Dear Apple Designers,
I am thinking of giving my Apple Watch to Turner. Turner is my dog.
I am considering gifting the Watch to my dog because the blue band looks nice with his red coat (see picture above) and he will probably enjoy the Watch more than I do.
Before you dismiss me as an Apple-hating crank, know that your company and I have had a monogamous relationship (on my end, anyway) since about 2008. I am embarrassed to admit that my home currently contains two iMacs, one MacBook Air, two iPads, four iPhones, two Apple TVs, and an iPod carcass at the bottom of every dresser drawer.
I should love the Apple Watch, but ever since I bought my 38mm Sport model two months ago, my enthusiasm has waned faster than Scott Walker’s poll numbers.
This product, unlike nearly everything else you’ve designed in the last decade, is maddeningly complex and unintuitive. Let me share just a few of my frustrations.
What do you mean I have to plug it in?
I know, I know, everything electronic has to be plugged in. I get it. But I’m not used to plugging in my watch. It’s been decades since I even had to wind my watch.
This means that I invariably forget to plug in the Watch. I only realize my error when the Watch dies or is about to, so I often have to take it off in the middle of the day and recharge it.
This wouldn’t be a problem for an ordinary watch, but some of the more interesting functions you’ve designed into the Watch require that I wear it continuously. Take all that health stuff, for example. Every time I go to take a quick 20K run, the Watch shows that it’s at twelve percent battery power or less, so I have to leave it behind while I’m out knocking down four-minute miles. I then get no credit for all those steps. None at all.
Later that evening, the Watch will send me a perky message congratulating me on burning 307 calories for the day. 307 calories! Hell, I burned that many calories before breakfast!
This is very irritating. However, I am willing to admit that I am a bit of a curmudgeon, and that even I am capable of learning new habits. I intend to dedicate myself to learning to plug in the Watch every evening. But couldn’t you make it easier? Couldn’t you design an elegant pad or receptacle of some kind that would look great on my nightstand? That little magnetized white disk you give us now is ridiculous. My electric toothbrush would be embarrassed to sit on that thing.
What do you mean I have to enter a passcode every time I put it on?
Why do you make me do this? The Watch knows that I’m me. It’s talking to my iPhone in my pocket!
If it’s not me, if somebody has managed to steal both my iPhone and my Watch, and if I haven’t figured out a way to disable the phone through your Find My iPhone app, then I’m probably dead. If that’s the case, I’m not worried about the Watch.
But maybe I’m wrong and your Apple lawyers are right. If we have to keep the Watch secure at all costs, then please allow me to do it in some way that doesn’t require that I use my fat finger to type on numbers smaller than banana seeds.
Wait, I have an idea! How about using my fingerprint? Wouldn’t that be cool? Do you think you guys could figure out a way to use some kind of whiz-bang sensor to recognize my fingerprint? I’m sure that’s impossible, the kind of tech you would only see in Flash Gordon, but maybe if you start working on it . . .
Finding and opening an app is harder than untying the Gordian Knot!
You can’t possibly expect me to find the app I’m looking for amongst that sea foam of app bubbles. And if I do find it by some miracle, I can never get the thing open easily. I sometimes forget my passcode frustrations and try hitting it with my finger, but you already know how that turns out.
So then I usually try that wheel thingy. First of all, that only works if I have somehow dragged my app victim to the center location on the screen, a task that requires a lace maker’s patience, as the Watch always wants to second-guess my efforts. And then, after I’ve finally centered the wandering app, I will inevitably spin the thingy in the wrong direction (Do I spin it up? Or is it down?), making the app disappear back into the sea foam. Arrgghh!
When will these apps start helping me?
I’m still waiting for an app on my watch to do something really cool. I’m not sure what that would be, exactly, but here are a few top-of-mind thoughts:
How about a timely update on what’s going on in the world? The Dow dropped 1000 points yesterday morning and the Watch didn’t bother to tell me about it, even though I am loaded for bear with the New York Times, NPR, and BBC apps. I’m sure that getting that kind of alert is possible, and that I’m supposed to find the setting somewhere six menus deep on my iPhone that will allow such effrontery, but the Watch should already know that I use those three apps more than any other on my phone, and that I would welcome a little morsel of news once in a while.
Here’s another example. I rode my bike last weekend on a bike path in a forest reserve. Before I set out, I tried to use your workout app to understand what health benefits I would be accruing for all my hard work. After a few minutes of hitting the wrong buttons and falling into screen traps I couldn’t escape, I gave up.
But then I started to think, wait a second, there’s a computer in this Watch! Or in the iPhone it’s paired with, anyway. And a whole bunch of other cool technology too! Like GPS! So why can’t the Watch derive from my location and speed that I’m riding my bike? Why can’t it determine whether I’m riding on a gravel path or tarmac? Up a hill or down? Isn’t that information stored somewhere on the Internet? Couldn’t the Watch use those data and what it knows about my weight and fitness to automatically calculate the calories I burned? Couldn’t it send me an unexpected message at the end of the day, surprising me with that calculation?
Instead, it sends me a message saying I burned 307 calories.
I guess what I’m asking for is a watch that makes an effort to know me and proactively communicates the information I will find most relevant. I’m sure that’s hard, but is it any harder than creating the Mac in 1984? The iPhone in 2007?
What’s with the screen latency and unreliable gesture controls?
You’re not going to believe it, but the one task I’ve consistently burdened the Watch with is waking me up from my rare mid-afternoon naps. “Siri,” I say with careful enunciation and measured pace, “Please set a timer for twenty-five minutes.” And then I stretch out on the couch and nod off, comfortable in the knowledge that the Watch will wake me as requested.
Twenty-five minutes later, without fail, the Watch gently taps me on the wrist and emits a pleasingly soft sound of chiming bells. As I wade my way out of the mists of sleep, I twist my wrist over and up to my face so that I can dismiss the alarm. The screen, normally so eager to illuminate, remains dark. I put my arm down to my waist and repeat the motion. Still dark. I try a third time. Nothing. I then sit up and flick my wrist yet again. The screen finally lights up, but just as I’m about to hit the “dismiss” button, it disappears. Desperate, I now hit the wheel thingy. The screen appears. I push the “dismiss” button. Nothing happens. I go to push the button again, but the screen goes dark once more. All the while the haptic feedback and the chiming continues, transforming now into a throbbing Chinese water torture of taps and ringing bells. How do I turn this thing off? Another wrist flip, another push of the wheel thingy, and the screen finally reappears. Ready for it this time, I move my finger to the screen in a flash. I hit the button. The chiming continues. I hit it, didn’t I? I push it again. The Watch finally succumbs.
I revel in the silence, fully awake, and completely enraged.
The Watch is far, far short of the brilliance I expect from you. It feels like a product that has been designed by committee, with little attempt to imagine how it would be used, and too much deference to reasonable expectations and compromise. You can do so much better.
Until then, the Watch will be Turner’s.