8 reasons the Apple Watch is more trouble than it's worth

This hands-on review tells what it's like using an Apple Watch every day for a month, and explains why Apple's smartwatch is not worth the trouble.

apple watch three faces

Subtle benefits vs. obvious annoyances

I’ve been wearing a borrowed Apple watch for most of the last month, but now I’m giving up and giving it back. While it was useful to see text notifications, send voice responses, and get haptic alerts for upcoming turn ability to send voice responses, many benefits were subtle (my favorite was the ability to set the main watchface five minutes ahead the actual time, which was still shown in tiny type). But they couldn’t make up for a parade of instant and obvious annoyances with wearing the device. 

So here are the eight reasons I will once again be strapping on my regular old analog watch.


Social Fail

First of all, the Apple Watch utterly failed as a way to reduce the social friction involved in pulling out my smartphone all the time. It turns out having some of those smartphone functions on my wrist actually made me look at it more often than you would look at your smartphone.

Even more important, you’re dreaming if you think that futzing with a smartwatch is less socially disruptive than looking at your smartphone. No matter how smooth you think you are, everyone notices what you’re doing, and they think it’s just as rude as pulling out your phone.


Insufficient information

In my personal experience, it seemed like half the time I got a notification on my phone, looking or playing with the watch was not enough to complete the interaction. Most of the time, I had to pull out my smartphone to resolve the situation, which obviated any advantage from the wrist-based notification.

Fredric Paul

Tiny troubles

The Apple Watch screen is so small that it can be really hard to see clearly, but that’s not the biggest size-related problem. I found it well-nigh impossible to reliably tap the right app or area on the tiny screen. Even after a couple weeks, I still found myself tapping the wrong area and having to return to the menu and start over. And don’t you dare call my fingers fat!

Fredric Paul

Not fully baked

Unfortunately, even when I hit the right button, not everything works as quickly and seamlessly as it’s supposed to. After three weeks, for example, only a fraction of my admittedly large list of contacts were synced to the device. The much-heralded ability to turn on when I raised my arm worked only about 60% of the time, requiring me to touch the screen just to find out what time it was. Not cool for a watch, no matter how smart it is.


Power outage

Having to charge the device every night was surprisingly annoying. Having to carry an extra cable on trips was one thing, but you also need multiple power sources to charge your phone as well as your watch. Plus, one of the things I most wanted a smartwatch to do—track sleep patterns—is pretty much impossible when the device is charging instead of on your wrist.


Style vs. sweaty substance

On the one hand, the Apple Watch is designed to be better looking and more stylish than most fitness bands. On the other hand, that very fact makes it less likely that you’ll wear it during workouts (I wore mine while playing basketball and as it slid around my wrist, I worried about breaking the relatively expensive device.) On the third hand, while the Apple Watch may be nicer than most fitness bands, I still think it’s hideously boxy and ugly compared to any “real” watch I might choose to buy. The more expensive versions—including the new models unveiled in September—have nicer finishes, but make this dichotomy even worse.


Functionality fail

The biggest issue, of course, is that the Apple Watch still doesn’t do very many truly useful things, so even minor annoyances seem to carry more weight. I was always wishing that the watch did just a little bit more. Show me more than just a few New York Times headlines. Let me create a calendar item, not just view them (though some third-party apps do promise that capability). Show me the whole picture, not just a portion of it. You still need a smartphone with the Apple Watch, and most of the time, I felt I’d be better off just using that smartphone.


Unintuitive interface indecision

When I first started using the Apple Watch, I spent a lot of time lurching back and forth through the user interface trying to find the app or function I needed. That didn’t bother me much at first—after all, I was still learning a brand new device with a tiny screen. But as the weeks wore on, I still couldn’t seem to go directly to the correct place to find what I was looking for quickly. So what should have been a quick, unobtrusive action too often became an extended session of fruitless clicks and swipes and pushes until I got to where I was going.


A long way to go

While recent updates and the release of Apple’s WatchOS 2 may help address some of these issues, the real problem is that it’s still not entirely clear what the Apple Watch, or any smartwatch, is best suited to do. While the Apple Watch may be the most sophisticated smartwatch around, it still has a long way to go to become a truly useful tool. These are still early days for wearable computing devices, and vendors will eventually create wearable devices that the mass market will adopt eagerly. But the current Apple Watch is like a horseless carriage – advanced for its time, but still far from polished and competent enough to entice anyone but Apple fanboys and dedicated early adopters.

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I had originally asked to borrow the watch for a week, from someone who had stopped wearing it because it reminded him of just how much he hated wearing a watch in the first place. He said I could borrow it for as long as I liked, but doubted I’d make it through the week. Well, I made it three weeks, but I have to admit I felt a real sense of relief as I handed it back.