Is there an Apple Watch use case?

You need to invest time in the Apple Watch

Arriving at #NEM360 in Stockholm today*, we struck up conversation with a fellow Apple Watch owner. Here’s how the conversation went:

Him: “I’m actually really disappointed with it”
WTW: “Really?”
Him: “I have had it six months, but I still can’t really find a use case”

At WW, we’ve had iterations of this conversation a number of times. Usually, we can highlight a couple of apps that might help – in this case it was Sleep++, a native sleep tracking app. But it serves to underline that for many people who have bought an Apple Watch, it’s a great product still looking for a true value proposition.

As we wrote a while back, the Apple Watch does have a steep learning curve – among the steepest for any consumer electronics devices on the market today. And what’s more, if you do not get through this, then the watch is still going to provide some basic support, even though you’re not going to be getting the best out of your device.

Some of the best: A selection of Apple Watch apps that we find to be the most useful

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We think part of the problem is that apps are nearly always too closely tied to the iPhone. It’s not quite fair to say that without the iPhone, the Watch is useless – but it’s close.

You can store and then listen to up to 1GB of locally cached music on the Watch, via paired Bluetooth headphones – although it appears that most people don’t realize this. It’s also possible to control the tracks playing on your iPhone via Watch: This is marginally useful if you have Bluetooth headphones but otherwise, still quicker to reach for the controls on the headphone cable.

Complications are … complicated
The Watch includes what Apple calls Complications, something with great promise but hard for us to get our heads around.

Essentially, some watch face displays include customizable areas where you can display additional information (our choice includes phases of the Moon, battery life and an at-a-glance of daily movement so far). There are only relatively few apps which take advantage of this.

Once you get the hang of it, Complications are true productivity boosts – for example, LastPass is a bit fiddly to set up, but once you’re over this hurdle, it’s a more convenient way to access all your username/password combinations, probably easier than via iPhone.

The native Wallet (formerly Passbook) app is also quite useful, but as noted before, some airports just aren’t set up to allow passengers boarding a plane to slide their left hand under a desk-mounted scanner.

Most automatic gates for boarding also have the scanner on the right-hand side, great for southpaws but less practical for the rest of us.

The W hotel chain has come up with an innovative use for the Watch, as your door key … unfortunately they only have a Wow Suite available in Barcelona when we’re in town for Mobile World Congress … which is slightly above our budget. At EUR 10,500 a night, they should consider throwing in the Apple Watch as the “yours to keep” room key.

We’ve enjoyed testing various fitness apps, taking advantage of the Watch’s built-in movement tracking functionality. We’ve previously mentioned Cue and Apple’s own Activity app (also on the iPhone). Also worthy of note is Streaks, which allows tracking up to six “habits” such as steps, healthy eating, reading a book for 10 minutes, etc.

Some of our other favorite Watch apps – Apple’s Weather, Plane Finder, which is especially good if you happen to glance up and idly wonder where the plane passing overhead is headed, or where it came from, or how fast it’s going … or its call-sign. Plane Finder is a good example of augmented reality and delivers a whole ton of information. And on a similar note, Sky Guide is helpful for identifying stars, constellations and planets in the night sky.

There are also some games for Watch – including a text only brain-teaser that reminds us of the computer games from the early 1980s, Lifeline – probably best explored on a rainy day.

Wrapping up, it’s not quite fair to the Apple Watch to say that it’s not a success, but Apple needs to give serious consideration to making it easier and more intuitive for new customers to get started.

* WTW Editor-in-chief Simon Jones gives a keynote on Thursday February 4 at NEM360 in Stockholm, Sweden, outlining the Role of Wearables in the Mobile Revolution.

/WTW

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