I Bought an Apple Watch and Returned it

apple watch logo

I was one of those people who pre-ordered the apple watch at 12 am on April 10 and still got the shipping estimate of June. I had bought the Space black stainless steel with link bracelet. It cost a whooping $1195 with taxes here in California and I was praying that it better be god damn good to justify that price. Sadly, it wasn’t. When I got it on June 2nd, after the usual adrenaline rush of unboxing an apple product subsided, and after using it for about a week, I came to the conclusion that this is a product that Steve Jobs would never have let to be launched in its current state. But then again, he let 1st generation iPad to be launched. So I am not sure. Surprisingly, battery is not the problem.

Looks

One of the first things that I noticed is that it does not look as good as Apple shows it in the ads and on apple.com. Those are enlarged and processed images with reflections that make it look like something from out of this world. Turns out, its not. Don’t get me wrong. It still looks awesome and way better than all other smartwatches out there. Just not as good as it looks in official photos. Having spent a huge sum of money based on these images alone (the exact model was not available in the store I went to try it on), I was disappointed.

apple watch

Screen activation

The second thing that bothered me was that the screen won’t activate in a lot of highly probably real world scenarios. I understand that Apple needs to keep the screen off to preserve battery life and activate it when you tilt your wrist. But for me, it did not activate in a lot of scenarios:

  • While biking when I tilt my wrist just a little while still holding the handlebar.
  • When working on a desk (sitting or standing) and I tilt my wrist a little to look at the watch.
  • When my arms are folded and I want to glance at my watch by tilting my wrist a little while still keeping my hands folded.
  • While lying down, playing a game on my iPhone and trying to glance on my watch by tilting the wrist a little.

All the above scenarios are so common that the watch started to annoy me by not working in those. This is when I never look at my watch for finding out the current time. Imagine the horror if I do.

Slowness

I read in the reviews that the watch is very slow. I still wanted to see it for myself what they are talking about. And the reviews are not lying. This is 2015 and you expect a product being launched during this time to be super fast and reliable. Apple is going to allow native apps in the next watchOS. This should have been taken care of at the time of the release. And I don’t even know if its going to solve the problem. The Watch’s processor seemed too slow to me to take the load of what we want it to do. A lot of the widgets crashed for me. That just reflects poor coding. The next release of iOS and watchOS is going to focus on performance and bug fixing. If Apple has to focus a release on performance and bug fixing, that itself is not a good sign. These two things were considered as default in any software that Apple shipped. It just reflects that the leadership team is focussing on aggressively releasing stuff even if it is poor in quality.

Digital Crown

I rarely used the digital crown. I think it is a great invention and incredibly precise and accurate. However, with people used to touching screens so much, the 1st instinct is to always use the screen to scroll or tap buttons. And with Apple’s super accurate touch (and force touch), the digital crown is basically redundant. A problem which arises due to using the touchscreen instead of the digital crown is that you end up smudging the watch screen with your fingerprint a lot. And given that its a tiny screen, the finger prints are far more visible on it than on your phone’s screen.

No use for thumb

The primary finger I use on my iPhone is my thumb. It is also used a lot on my MacBook’s keyboard for hitting the space bar. Unfortunately, the thumb has no use in the apple watch as there is no button on the left side of the watch. Atleast in the orientation I wear my watch (on my left wrist). This left my thumb stranded a lot of times. And its a weird feeling.

Siri

There is no way to correct Siri’s speech to text errors on the watch. With an Indian English accent, its difficult and frustrating a lot of times even with the correct accent selected in your iPhone’s settings. I also noticed that Siri did not have good enough ambient noise cancellation. When outdoors on a busy street, Siri on my Apple Watch continued to listen (the noise) long after I had stopped speaking. The iPhone’s Siri worked perfectly in the same environment. It might be because of the microphone design on the watch, but its super annoying.

Another intermittent issue I faced was that the touchscreen did not register my taps while walking or biking. So if there is an incoming call, tapping on the answer button wont do anything unless you are standing still. It looks like the watch software focuses on preserving the battery and avoiding erroneous taps and inputs which are bordering on some edge cases which need to be perfected and tested thoroughly before it is ready for power users.

There are a lot of good things like seamless handoff, quick replies, health tracking etc., but they were not enough for me to keep the watch. Even the features introduced in the WWDC keynote failed to impress me enough to buy this version again. The apple watch to me, feels like a product rushed to launch before it was ready and I will likely wait until the next iteration(s) to get my hands on one.

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