Patrick Gray takes on the Apple Watch, and what's missing from his wish list.
I recently wrote a wish list of 10 Things I wanted in Apple Watch, and many of them made the cut, from NFC support to inductive charging. While I'll still pull out my credit card in "early 2015" to purchase one of the devices, there were a few major items missed in the upcoming product. Here are my big sore spots.
Actually work as a watch
While Apple offered no shortage of different styles for the watch, with multiple finishes and dozens of watch bands, the device still looks a bit clunky and un-watchlike. Beauty is certainly in the eye of the beholder, and I may change my tune once I strap one of the devices to my wrist, but the looks of the Apple Watch just didn't resonate as much as something like the Moto 360.
There wasn't much said about how Apple Watch will intelligently manage notifications. Apple's current iPhone notification system is poor to the point of being useless. Other than visiting the notification window every few days to clear out the accumulated cruft, I don't find it very useful. Improving notifications in the base OS and adding filtering capability to what's displayed on Watch could make notifications extremely useful. I probably don't want to be bombarded with warnings about a flash flood in South Carolina when I'm in Texas, but a flight delay notification and email from my wife would be nice to see on my wrist. Ideally, these notifications should be context-aware, so a meeting reminder might take precedence during business hours, while a voicemail notification from the family might be more important on the weekend. Hopefully this functionality is waiting in the wings, but the Watch announcement didn't seem to include much around more intelligent notifications.
Share contextual data
Watch should be able to offer apps some very interesting contextual data. The device could determine if I'm brushing my teeth, for instance, or provide more useful functions, like a "man down" feature where it could notify an app and send a distress signal if a user fell over while cycling or working in a hazardous environment. Hopefully Apple will simplify interpreting these data and open this information to developers so they can create compelling apps that react to what I'm currently doing. GPS, gyro, and now wrist-based motion sensing could create some very interesting applications beyond the somewhat expected functions currently being shown for Watch.
A watch that requires constant connection to a smartphone has limited utility, and Watch seems to be largely in that category. While I don't expect full connectivity, basic timekeeping, reminders, and perhaps even music and fitness functionality should continue if I stray outside the comfort of my phone's wireless signal. The omission of a GPS chip to allow autonomous use as a fitness device is a disappointment.
Watch and other wearable platforms might be able to augment current authentication technologies and help speed the demise of the password. Apple has made a solid move in this area with fingerprint recognition and new NFC capabilities, but hasn't yet announced boarder integration of Watch into an authentication scheme. It might be interesting for example, if Watch could be sent some sort of code to authenticate me during a payment transaction or login session.
Watch is certainly a solid stride into the wearables market. It remains to be seen whether a 3-4 month wait will provide significantly more exiting offerings from Google and its partners, or if Apple will dominate the bourgeoning wearables market.