Apple Watch versus Microsoft Band?

Most people seem to have interest in product comparisons even when the products have different intended audiences. These comparison usually are quite slanted in one direction due to the predilections of the author and provide little to no value because it is an opinion piece and not a true evaluation. So the discussion either resonates with you or feels completely ridiculous. With devices, authors seem to enjoy rating similar products through the same lenses even if does not make sense.  Why would a purely home consumer ever want a business centric device? The sway is trying to make other people see the world through your lenses instead of educating people to make their own choices that are right for them. This is completely true for phones, and it’s also true for wearables.

I have been using a Microsoft Band for several months, and my son just received his Apple Watch. My world is app UX design and architecture for large enterprise systems, which mixes in complex mobile and large screen immersive data visualization experiences. My son’s world is that he is attending Art Center College of Design for Interaction Design and is about to embark on a summer internship at Facebook. We both own Apple and Microsoft products. His center of gravity is in elegance and beauty of design, where mine is in elegance and performance of design. But what is also different is what do in life which changes what we need from our devices.

For wearables, my world is fitness. I want to know steps, how well I’m sleeping, and, most importantly, detailed tracking of my mountain biking adventures with gps, heart rate, and calorie burn. On a second tier of importance are the notifications through email, calendar, Skype, SMS, Twitter, and Facebook. With my activities (mountain biking) I’m often in dirt and rocks and slamming into things on the mountain, so I can’t worry about the health of my wearable. At the end of every ride I shoot off an email to my buddies that has these attachments:

band

This is my lense. For $200, I feel I am getting my money’s worth out of my Microsoft Band. I don’t care that it is ugly and is not distinguishable from other wearables. It’s a touch bulky but I’ve gotten used to it. I wish the battery life were a little better. Putting that into context, I can do a long 20 mile mountain bike ride only if I’m near a full charge. It is hitting pretty much every sensor on the device with GPS sucking up most of the juice. I wish there was a little better control of how notifications are managed. For example, I may just want my work email pushed to my Band and not my personal email and not have to define a discrete list of people. No device is perfect and we will all need to judge whether or not the compromise you would need to make justifies its continued use.

My son would never use a fitness band, and would never use a Microsoft Band. He decided on an Apple Watch long ago. The only reason he has an Apple Watch so soon is that he prioritized a quarter of his net worth (i.e. $800) to this device. He has never worn a watch before. I would never wear a device so expensive on a mountain biking ride. I hear my son extol the sapphire glass on the watch, but he also used to talk about the shatterproof gorilla glass on his Android phone before it lost a battle against cement. The leather band is from a European country and costs $150 alone, and it’s handmade and smells of new leather. It is the stainless steel version, and the buckle on the leather band is milled from same metal as the housing. When my son was telling me all this, my wife laughed at the look of complete and utter disinterest on my face. Clearly, vanity is important to him and a core reason why he purchased the device.

So after about 24 hours living with the Apple Watch, I asked my son of his first impressions:

applewatch

To hammer home my point about my son and fitness, his daily caloric goal was set to 300. The screen real estate feels small after using iPhones. The force touch is a new and interesting interaction being shared to other types of Mac devices, meaning a tap versus a pressed touch will behave differently. My impression is that although the interaction is interesting, it may not be discoverable for the less sophisticated users and if apps sporadically adopt it. The digital crown has been designed very well as animations that react to its movement feel natural and unforced. After apps are loaded, reactions to touch and the crown are smooth making the device not feel underpowered.

App navigation is not quite worked out because tapping the wrong app is too easy – you need to be precise and not move around while doing it. Siri integration seems snappy. My son asked Siri “how far is the moon” and she responded promptly. I had to ask Cortana on my Band the same question and the response was obtained in about the same time. Voice quality seems to have been nailed. It’s very Dick Tracy, but I had to explain to my son what that means. I could hear my son’s voice quite clearly, and he could hear my voice just fine through it. It was tested in quiet room in ideal conditions.

What Apple is doing with tactile feedback is interesting. Vibration patterns can be used for different things. For example, my son has CarPlay. When using navigation his Apple Watch starting vibrating with one pattern when he had to turn left, and another vibration pattern when he had to turn right.  My son enjoys the one less step he needs to do to buy things via Apple Pay on the Apple Watch. Not sure I like that it is even easier to spend money. Basically you just need to move the watch to the NFC reader and boom – you have been charged. The idea here is that since the device is strapped to your arm, it remains authenticated after supplying the passcode once per day. If the Apple Watch is taken off, it would need to be authenticated again before it could be used. Another interesting feature is a use of a meta language to communicate to your friends. Of course they will also need an Apple Watch. Through this digital touch, you can send vibration patterns to a friend. This could even be your heart beat. Also, you could send simple sketches to each other. He doesn’t know anyone yet with an Apple Watch so it remains to be seen how well used this feature will be.

So these are the lenses of my son. He loves new gadgets and loves the Apple ecosystem. Vanity is important to him. At $400, the device feels worth it to my son. But at $800, he says it doesn’t. The vanity effect seems to balance out the feeling that it is not worth it. It will be interesting to ask him the same questions he has worn the device for a couple of months. Perhaps he can sell it this week for 4x what he paid for it. Anyone?


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