I had a discussion with a friend recently about buying first generation devices in a new category. Apple has launched or reimagined device categories before, and the Apple Watch is the latest product in that trend. Most of the time, first generation devices are a bit rough around the edges. The first iPhone, for example, was fat, didn't have an app store, couldn't run native apps, and didn't even have 3G. The iPhone 3G that came after it looked drastically different. It was thinner, had 3G, came with the App Store, and had a new shape that made it comfortable to hold and use. The first generation iPad has a similar story. That first iPad was much thicker, with larger bezels than the iPad that came after it, just a year later. When these products launched, they were called revolutionary, and reviews were largely positive, but reviewers couldn't help but point out the shortcomings of the new products. The first generation Apple Watch will be no different, and after a few prominent journalists have expressed concerns over the watch, we may have an idea of what those shortcomings will be, and what the 2nd generation Apple Watch will have to offer.
A few lucky journalists have already gotten to use the Apple Watch, and their views on the product have varied greatly. Most will point out the beauty of the device, while some are bothered by thickness, or rounded edges. All agree that the screen looks vibrant and beautiful, especially for a device this small. Where their opinoins really begin to differ is the operating system itself. Some say the user interface is intuitive, while others think it's clunky, and in need of simplification and polish. In fact, the naysayers seem to be in the majority. They talk of confusion over the Apple Watch's glances feature, which are widgets, not the full apps, launched by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. They point out that it's not always clear when a force touch is required or when a normal tap will suffice. They don't fully understand the gestures, or the flow of the device. Some pointed out that having both a “home button” (pressing the digital crown in) and a “contacts” button on the right side of the watch is confusing. This is made worse by the contacts button sharing the shape of the lock button on iPhones. Others say that while the OS may have a learning curve, a flow begins to become aparent, and it reveals itself to be an intuitive interface. There seems to be a line drawn between the “techies”, those that instantly understand new technologies and understand the march of progress, and those who require some adjustment. One thing's certain though, the Apple Watch interface has a while to go before it's as intuitive and simple as the iOS interface.
Why do first generation Apple products always have such rough edges? It's the design process. It's far easier to refine a product than it is to invent one. The Apple Watch brough all new technologies, required new hires and biometric experts, and also had a new operating system. Apple had a lot to consider with the design of the Apple Watch. Now, Apple can focus on refining the device, as they have for iPhones, iPads, and iPods, as well as iOS. Apple's not done with the Apple Watch after just one iteration, they're already hard at work designing the next one. They're also not done with the Apple Watch operating system yet. In fact, I still think the Apple Watch user interface is going to work its way over to iOS in the coming years.
The next Apple Watch will likely be thinner, taking up less than a centimeter in thickness (the current one is 1.05 centimeters). It will likely have similar battery life, although this may be improved by a few hours thanks to a more efficient processor and software improvements. I wouldn't be surprised if Apple takes that 18 hour battery life and gets it closer to 24 hours. Finally, they're going to work to simplify the interface more. Some reviewers were confused by the two button interface on the watch, so Apple could look to streamline this down to just one button, the digital crown.
Buying a first generation product is risky, whether it's technology or cars. The first model year of a new car often has the most recalls. However, there's an upswing. The first generation or model year of a car is often more valuable to collectors. Tech is the same way. Pristine first generation iPhones are already considered prize items for technology collectors, and can sell for much more than the phone was originally worth. A sealed in box first generation iPhone could be worth a few thousand dollars. The Apple Watch will follow a similar path. Watches aready are collectable, so the Apple Watch may garner even more desire from collectors. Early adopters also enjoy the trendsetting nature of being one of the few with the latest technology. For the best Apple Watch experience, you might want to wait until next year, unless you want a great conversation starter or to own a piece of history. Personally, I'm more excited for Apple Watch 2 than I am for the model that will be released next month, but perhaps I'll change my tune after some of my own hands-on time with it.