that awkwardly huge button underneath the crown. Press it, and it will open a messaging application, allowing you to send messages and make calls to a select group of friends (after scrolling with the crown, of course). Yes, they dedicated the only button on the device to that. It’s indicative of something I’m not used to seeing from Apple: everything and the kitchen sink.
In a nutshell – it seems like the Android Wear team is a lot better at saying ‘no’ than the Apple Watch Team.
The Apple Watch will go on sale “early 2015”, will come in two sizes, and six different materials. Straps are interchangeable. Apple only announced the price of the cheapest model (no sapphire on this one): $349. Missing from the entire presentation? Battery life. Apple made zero mentions or references to battery life, which tells you all you need to know. In current versions, it sucks. The biggest drawback? It requires an iPhone 5 or higher. Other platforms are not supported.
It’s very hard to make any predictions about where this is going. Will users prefer the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink, complex approach from Apple, or the simpler, restricted approach from Google? This is a new device category, so I have absolutely no idea. This thing is either going to be Tim Cook’s iPhone, or Tim Cook’s Newton (Peter Bright had the same idea).
I’m not placing any bets.