The Apple Watch had some bugs to work out, what does the new Apple Watch 2 need to change?
Guest column: Rina Plapler, partner at MBLM, talks about what they hope to see in the next generation of the Apple Watch
As the Brand Intimacy Agency, MBLM is dedicated to building ultimate brand relationships. For nearly a year, we have been conducting ethnographic research with Apple Watch users, in order to understand the adoption perspective from those using the device. We have been examining every aspect of their experiences, having them complete daily and weekly diaries, requiring them try specific features and functions, noting their reactions, and videotaping them periodically.
As we’ve gleaned the behavioral and emotional insights from our panel, we witnessed the initial magic of the watch. After a week with the watch, there was true joy with users. From delight in first opening the box to smiling widely about certain features, design elements and the surprising discovery about the things the watch can do, it delivered happiness in myriad ways. The fact that the watch was fundamentally new and different provided a true sense of wonder. Of course, the watch had some bugs and kinks to work out. Every user found a number of things to dislike or find frustrating about the watch. And yet, they were all happy with it.
After one month of wearing the watch, our respondents commented on a weak ecosystem supporting it in that few had friends with the watch, the third-party apps available were underwhelming, and few retailers seem to accept Apple Pay or promote the fact that they do. Reactions were positive regarding how the watch felt on the body as well as its great ergonomic appeal. Users also demonstrated a smart awareness about how the watch connects to the iPhone and which device alerts for what. The Apple Watch “Twist” (the gesture for checking the watch) was addictive and some started to “twist” their phones out of habit, to no effect.
Half a year into our research, the panel started to experience what we called “The Six Month Itch.” Overall, respondents continued to like the watch. A few were happy with it, a few indifferent, and many lost that loving feeling. Most viewed it as a watch that can do some cool tricks. Expectations became more realistic (read pessimistic), and although some panel members appear underwhelmed, few are completely disappointed. Let’s face it, the watch has limitations. It has finite features, its design is less than ideal, and it could be faster and more user friendly. Gripes abound, especially among millennials. We’ve also seen an increasingly narrow cast usage for our panel members. Most use it mainly for one specific function—notifications, the activity monitor, or answering texts and calls. The idea of wearing the watch some of the time (3–5 days per week) also seems to be growing in popularity. Users are finding it agreeable as a part-time accessory.
What does this mean and how can Apple Watch 2 take into account the feedback of users?
- As the novelty of the watch wears off, users have become more settled in their ways. This is one device of many for them, not as essential as their phones, and unclear in terms of what they should use it for.
- Its reliance on the iPhone makes it harder to see the watch as significant or independent and limits how people feel about it and use it.
- The watch is being occasionalized. It’s used less and for less.
Some expected to see significant improvements by the six-month mark, but with a disappointing watchOS update and an App Store that continues to offer very little in the way of third-party apps, many are now looking to the next version of the Apple Watch for these improvements.
- The watch needs to do a better job of meeting the needs of its users, Siri is buggy, features are clunky, and usability is confusing.
- The marketplace has not caught up to what the watch can offer, making it less useful. When travel and retail brands operationalize what was promised, these features may be of real value versus today’s reality.
- Perhaps most interesting of all is the role of Apple. Although it is highly esteemed, we wonder why it’s been so absent from watch users’ lives–no check-ins, update messages, surveys, or dialogue. Users have been left on their own and feel isolated.
Here are some of the new features desired and evolving opinions of the watch from our panel over time.
Rina Plapler is partner at the brand intimacy agency MBLM.