Users are Conflicted, Confounded, and Critical
Apple unveiled its most intimate and ambitious device twelve months ago. We quickly created a panel of users to diary, videotape, and document their experiences with the watch. We’ve shared the findings after one week, one month, six months, and now at 12 months, we’re sharing our last update.
In the course of a year, we’ve had two people switch jobs, one move, one undergo major surgery, and one see the watch banned from school. The watch stayed with them throughout it all. No company except Apple could have undertaken something this groundbreaking, but the watch is falling short right now. Frankly, Apple’s most intimate device polarizes users; they are conflicted, confounded, and, in general, critical. When asked to describe their year with the watch, our participants' responses varied from “novelty” and “interesting” to “rollercoaster” and “unimpressive.”
Our latest findings highlight how our users have adapted, adjusted, and found their grooves (to some extent) with their watches—some in more limited ways, some more quickly, but all still believing that in the future the watch will come into its own.
One of the biggest gripes we heard was about the Apple Watch’s dependence on the iPhone. Users say this mother-child, master-servant relationship with the phone is frustrating and ultimately limits how and how often they use their watches. If their phone is always nearby, why do they need the watch? Especially since the phone is far more advanced, easier to read, and easier to use.
People have figured out their sweet spots with the watch now that the year is ending. They are using the watch in individual ways that reflect their lifestyles, needs and wants. Almost no one is utilizing all the features and functions of the watch, as would be expected from an intimate device; they are choosing those aspects that appeal most to them and that match the rhythms of their days.
Most of our panel has not heard much from Apple regarding the watch. When pressed about seeing or receiving information about the watch, most mention they have noticed the new colored bands and faces. Although Apple has never aggressively courted its customers, we thought that the company may want to learn more from early adopters or share updates and news. Given the intimacy of the watch and its relatively new interface paradigm, it is notable that Apple has not done more to nurture this group.
Interestingly, none of our users expressed concern about their health and fitness data being available on their devices. They seem to think this is expected in the world we live in today. Additionally, some found this positive, a way to potentially reduce their insurance costs by demonstrating their commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
For athletic or sports-minded consumers, the watch’s capabilities are insufficient. Besides being unreliable and limited, they don’t do enough. Most people who work out regularly find the fitness features do not motivate or provide valuable information.
No one on our panel stated that they would definitely purchase the next generation Apple Watch. Concerns ranged from cost and the need for significant updates to its lack of being a necessity and missing their old-fashioned watches. Minor updates and upgrades do not appear to be sufficient motivations for purchase.
Our year with the Apple Watch has resulted in rich but often contradictory findings. We have our fanatics, our naysayers, and the pack solidly in the middle. Our millennials for some reason didn’t seem to want to like the watch, and when they did like it, they appeared to struggle over the conflict. While we believe it is a first-of-its-kind watch, most of our panel felt it hasn’t come close to achieving its potential and consequently has less value than they would have hoped. The enthusiasm and joy felt at the beginning of the year has been replaced by a variety of more practical considerations. Nothing stays exciting forever.
Those who seem most satisfied were those seeking an alternative to their phones. Those who were the least satisfied were expecting a groundbreaking new device that anticipated their every move. What will another year of the watch reveal? Does the Apple Watch measure up? Not for most.