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User Convenience and The Death Knell of Apple | the Apple Watch

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User Convenience

Taking a break from Authentication, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at a popular illustration of the importance of end-user experience and user convenience.  When you think user convenience who comes to mind?  For many, the answer to that question is Apple. For years the innovation of Apple Inc. has lead to some of the most easy to understand, profound examples of proper user convenience in the tech industry.  Then the Apple Watch was released, and things seem to have been heading in a different direction ever since.

As yet another Steve Jobs movie hits theaters, I am slowly warming to the idea of how important he was to Apple as the driving force behind its innovation. To be sure, Apple has set the bar tremendously high over the last 15 years. It has managed to broaden its appeal from a niche player for “fanboys”, to becoming a legitimate worldwide dinner table topic each and every time that they make an announcement.  In most respects, the company has set the standard for user convenience and a simple, beneficial end-user experience.  Even the opponents of Apple and its series of products have to admit: they started strong and got stronger.

However, Apple has become a victim of its own success. Expectations are now too high and without the shining beacon that was Steve Jobs, they can now “do no right”. Realistically, how many times can we expect a single company to change the world?

 

The Apple Botch

The latest product release that met with a tepid response from the mainstream was the Apple Watch. Wearable devices are the latest craze, with things like FitBit leading the way due to price point and an uptick in the drive for a more active lifestyle. The very definition of a wearable is based primarily on user convenience bolstered by a strong end-user experience.  But Apple’s incarnation was released too soon in a failed attempt to establish itself as a player in this market; a move that surely appeased Apple’s investors, but comes at the detriment of everyone else.

 

It is all too easy to find information about the Apple Watch’s various shortcomings, even on pro-Apple sites. Here are just a few of the issues:

  • Must be paired with an iPhone

This is a doozy to start with, but is easily the most limiting ‘feature’. Bundling the Watch with an iPhone would’ve been a great idea to boost user adoption, but was most likely prohibitively expensive. For all the flash about the Watch’s processing power, it mostly acts as a conduit for apps running on your iPhone. Whether this is to conserve battery power or is a temporary phase to buy Apple more time to work through issues, Co.Design said it best: “Apple has set up their watch to be a casual, second screen to the iPhone”.

  • Unnecessary complexity

For a company that has made its mark in intuitive design, why is the user’s guide nearly 100 pages long? Typical Apple fashion would be to provide an intuitive user-experience that bolsters user convenience.  Unfortunately – that is not the case with the Apple Watch. This is a strong departure from the what we’ve come to expect from Cupertino, CA.

  • Another device to charge

Hurray. Remember when the iPods and some iPhones ignored battery life and Apple lost a class action suit regarding it? In a similar, yet much more appropriately handled reveal, the Apple Watch needs to be charged every single day. I hope you didn’t have a jumble of cords on your night stand already.  This may be an expected with the modern age of wearables – but not what one might expect from Apple.

I feel like I’ve seen this trend before…

  • Built-in heart rate sensor isn’t available to 3rd party apps

I hope you like sharing your vitals with Apple and helping them kick the door open to becoming a major player in the healthcare industry. It’s no secret that Apple wants to own the wearables market and start tracking health indicators but I don’t think I want Apple to have any sort of rights to the variance of my blood sugar levels…

 

My Thoughts

Of course, that was by no means an exhaustive, or even objective list, but here are some personal observations that I find particularly noteworthy:

  • The Apple Watch is an extension of your wallet

Do you like the convenience of Apple Pay? Good news! You don’t even need to take your phone out to pay for things! Wave your Apple Watch over the reader and tap the side button and “BOOM!”, purchase completed! That functionality for user convenience is more akin to typical expectations with Apple products. Of course, it should only take a few billion of these “more convenient” purchases to equal the $350 price tag of the watch.

  • Apple Watch Edition

In a word – Really? In a desperate ploy to get fashionistas and digital cognoscenti to pave the way for other customers, the Apple Watch Edition can be had in gold for $10K and up. I can almost taste the exclusivity!

 

To me, it feels like Apple’s core motivators have changed. Various quotes from Steve Jobs relate to changing the world and doing wonderful things (Also, remember his thoughts on requiring a stylus?). So much of the direction now seems too closely tied to the bottom line. Tim Cook has been CEO since 2011, but he has neither the cachet nor the impact that Steve Jobs maintained when the position was his. Who could? Only the fly on the wall knows whether this has put Cook at a disadvantage with Apple’s board and major stakeholders, but the company appears to be tacking toward “greener/richer” pastures, and leaving innovative thoughts of user convenience and experience behind.

 

During the unveiling, Tim Cook was quoted as saying “This is only the beginning.”. I can’t shake the feeling that this seems like an implicit apology. Not just an apology for the underwhelming release of the Apple Watch, or its overly advantageous reliance on consumerism, or even for using the Apple Watch as a gateway for Apple’s other commercial & business endeavors. That phrase could just as easily be an apology to the legions of Apple fans for the recent downward trend of innovation as the company embarks in a transparent chase for the mighty dollar – leaving user convenience wherever it may fall.

With the company’s recent 33% surge in quarterly profits, on 27% year over year Revenue growth to $58 billion, the Apple Watch is a success in several perspectives. But what do YOU think? Would you buy an Apple Watch? Where do you see the wearables market 2 years from now? Please share your thoughts in the comments below and join the conversation @PortalGuard.

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Gregg Browinski

Author: Gregg Browinski

Gregg, PistolStar’s Chief Technology Officer, oversees PistolStar’s product development and technical support. Prior to joining the company in 2001, he received extensive experience as a developer at IBM Lotus and Iris Associates. Gregg has served as the lead architect and developer for PistolStar’s Password Power suite of authentication solutions. He is responsible for the product’s technical success and the recognition it has received through award nominations.

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