It's been a little over a year since Apple first launched the Apple Watch, to thunderous "mehs" from the world at large. Tim Cook may like to brag about the fact that the Apple Watch has outsold all other smartwatches, but really that's like bragging you're the most sober person on the night bus. The reality was that the Apple Watch was far from the must-have gadget of 2015.
Apple might not have used the launch of the iPhone SE as a chance to launch the Apple Watch 2, but rumour has it that announcement isn't that far away. June to be more precise. The Apple Watch had its issues, so here are the things we want Apple to sort out for round two.
Good design is one of those things that people generally associate with Apple, and there are many products that showcase this (like the scrollwheel iPod). The Apple Watch is not one of these products, and despite Apple insisting that this is a fashion accessory it looks bloody awful. Like the unholy child of a '70s digital watch and an iPod Nano. That needs sorting, particularly since other smartwatch makers seem to have got the message that slapping a touchscreen onto a wristband isn't enough.
The thing about smartwatches, and other wearable tech, is that what you see if what you get. Darren made a good point about this a few weeks ago. Unlike our phones or laptops, our watches are always out and in view. You can't jazz things up with a case or stickers, and what you buy is what will live on your wrist in the days to come – a flashy strap barely conceals the focal point of a watch: its face. So obviously you want something that looks good, and the Apple Watch does not - no matter how much gold you encase it in.
As I mentioned before, other smartwatch makers seem to have got this message. Over the last couple of years we've seen a lot more round-faced smartwatches that look, well, like watches. Not everyone seems to have clued on *cough*ASUS*cough*, but as a whole Apple's watch design looks remarkably dated when compared to the competition.
Better Battery Life
This is less a problem with the Apple Watch as it is with smartwatches as a whole. The Apple Watch might be able to last a full day on a single charge, but a lot of people have noted that it's a pain having to take it off to charge at night, especially if you're looking to do some sleep tracking. For some people that would be less of an issue (During my pre-smartphone watch wearing days I always used to take it off at night), but the fact remains that the battery life needs work.
Look at the competition and you'll see that most high-tech smartwatches don't have very long lifespans. The ones that do have to make sacrifices to make that happen. Pebble claims its Time smartwatch has a seven day battery life, but doesn't have a touchscreen and relies on e-ink displays. Casio's Smart Outdoor Watch is meant to last a month, but that's only if you ditch the main colour display. It's also enormous.
So here is somewhere for Apple to really lead the charge. It wouldn't be easy, but making that battery last an extra day or two (without sacrificing too much) would be an incredible accomplishment.
The fact that the Apple Watch isn't waterproof is absolutely baffling. It might be able to withstand the little bit of moisture generated by exercise, but that's not really enough. Apple isn't the only guilty party here, with few smartwatches offering this feature. But again it's an opportunity for Apple to stand out from the crowd.
One could argue that unless you're a clutz, smartphones don't really need to be waterproof. They generally live in pockets or bags, which protect them from the water-filled world we live in. But smartwatches live on your wrist, and come into contact with a lot more water. Hand washing, rain, the shower, swimming sessions paired with exercise apps and so on. Regular watches have been waterproof for many, many years, presumably for such reasons, and there's no reason that smartwatches can't follow suit - especially when they don't have a charging port.
Really, what good is a device marketed for fitness tracking if it can't be used by swimmers?
It might seem like a long shot, but given that sales figures for the Apple Watch haven't been that great it makes sense for Apple to make its product available for a whole new set of users. In Q4 2015, Android had a worldwide market share of 80.7%, compared to iOS's 17.7%. That is one hell of a lot of smartphones that cannot integrate with the Apple Watch, so why shouldn't Apple try and appeal to those users?
Of course functionality between the Apple Watch and Android would likely be a lot more limited – Apple would want to hold something back for its loyally-invested iPhone owners. Android Wear is compatible with iOS, for instance, but when that launched the features available didn't come close to those on offer to Android users. Apple does make a lot of money from peddling phones, so it's going do everything it can to make the iPhone a more appealing purchase. But it can't hurt to try and make a bit of money from the Android loyalists, right? It's not like they're completely unwilling to have anything to do with the platform.
Stand Alone Use
Whatever your opinion of the Apple Watch, we can all agree that it's little more than an extension of your iPhone. Without the phone it's limited to telling the time, tracking activity, and dealing with synced photos and music. Here's hoping that the Apple Watch of the future is something more, something that can be used when the phone is not around.
It wouldn't be so out of the ordinary. There are already smartwatches out there that have 3G and 4G connectivity (like the Samsung Gear S2), some have built-in GPS (like the Sony Smartwatch 3), and some can make calls without connecting to your phone (like the LG Urbane 2).
Let's get some of those features in the Apple Watch, and lessen its reliance on a paired iPhone. Let's have mapping and other apps on there. Let people stream music to their wrists on the go. Plus, thanks to Siri you probably won't need to fiddle with such a small screen all that often.
Ditching the smartphone tether will require a bit more storage than what's currently available, though. At the very least make more of the 8GB internal storage available for things like music and photos.
Make it Worth Buying
This should go without saying, but the reality of it is that there aren't that many reasons to drop some cold hard cash on a smartwatch. Sure there is the convenience factor of being able to see all your notifications without having to pull your phone out, but there's not much else. Even then, why spend upwards of £260 on a device that is no more useful than a £150 Pebble Time?
The reality of it is that up until this point there hasn't been much need to buy a smartwatch, and that shows in the sales. Apple recently reduced the price of the Apple Watch without announcing a successor, which is rare, and has yet to reveal any official sales figures. That all implies that Tim Cook & co are not happy with sales, despite the fact that multiple sources point to the Apple Watch dominating the smartwatch industry. If the top dog is having problems, then that's not a good sign. Even loveable underdog Pebble had to get rid of a quarter of its staff last month.
I've no idea how Apple would make the Apple Watch 2 worth buying beyond the above, but it's got to fill a niche that actually makes it useful. The fact that smartwatches have been on sale for a few years without taking off in a big way shows that nobody quite knows what to do with them. That's your challenge, Apple: try to figure out a way to successfully flog lots of watches before someone else beats you to it.