I've had a few people express surprise when they find out that I didn't order and don't plan to purchase an Apple Watch. I'm the resident Apple enthusiast in most of my circles. I have purchased a new iPhone each of the last 8 years, get regular questions about what's coming out next, which Mac people should get and how to fix stuff that isn't working.
I was certainly intrigued when it was announced last fall, and I admit that it truly is a beautiful device, even starting at the least expensive model – the Apple Watch Sport.
So, let me make a small clarification. I am not intending to buy a first generation Apple Watch. I'm not sure that means I'll be preordering the second one, but I'll tell you why I'm holding out. In order to do that, let me tell you about the first generation iPad and iPhone.
Apple introduced the iPad in 2010. I had been an iPhone user for 3 years already and was using a 2006 black Macbook. I was intrigued by the iPad, and had some funds available to order one, but I decided to wait. I was already beginning to save for a new Macbook as my current one was getting a little long in the tooth. I had already upgraded the memory from the stock 2gb to 4 and the 80gb hard drive was barely cutting it for managing the beginnings of my photography hobby.
While I could think of things to do with an iPad in those first few days after it was announced, I also felt that it was likely underpowered and compromised. It seems funny to say that considering the specs on my main computer at the time, but the next February I bought a new Macbook Pro with 16gb or RAM and a 500gb hard drive. That computer is still my wife's computer today.
In large part, the decision to wait came from my expereince with the first iPhone. Though it was enjoyable, it was missing so many of the key features that have driven its success and made it indispensable to me and so many others. The original iPhone had no 3rd party apps, no video, no cut and paste, no push email, no 3g data.
Think about that list. I'd say 90% of the things I do with my iPhone weren't even possible on the first one.
The original iPad had no cameras, a single core 1 Ghz processor and 256 gb of memory. It was nearly twice as thick and roughly twenty percent heavier than the second generation iPad 2. I held out and then bought an iPad 2 which had a dual core processor and 512gb or memory. I used it daily as my primary machine to write, read and browse until I upgraded to the iPad 3 for the Retina display. Apple still supports this machine and the iPad mini which is internally almost identical. I owned one of those for awhile too.
The original iPad hasn't been supported by Apple since they cut off compatability with the release of iOS 6. The iPhone 1 was cut off at iOS 3.1.3. The reasons for these deprecations are largely hardware related. These devices can't do what all of the new(er) devices are capable of doing. Here's a link to a fairly detailed overview on Wikipedia showing all the relevant data
Now before you label me a crotchety old man who complains when 5 year old devices stop being updated, let me clarify. I actually don't care about forward compatability that much because I upgrade more often than most people. What I do care about is the lack of really useful features in a lot of these Gen 1 products. Apple is a very forward thinking company, but it often feels like they don't know what the killer feature is going to be until it's out in the world, and then they optimize the second generation to suit.
The Apple Watch feels a lot like the iPad 1, iPhone 1 and the Macbook Air 1. While we're at it, let's include the new Macbook. It looks beautiful, and is certainly showing us some great directions and possibilities, but I feel like it isn't there yet.
I know I'm gonna want the one that has GPS. I know I'll feel like native, stand-alone apps will be worth an upgrade. I love the idea of a battery that lasts 2 days instead of one. What if I could leave the house without my phone because the watch has its own wireless data connection and real apps? I'd love to go running without my phone strapped to my arm and still have it track my full workout with GPS and share it to NikePlus.
That's the Apple Watch I want. I'm willing to part with my money for something truly groundbreaking and useful, but the obvious things that are missing from this one make it a foolish purchase for me. I will want the version 2 that has some of this stuff and that means if I buy this one, I'll end up spending the same amount of money on a version that will likely be released pretty soon. Unfortunately, these Gen 1 products also have historically crappy resale value too.
I'm still excited about what first Gen products do, but I'm aware of the difference between an iterative improvement to an already useful piece of equipment and a major disruptive first step.
In five years, there will be a handful of hallmark features that will define the usefulness of the Apple Watch and perhaps even the way we use computing devices. I predict the first generation model won't be able to do most of them.
It's pretty rare for a company to nail it on the first iteration. Thankfully the products are still interesting enough to draw a pretty big group of early adopters to help them design the next one. I used to think of myself as an early adopter, but upon closer self-inspection, I'm quick to buy iterative upgrades – even the more ambitious ones – but wary of completely new categories.
So here's hoping the second Apple Watch blows the first one out of the water!