Apple Watch Study Part 4: 1 Year

  • For Part 1: 1 Week, click here
  • For Part 2: 1 Month, click here
  • For Part 3: ½ Year, click here

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.

Free the Watch

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.


  • Being seen as an appendage of the phone limits the way people view the watch.
  • If their phone is nearby, they are more apt to use it instead of the watch.
  • Because of its limited size, among other things, it seems unlikely that making the watch independent would increase use of the watch.

Narrow Casting

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.


  • Watch use is varied and widespread from fitness to notifications, and appeal ranges among our participants.
  • People are using the watch in focused ways, with little interest in trying other uses.
  • Many seem satisfied with their current usage approach.

Abandoned Early Adopters

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.


  • Has Apple missed an opportunity to better engage early adopter with news and information?
  • Few seem to hold it against Apple, although some have suggested the watch may not be their focus.
  • As people are increasingly inundated with information, devices, and choices, Apple may need to be more invested in encouraging and fostering the adoption of new devices.

Perspectives on Health Data

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.


  • Users showed no concern about private health and fitness data appearing on personalized devices.
  • Surprisingly, users do not appear concerned about any implications of their health data being shared, and they seem to trust Apple explicitly.
  • Interestingly, earlier in the year our panel was also not concerned about financial information via Apple Pay being available.

Fitness Fails

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.


  • With health and fitness being a core focus of the watch, Apple will need to do more and provide more sophisticated tools to satisfy active users.
  • People are seeking more intuitive features that can automatically detect workouts, calories consumed and burned, and general health.
  • Ironically, Apple provides a variety of tracking and tools; however, users seem unaware or uninterested, perhaps due to lack of critical mass or ease of use.

No on 2.0

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.


  • Most feel updates will not be significant and the cost will not be worth it.
  • Some did mention that if there were a trade-in program, they might consider it.


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.

Apply Watch Study Part 4 infographic showing year-at-a-glance findings and a collage of interview images
  • For Part 1: 1 Week, click here
  • For Part 2: 1 Month, click here
  • For Part 3: ½ Year, click here

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