Can the Apple Watch Live Up to the iPhone 6?
It hasn't been perfect. The rollout of iOS 8 has proven buggy, particularly with older Apple devices. There have also been isolated reports of a handful of iPhone 6 Plus handsets that have bent after being carried in a pocket. However, by and large, Apple continues to be the tastemaker of consumer tech.
That reputation will be put to the test in a few months when the Apple Watch hits the market. The world's most valuable tech company's first foray into wearable computing will be widely watched for a couple of reasons. For starters, it's Apple. Anything new that it puts out is going to benefit from consumer tech's shiny spotlight. It also will be the first major product category that Apple enters since the passing of Steve Jobs three years ago. Apple's track record for innovation in the post-Jobs era will be on the line.
However, the biggest reason that the market will be keeping tabs on Apple's portable wristwatch computer is that wearable computing has been a surprising dud so far.
Wear and Tear
It's been a little more than two years since Pebble turned heads by introducing the first smart watch. It was a hot commodity on Kickstarter, where it raised the money and publicity necessary to get its product to market. Using Bluetooth to work in cahoots with smartphones to push text alerts, emails and other notifications to your wrist, Pebble's device gained a cult following among early adopters. Developers noticed, and now there are thousands of apps that play nice with Pebble. Retailers hopped on board, and today, you can pick up a Pebble for as little as $150 at Best Buy (BBY) or Amazon.com (AMZN).
The market assumed that Apple would roll out a smart watch fairly rapidly after Pebble began turning heads, but instead, rivals beat it to the punch. Samsung (SSNLF) introduced the Galaxy Gear and Qualcomm (QCOM) rolled out the Toq last September, beating Apple to market by over a year.
%VIRTUAL-pullquote-Some argue that the new devices are striving to be the equivalent of Swiss army knives for the computing world.%Samsung may sell more smartphones than Apple worldwide, and Qualcomm may be a global leader in mobile technology, but both companies have struggled to stand out. Some argue that their new devices are trying to do too much -- whether it's by including cameras and rich displays or doubling up as portable media players -- striving to be the equivalent of Swiss army knives for the computing world. Consumers haven't taken to the smart watch by storm.
One problem has been battery life. The original Galaxy Gear had to be recharged daily like an active smartphone. This year's update now lets users get by on charging roughly every other day. Pebble and Toq last closer to a week on a full charge, but it's still a bit of a drag for consumers.
It's a pretty big deal. In fact, the biggest rumored reason that the Apple Watch isn't available right now after being introduced a couple of weeks ago is that the company is still unhappy with the battery life.
It's Time for Wearable Computing
The Apple Watch isn't likely to be out in time for this year's holiday shopping season, and some tech blogs are speculating that it may not be out by Valentine's Day, either. Apple showed off the device and everything that it will probably do at the iPhone 6 unveiling, but it apparently will be months before the watch is market-ready.
That's fine, if this is what it takes for Apple to get it right. It already turned heads by showing off the "crown" controller to the side of the watch (like the winding knob on traditional wristwatches) that will navigate the features so folks don't have to be tapping all over the tiny display. It sees this navigational tool as the next flywheel or home button -- two interface innovations that helped raise the bar for the iPod and iPhone, respectively.
We'll have to let the market decide. The clock is ticking on Apple, and it has plenty to prove in a niche that hasn't been kind to anyone so far.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Qualcomm. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com and Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, and Qualcomm. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Check out our free report on the Apple Watch to learn where the real money is to be made for early investors.