Categories
Apple

Ideal Apple Watch thickness

Yesterday, I posted a graphic comparing the thickness of the newly-announced Apple Watch Series 3 to its predecessors. With each generation (from the first gen Watch to Series 2 and from Series 2 to 3), the Watch has grown thicker. It’s not hard to see why; the power demands of GPS (for the Series 2) and a cellular radio (for the Series 3) required larger battery sizes.[1]

But what if physics didn’t apply? If internal component size weren’t a constraint, how thin would you want the Apple Watch to be? In prepping the comparison above, I made a few assumptions:

  • Again, this is fantasy land. I ignored the problematic stagnance of lithium-ion battery tech. My ‘ideal’ Watch wouldn’t last you through the day. It might not even make it to lunchtime.
  • The various external Watch components (band grooves, side button, and Digital Crown) retain their current dimensions. I’ve adjusted the band groove angles to reflect a shallower attachment angle, which might break legacy band compatibility.
  • You could shave off another millimeter or so without shrinking the Digital Crown. But I worried about potential friction between the Crown and the user’s skin, hence the extra depth on bottom.

Suddenly (and unfairly), the Series 3 looks a bit chunky, doesn’t it? ■


  1. The 42mm Series 2 Watch has a 34% larger battery than the 1st generation (2015) version.  ↩


Categories
Culture

The Apple Watch keeps getting thicker

Quickly whipped up this comparison graphic. With the Series 3, Apple Watch thickness continues to trend the wrong direction.

High-res image available here. Watch vectors adapted from this source; they’re not likely to be particularly precise. Depths cited apply only to the aluminum and stainless steel Watch models. ■


Categories
Apple Tech

Justifying an LTE Apple Watch

Tech rumormongers claim that Apple will announce an LTE-equipped Apple Watch at its September event. I’m intrigued to see how Apple makes the case for adding the cell radio. What is a cell-equipped Watch for? Or, put another way, when would I be willing to leave behind my phone?

For me, the only answer is, “When I’m working out.” I hate bringing my iPhone on runs. There’s no good way to carry it; arm straps are awkward, and hip belts make the phone’s heft hard to ignore.

Theoretically, an LTE-enabled Watch could make it easier to leave my iPhone on the dresser when I go running. I could still send and receive urgent messages. If I were an Apple Music subscriber, I could stream any song on the go—not just the playlists I presync to the Watch.

But there are other reasons I bring my phone along on runs—things that even a cell-connected Apple Watch couldn’t do. For example, I occasionally stumble across something interesting while I’m out: a glorious sunrise, a gnarly snapping turtle, a dew-starred spider web. I whip out my phone and snap a photo—a nice reward for my exercise efforts. What happens when the “camera that’s with you” is no longer with you?

Another problem? Podcasts. There’s currently no good way to play podcasts from the Apple Watch itself. Apple inexplicably continues to ignore podcast playback as a potential Watch feature. Meanwhile, third-party apps, hindered by the platform’s limited APIs, haven’t filled the gap. If I want to catch up on my favorite shows while I run, the iPhone needs to come along for the ride.


For me, then, an LTE-equipped Apple Watch seems to create as many problems as it solves. That makes it tough to justify the added cost, particularly if the carriers charge a per-month fee (which is likely).

To be fair, Apple hasn’t made their pitch yet. There may be a use case here that I can’t think of—a benefit that would outweigh the drawbacks of running phoneless. Or maybe they’ll find ways to replace more of the phone’s functionality than currently seems possible. In any case, I’m looking forward to hearing their argument on September 12.

Categories
Tech

Why does Apple brag about the Watch’s accurate timekeeping?

Apple’s marketing copy for the Watch:

High-quality watches have long been defined by their ability to keep unfailingly accurate time, and Apple Watch is no exception. In conjunction with your iPhone, it keeps time to within 50 milliseconds of the definitive global time standard.

Since the Watch was announced in 2014, Apple has touted its extraordinary accuracy. I’ve never understood why I should be impressed by this.

For over a century, quartz oscillators have made it possible to build incredibly precise timepieces. As early as 1929, the federal Bureau of Standards relied on quartz clocks that drifted from actual time by less than half a second per month. These days, even a $10 Casio wristwatch from your local gas station likely loses less than a minute per year—accurate enough for nearly every practical use.

Digital devices—including laptops and phones—also rely on quartz-based oscillators. But they have an additional advantage over “dumb” timepieces: an Internet connection. Using the Network Time Protocol (NTP), our devices synchronize themselves against precisely-tuned time servers on the Internet. NTP keeps our computer clocks within a few dozen milliseconds of “actual” time; that probably explains Apple’s “50 millisecond” figure in the marketing quoted above.

Now, Apple actually claims that the Watch is “far more accurate as a timekeeping device than the iPhone.” This makes little sense to me, since both devices presumably depend on the same NTP servers.

And even if the Watch were somehow slightly more accurate than my other digital devices… should I care? Do average consumers even need the exact time, down to fractions of a second? Are atomic physicists timing their experiments using the Watch? Do NASA engineers schedule booster ignition using Siri? Do international secret agents synchronize their capers by watching Mickey Mouse’s hand? I honestly can’t imagine a realistic scenario where even a few seconds’ aberration makes a difference in everyday life.