The Apple Watch

September 15, 2014

There's a lot we still don't know about the Apple Watch, and perhaps most alarming is the issue of battery life, which David Sparks addresses:

One question that still looms over the Apple Watch is battery life. Apple has explained several times that you'll need to charge it every night. However, the question that hasn't been asked (or answered) is if I charge it overnight and strap it on at 7AM, will it still work at 9PM, or even 11pm?

The problem with apps on the Apple Watch is that battery life will be less predictable than if Apple curated what could be installed on it. Take your smartphone as an example: battery life is generally good, but the more you use the phone, and the more certain apps on the phone do stuff, the greater the drain on your phone's battery.

The same will be true of the Apple Watch. People who use it primarily as a watch with the occasional notification should see battery life consistent with whatever Apple claims the life to be.1 However, for those constantly using apps on the watch, and for those using it to listen to music all day, battery life will be noticeably worse. We can only hope that if the watch's battery is indeed only large enough to provide one full day of use, then it's one full day of use for the power user.

Presumably, Apple will announce more specifics about the Apple Watch's battery life in the upcoming months preceding its release. However, I don't think anyone expects a significant battery breakthrough. That the Apple Watch has a color screen, and that it seems capable of running pretty significant apps, achieving anything like a week of power on a single charge is a pipe-dream.

This is why I don't think, even with the Apple Watch's fitness-tracking features, that it poses a significant threat to those companies focusing on activity tracking wearables like FitBit and the Jawbone UP. Not long before the Apple Watch was announced, for example, Jawbone rolled out a firmware update for the UP that gives the fitness band a full 14 days of life out of a single charge.2

There's are two other factors that seem to protect existing activity trackers from the Apple Watch's creep into the fitness arena. One, the price - the Apple Watch will seemingly start at $350. Other fitness trackers are about one third of that price. Two, durability - as durable as the Apple Watch will be, I don't see people using it in all the same activities as people will a simple fitness band. Sure there's a “sport” version of the Apple Watch, which is fine for running and other activities where the Apple Watch will likely go untouched by other objects and elements. However, if you expect that your wrist might come into contact with something while working out, or be further exposed to environmental factors that could potentially damage the watch's finish, screen, or even band, you'll likely not wear it all the time.3 A rubberized fitness band that costs $100 doesn't warrant the same level level of protection.

Ideally, Apple recognizes this, and will allow HealthKit to deconflict activity recorded by multiple devices, so if you're actually wearing more than one device at a given time, it won't double-record activity during that time-frame. Further, such a deconfliction feature will mean easily transitioning from Apple Watch to fitness band and back, in a seamless single-timeline experience.

  1. Which we're left to assume, at least for the moment, is roughly one full day of use. 

  2. Previously, the Jawbone UP boasted 10 days of charge. 

  3. Forget about wearing your expensive gold Apple Watch while working out, especially if, as expected, it will cost upwards of $1k.