Apple Watch
What would you say you do here?

Like many Apple admirers, I watched yesterday’s Spring Forward event with excitement. And like many, I was left waiting for something more when it came to the Apple Watch.

The Apple Watch is, without a doubt, an impressive piece of engineering. And for a piece of wearable tech, it’s quite attractive. But I went into the event wondering just why I would want an Apple Watch. And I still felt that way when the event ended.

Apple did a great job showing that many of the things you can do on your phone, you can also do on the Watch. And even have that experience not be terrible. But why in the world would I want to browse Instagram on my Watch, when I could just take the phone out of my pocket?

And as a developer who has implemented a Watch app, I’m even more pessimistic about it becoming more useful as more apps get released. I don’t think most people realize just how limited the API is. Think of a killer use-case that a wearable device with sensors makes possible. Got it in mind? Ok, you can’t do that. Whatever you’ve thought of, I promise you can’t do it on the Apple Watch. The only way third-party apps can use the Watch is: get data from somewhere, and then display it. With minimal interaction.

A lot of people think that this situation will improve in a year’s time, when Apple releases a more capable third-party API. But I’m very skeptical about that. With their current usage paradigm, Apple has just barely managed to guarantee the minimum acceptable amount of battery life (about 18 hours). And I don’t think they will allow anything to threaten that. So don’t expect many exciting new capabilities to be unlocked for developers.

Ultimately, the real problem is that the Apple Watch is neither here nor there. It’s most useful features seem to be notifications and fitness tracking. But I can get that cheaper and in a better form factor with one of the nicer, dedicated fitness tracking watches. The Apple Watch is so much larger and more expensive, but not capable enough to justify that added baggage.

But I will admit that I don’t have 100% confidence in my pessimism. After all, “why would I want to use such a tiny, underpowered device instead of the one I already have” is the exact same argument that was made when the iPhone and iPad were announced. And clearly, history has vindicated Apple on those products.