Apple Watch might not be 'flopping', but there are plenty of things wrong with it

How can Apple make Watch better with version 2.0? It's the company's most controversial product since, well, forever. We only know two things for sure about Watch: that it's had more attention than any other wearable, and that nobody is jumping up and down for joy about it right now.

Throughout previous product unveilings it has always been clear exactly how the new device would fit into Apple's well-honed lineup. Many questioned the iPad, for example, but there was still a clear narrative in play: bigger than an iPhone, more portable than a MacBook.

The Watch, introduced earlier this year, does not have an obvious fit, however.

Despite Apple's best efforts to brand the device as its "most personal" product ever, it relies on an iPhone and seeks to replace something that people traditionally keep for a long period of time or do not wear at all.

It's also a fashion product that visually isn't to enough peoples' taste. That's why most watch brands have dozens or hundreds of looks on sale at any given time, rather than - once you look past the two sizes and the plethora of straps (sorry, "bands") - one.

Apple, for whatever reason, has chosen not to break out Watch sales numbers in its quarterly earnings statements, choosing instead to bundle the product into the "Other" category alongside such stellar performers as Apple TV, iPod Shuffle and charging cables.

This has shrouded initial sales from the technology press and investors. As everyone's obsessed with Apple's sales figures, this has prompted third-parties to try and figure out how many Watches have sold. The most prolific of these being Slice Intelligence, which uses email receipts to track purchases.

Over the past few weeks, various news outlets including this one, have reported that Watch sales may have stagnated after an initial surge. There's a clear law of news management, which is that when things are going really well, brands generally want to tell you all about it. If they're not doing so, it doesn't mean their product has died in a ditch, but it's not hard to infer that.

So, yes, Watch may not be a runaway success like iPhone.


On the other hand, Slice's figures do not come from Apple and are strictly for online sales. The second is that it is still too early to judge the success of the Watch as there will likely be many more upgrades in the pipeline. Or Apple may simply have different expectations of Watch; a different definition of "success" for it.

Retrospectively, the first iPhone looks pretty mediocre in many respects and that product line did pretty well in the end.

Anyway, sales schmales. Apple has a problem on its hands regardless: nobody quite knows what the Watch's primal, essential reason to exist is.

The Watch will receive an update in 2016, as sure as night follows day. Apple must be looking into adding new functionality to the Watch - currently the rumour mill is floating a camera - that will help elevate it not just clear of its competitors (Android Wear and Pebble) but above the likes of Casio G-Shock, Tissot, Tag Heuer and Rolex.

The problem with 'smartwatches' - a term Apple is loath to use - is that at their core they are simply a new way to view the notifications that appear on your phone, accessible by simply removing the phone from wherever it is stored, be it a pocket, bag or purse.

This fact is a product of both hardware and software and, perhaps, the indecision of Apple and Google about what they want their new devices to be. If they do not solve this conundrum soon then wrist-mounted wearables are doomed to remain a second or third tier product or, worse still, a short-lived fad. Why would your average customer splash out upward of £299 (and upward) to save themselves seconds per day and, in certain cases, to feel more harassed by constant, attention-demanding alerts.

To be fair, Apple is already expanding the functionality of the Watch through OS updates and a new SDK for developers.

To be clear: this is not a problem limited to Apple. Google's Android Wear platform focuses on notifications and, as discussed above, this is not a completely compelling reason to spend money on a new watch.

Apple has addressed this by giving a bigger focus to apps, but the way they're presented on the home screen is kind of a mess.

Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.