Analysis: Apple Watch Needs Help to Be Fully Functional

NEWS ANALYSIS: If the Apple Watch can do something other than put smartphone functions on a wrist, a lot more people might be interested.

In basketball, there are playmakers and there are non-playmakers. A playmaker is someone who is fast and talented enough to dribble himself into position to take a good or high-percentage shot; a non-playmaker simply isn't quick or talented enough to make his own shot and has to rely on other players to pass him the ball so he can get a good look at the basket.

Connected devices don't take shots on a basketball court, but there's an analogy here: Non-playmaking devices absolutely require the support of other devices, or they just don't work. Examples include Google Chromecast, a Bluetooth speaker, or a WiFi-only tablet. Smartphones, connected cars and laptops with their own hotspots are playmakers.

Apple Watch, because it requires an iPhone or other iOS device to carry out many of its functions using Bluetooth or near-field communication (NFC), is too dependent to be called a playmaker. Potential users need to take this into account if they're going to shell out $349 to $17,000 (that's how much the highest of the high-end Edition watches costs) for one of them. Most people would never invest that much money in a device that needy.

If you're an Android, Windows Phone or BlackBerry smartphone user, forget the Apple Watch. Nothing to see here, move on.

Nonetheless, Apple will sell plenty of these new gadgets. Analysis firm CCS Insight, for one, predicts that Apple will sell 20 million smartwatches this year, doubling a Forrester analyst's estimate of 10 million by Dec. 31.

'Easier' Is Apple Watch's Stock in Trade

Apple Watch indeed will make it easier to do things, such as check your email or spend money at point-of-sale locations. But you can do that with an iPhone, too. The "easier" part is that, using an Apple Watch, you don't have to fish around in a pocket or purse to find the iPhone; all you have to do is touch the watch on the POS device.

This device makes it even easier—and yet it is already very easy—to spend money. By the way, how easy does everything have to be, anyway?

The Apple Watch—at least the first editions—won't have as many health-monitoring sensors and apps aboard as the company had planned. The watches don't have the capabilities to monitor blood pressure, heart rate, stress factors and other health issues. This is mainly because the apps didn't work reliably, and regulatory oversight would have been a severe problem.

On the other side, the Apple Watch Uber app will allow users to order a car, track its progress and identify their ride. W Hotels will let guests use their Apple Watch as a room key. Those are cool use cases.

Here's another thing: Is the wrist the best place to station a personal computer? I think not.

Something that hasn't been talked about much is the way watches get beat up during the course of a day. When we walk, we swing our arms back and forth, making the watch a moving projectile, and it's often unprotected. Watches constantly get banged on things.

Having so much IT functionality in a wristwatch that can get mugged by a car door, a soccer ball or some other solid surface can be a regular source of worry. Keep that in mind.

Some Early Tweets About the Watch

eWEEK has collected some commentary on the Apple Watch. Here are some of the more interesting tweets about the AppleWatch from March 9:

@TruthSite: #AppleWatch, $10,000 to have NSA and GCHQ strapped on your wrist, no thank you!

@ariannahuff: Looking forward to a smart watch that tells me not to cram too many things into too few hours.

@mariofraioli: What will #AppleWatch mean for runners? I can't speak for everyone, but I won't be running out to get one.

@guardiantech: King Midas placing his order for the new #AppleWatch right now.

@RogerWCheng: If I spend $17K on an #AppleWatch, how worried am I that the software and components will be outdated in 2-3 years?? Or do I not care?

@alanlepo: There are stats on # of times/day people glance at their phones. So next year we'll see # of stares at wrist/day?

@guardiantech: The top price of the gold #AppleWatch is actually $17K. LOL at all those paupers buying the $10K model. Losers.

@rwang0: MyPOV: @apple once again has brilliantly addressed the needs of the high end of the market and creating demand for design.

@niazafghan: #AppleWatch doesn't answer the question: Will this device save me time or add to distractions?

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...