Can we avoid talking about the Apple Watch? Probably not, as it stands out as a truly spectacular example of a ridiculously expensive product being sold to ridiculously pretentious people for ridiculous reasons.
As you can see, I’m withholding judgment on this until we all get a chance to see one in action, and I mean beyond the ads showing people training for marathons with them. Notice they’re not training for triathlons with them, because despite costing up to $17,000, they are not waterproof. They are “splash and water resistant.” But so are Casios, available for $11.43 on Amazon (with free shipping).
I’ve hit on the first reason to mock them — the price. For an aluminum body watch with a plastic band, in what used to be called the “lady’s size,” it costs $349, with the larger size available for $399. Decide on a stainless steel case and you’re at $749 to $999. Want to show the world that you’re both in the 1% and don’t care who knows it?
The 18K gold models start at $10,000 and go up to $17,000. For that, you should choose the one with the red band, just in case someone might not notice it otherwise. For that kind of money, we should be talking the kind of watch that you pass down for generations, like a Rolex or Patke Philippe.
That’s Not All
And here we hit a second reason to pass: obsolescence. Try to remember how many versions of iPads and iPhones have come and gone. The newer ones, of course, are half the thickness and weight of the originals, and have longer battery life. So your new iWatch is going to be (maybe) six months old when the newer model comes out.
Exactly how is that going to make you feel? (Like an iChump, is the first thing that comes to mind.)
Oh, then there’s the battery life. The advertised time is 18 hours. As most of us have discovered with our phones, that deteriorates with time. Interestingly enough, one of the features of the watch is sleep tracking, to show you your cycles, etc. So that means you can’t charge it overnight. So when do you? Oh yes, when you’re in the shower.
Compatibility: It works only with an iPhone, Version 5 or newer. No Android or Windows models need apply. So you’re tied to another Apple product.
There are, of course, fitness trackers built in, so you can train to try to outrun the thieves who will no doubt be targeting them. Another feature (for the thieves) — they know you’ll be carrying a newer model iPhone. Bonus.
There also have been reports that original plans to monitor heart rate and blood pressure had sensor troubles, with hairy arms and flakey skin being major obstacles. So now it basically does pulse monitoring and step counting. Newer models (see obsolescence, above) will probably incorporate more and better sensors.
Does it let you know you have a text or phone message coming in with a screen event? Of course. But so does your phone, which you can then use to answer the call or text.
Release date for the Apple Watch is set for late April. Maybe that will give the Apple stores time to build separate display areas and hire two guys the size of refrigerators to guard them.
Other Ways to Go
Here, we can always stroll across The Mall in Columbia to Edward Arthur Jewelers and gaze at some Rolex models that we could hand down to our grandchildren. Not that I think that could be a better idea.
For less ostentatious people, there are FitBits and Samsung Gear Fit models that concentrate just on health monitoring at substantially less cost.
But if you were looking for something comprehensive, wait until early June, when Microsoft (MS) launches its MS Band. No, this isn’t a bunch of geeks with kazoos; it looks to be quite a competitor to the Apple Watch. Of course, MS has been doing watches since 1994 with its DataLink model and the SPOT up (until 2008), so it has had a head start.
And it’s improved. The original synch mode for the DataLink was to point the watch at your computer screen as it blinked. Funky, but it worked.
First off, the band costs $199. Available in sleek black plastic, the deluxe model costs … yep, $199. You can change the screen color if you wish. It also works with iPhones and Android devices, not just Windows Phones.
It also has a step counter, plus 24-hour heart rate and sleep tracking. Its screen will display fitness videos (little tiny fitness videos, but videos nonetheless), and there’s a calorie counter.
It will display incoming texts and e-mails, and even Facebook messages. If you do have a Windows phone, you can use a voice app to set calendar dates and take notes (if you don’t mind talking into your wrist).
All in all, it looks to be a worthy competitor to the Apple. It will be interesting to see them duke it out for this market.
And remember, if you really need to spend crazy money, I’m sure a jeweler would be happy to sell you a fantastic ring to sit next to that watch.
Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing and does PC rescue, data retrieval and networking, when not looking at his blank wrist. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or [email protected]. Older columns are available online at http://feldwick.com.