back to article No, Apple. A 4G Watch is a really bad idea

I feel the same way about my Apple Watch as I do about Twin Peaks – I love it, but I don’t go around recommending it. No, sir. One requires a big investment in time while the other costs a lot of money. For Twin Peaks, you really need to have seen the 30 original episodes (the significant ones more than once), and also the …

I just don't see the point in wearing a watch as anything other than a fashion accessory if I have my phone with me and smart watches are not attractive so they are useless for that purpose.

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I use my watch to tell the time. But yeah, it does look nice in an understated way.

But if you have your alarm clock, dashboard clock, office click or computer desktop with clock in front of your eyes most hours of the day, I can appreciate why you don't need a watch.

Fumbling in a pocket to dig out a phone to tell the time is step backwards, though.

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"I just don't see the point in wearing a watch as anything other than a fashion accessory if I have my phone with me"

There are things a smartwatch can do that a phone cannot, like be out where I can get at it to acknowledge alerts or texts, or to control the music player in the phone. That way, the phone stays in the pocket, which is useful when I'm sitting down. And a smartwatch can still do the essential thing that a dumbwatch can do: tell me the time just by me turning my wrist and looking at it. (But it can do other things that a dumbwatch can't do, like offer a weather forecast.)

But no, it doesn't need 4G. It might be able to offer something if it has 4G, but I don't quite see what. With Bluetooth and WiFi to link it to the phone, it has all it needs to do the things it does. Adding any sort of 4G to the already thirsty set of radio stacks isn't going to help it.

"smart watches are not attractive"

I'm with you on that. OK, they aren't deeply ugly(1), but they aren't particularly attractive. Part of it, I think, is that they have the wrong kind of squareish bulk, AND they are just a black square unless the screen is lit up.

(1) Some of the things I've seen people wear that are obviously intended to be fashion-accessory watches ARE deeply ugly. A fashion-accessory watch, in the ideal case, should be sleek and thin and elegant, not a wrist-dominating monster with blingjewels in every possible location.

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Thumb Down

As I said a year ago I think most smartwatches are the ugliest things imaginable. They look cheap and tacky, like those cheap and nasty CASIO knock-offs you used to see at the seaside in the late 1980's "2 for £10 digital watches".

My Missus loves her Fitbit, it catches all the alerts off her iPhone, the weather and all that malarky but it still looks like it came from a Xmas cracker. Personally when I wear a watch I wear a piece of jewellry that tells me the time and nothing else, I have a nice Thomas Earnshaw that I bought myself as present, it's superb to look at, winds itself and just sits there silently on my wrist waiting to be used to do what watches do best.

Don't get me wrong, I love the technology of the smartwatch but I don't think it's day is here yet. Much like the Apple Newton ( which I still have in the spare room! ) it's day is just not here yet but one day, maybe, if they can get them to look much nicer.

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I just do not like the idea of being shafted by yet another Apple strapon. Also I grew up in the late 1970's so I just don't want a watch that reminds me of those huge "digital" Casio watches of that era.

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I just a think that a watch that costs a bit of money, I mean a few hundred quid instead of a few quid, needs to still be useful in 20 or more years, not be a useless small box of obsolete electronics.

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FAIL

Just give me a real analog watch. They work better than any smartwatch.

And get off my lawn!

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Fine if you are an urban couch potato, but if you run, surf, climb, snowboard or spend a reasonable amount of time outdoors, in all weathers, whipping out a smartphone isn't viable. My most worn watch is my rather unfashionable and functional Suunto Vector, and the compass and barometer have helped me out of several sticky situations, and I use the stopwatch function to time my runs.

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Joke

"Fumbling in a pocket to dig out a phone to tell the time is step backwards, though"

I use a sundial to tell time and it better than any phone from a pocket.

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"I use a sundial to tell time and it better than any phone from a pocket."

Me too, but I live in the UK so time often disappears.

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Trollface

"Me too, but I live in the UK so time often disappears."

Oh, you need the UK model that comes with a built-in backup hourglass - just just need to pay a bit of attention to wearing it the right side up at all times...

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Step forwards

Many of us have learned to plan our lives better and not be as dependent on a watch.

If you check the time so often that the few seconds it takes to take the phone from your pocket is inconvenient, you aren't managing your time. Unless you are taking medication that must be precisely timed, you should easily be able to manage your schedule. A person makes a victim of themselves if they ever find themselves unable to schedule. If you have to be somewhere at 10am, leave with enough time to get there at 9:45. If you're running late because of circumstances beyond your control, call and apologize and inform the person "I have encountered unforeseen difficulties. I will be a little late." Then next time, account for additional delays so they don't believe it is habitual.

If you're stressed over time because of conflicts of work and daycare for example, cut back your hours, change day cares, change jobs, hire an au pair, hire a teenager near the day care, make an arrangement with a parent to take turns picking up and dropping off with, etc...

If $500+ watch is in your budget, your life would be better if you spent the money to buy time instead.

Some people believe a successful person wears a fancy watch. Smart people know that success is learning to manage your life without one.

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I do see a point.

Wearing it to track your time, pace, etc if you are doing endurance sports. It is darn useful, but then I would go for a specialized Garmin or Suunto (or whatever) product and even though this market is relatively big it is still a niche market and one where "normal" smartwatches can't compete, let alone outcompete the already existing big players.

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Coat

I use the stopwatch function to time my runs.

I used to do the same, until the amoebic dysentery cleared up.

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Wrong end up

The smart watch is approaching wearable smarts from the wrong end. Trying to cram a phone top-down onto your wrist just makes for a crap phone. Instead, start at the bottom - what are the watch manufacturers doing with increased processing power?

My advice to Apple - go buy the leading manufacturer of cute, upmarket gizmo watches and follow their nose not yours.

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Re: Wrong end up

I would go more modest, if I were Apple: make something simple and discreet that usefully extends the function of the iPhone. KISS. So, page my phone, control media, mute ringtone... A full colour display is not needed to display a notification alert, or even give walking navigation directions.

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Re: Wrong end up

That's a Pebble - and where all this started..

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Re: Wrong end up

I would start with a traditional analogue hand watch, and, if I were Apple, use some of those micro perforating lasers (that they use on their keyboards) to create near invisible (when not lit) LEDs on the face. I used to have a Sony phone that used a single RGB LED module to communicate lots of useful things (battery and charge status, plus different colours for different types of notification. Strangely, my Nexus 5 has a similar module but Google don't put it to its best use…)

Tissot, too, have shown for years how different types of information (time, temperature, direction, altitude) can be displayed using a conventional analogue watch face.

I don't dislike Pebble (their industrial design is too modest and honest to actively dislike), but I'd prefer something that didn't look so 'tech'.

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I'm served, thank you verrymuch

As usual, I found the perfect gadget for me and I'm just waiting for everyone else to fail to recognise its brilliance and leave me with an unsupported lump. As usual. Just like with the Nokia N9, you're all dumb.

It's called the Withings Steel HR. Looks like a proper watch, several weeks of battery life, health tracking (pulse, steps, workout logging, sleep tracking) and the main notifications from the phone.

Could it do more, like contactless payments, guided workouts, GPS tracking and bespoke apps? Not for thrice the price and ten times less battery life.

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Re: I'm served, thank you verrymuch

Have a thumbs up.

I do like them, but the styles are too limited for my kind of watch. I don't blame Nokia mind, you can't have a dozen different styles with the associated costs but it does put me off owning one. I think the Go is the way forward for me, and just don't wear it all the time. I'm not really fussed about tracking my activity behind the desk at my 9-5.

I know Tag do a smart range but I just don't believe for a second it's a) worth the premium of a normal Tag, and b) it'll be supported in three years.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I'm served, thank you verrymuch

Agree with your choice of the Withings(/Nokia?) Steel HR - it's probably the only smart watch worth getting, providing Withings have fixed the condensation issue that they tried to pass off as a natural occurrence in a watch (hint: it isn't).

But I think smart watches are still very much in the '1970s LED watch' phase of their development - interesting curios but something much better will be along in 3 or so years. The only smart watch I ever really see on my (limited) travels is the Apple Watch. And I find that watch a deeply ugly and lazy design that Ive was either not involved with at all or just phoned in - pun intentional. I'll stick with my mechanical watch for the foreseeable future. It does everything I need a watch to do.

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Most used function

"Set a three minute timer"

Saving me from stewed tea: priceless.

After that, swimming stroke counts and times.

Both of these work just fine with my cheapskate 38mm.

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Re: Most used function

I used to have a small 38mm watch - best feature was the rotating bezel, perfect for setting a time to check the oven or returning to carpark before the ticket runs out.

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Coat

Re: Most used function

What's wrong with singing 15 verses of "Where has all the custard gone" under your breath?

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Re: Most used function

If I walked around town singing that I'd look like a nutter. Or, if in Stroud, be mistaken for a native.

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Happy

Re: Most used function

You don't need a smartwatch to time your 3 minute perfect tea. What you need is a smart teapot.

Of course that might struggle to time your swimming for you, but technology can't solve all problems.

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Re: Most used function

To be a native of Stroud you would have to be shouting about custard, and probably be offering it to passers by.

Anon, as I live not too far away from Stroud. You can tell I'm not a Stroud native as I can use a keyboard for its intended function.

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Re: Most used function

That's just [redacted]... he shouts about everything. I don't know if it's related to his work for Microsoft, or for the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury.

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Re: Most used function

I totally disagree.

A proper cup of tea takes 5 minutes to brew!

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£658 for a smart watch?

I paid 1/100th of that for mine. The DZ09 is £10 on Amazon but I bought mine on Gearbest for £6.50. It's a colour touchscreen smart watch that can make calls if you put a SIM in it. OK, it's not quite as stylish or waterproof as the Apple version, but it is just as marginally useful.

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Re: £658 for a smart watch?

£658 is the price of the cheapest iPhone *plus* the price of the cheapest full size Apple Watch.

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Calls whilst running

When you’re swimming or jogging you don’t want to take calls,

I find that breathing heavily whilst running quickly dissuades people from calling...

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Re: Calls whilst running

Jogging should be at a speed where it is comfortable to carry on with a conversation, it's actually how you know you are going at the right speed.

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Re: Calls whilst running

"The right speed" depends what you are trying to achieve on that run.

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Re: Calls whilst running

And if that run is a jog, what you are trying to achieve is a pace that you can still talk at, it's the fucking definition.

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Who cares about calls?

Surely you completely miss the point that including a SIM would be meant for breaking the tether to the phone and allow data services?

I very much doubt that the intent was ever to turn the watch into a phone.

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Devil

Re: Who cares about calls?

Have these people not seen Knight Rider? If only everyone were as cool as the Hoff!

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Re: Who cares about calls?

" If only everyone were as cool as the Hoff!"

Well, the Mythbusters came somewhat close - they managed to reproduce the "park into a moving truck" thing and that was undeniably cool...

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Calling Dick Tracy?

A watch that doubles as a phone sounds cool, really cool, but it hasn't taken off, and I fear it may never get off the ground.

Was Dick Tracy using his as a phone or just walk-talkie? It was so long ago...

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Re: Calling Dick Tracy?

The Dick Tracy Wrist Wizard (actually developed by Diet Smith's company) went, in its later versions, far beyond what even the most capable modern smartwatch can do. Notably projected 3D video calling.

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Re: Calling Dick Tracy?

Who says it sounds cool? I have no interest in such a thing, nor do I believe there are very many people who would want to either be permanently talking on speakerphone in public or hold their wrist up to their ear in some awkward way that still allowed them to talk in it.

Anyway, I don't believe Apple will make the Watch able to make calls if LTE capability is added, though I'm not quite sure what use cases there are to include LTE in it since most people have their phones with them almost all the time. Certainly that would be true of the types of people likely to buy an Apple Watch (or any smartwatch) who are by definition tech lovers.

Everything I come up with that could use LTE I realize you'd still have your phone. For instance, having it give you driving directions would avoid having to hold your phone, which is illegal in more and more places. But it could connect to your phone via Bluetooth to give you the directions the phone is providing. I see many people strapping their phone to their upper arm while running, and a watch would be more convenient for tracking your running. However, many are also/primarily using it for music, so it would require a Bluetooth interface to AirPods to fulfill that role also.

Now maybe if you are hiking way out in the middle of nowhere you don't want to bring your phone, but think about why that is - no cell service. If there's no cell service, how useful is having LTE in your watch going to be?

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The battery life kills most of these projects, nobody wants to recharge their watch every night or have it shut down. I had a pebble which was better at this, was great for being able to see who was messaging or calling whilst driving, but it looked awful. Got a Skagen Connected now, hybrid analogue/smart - useful for reminders and fitness, looks good, 4 month battery life, just over £100 in their sale and does the job for me. That said, even the idea of a watch as a timepiece is getting somewhat pointless, ask anyone the time nowadays and they likely look at their phone or a wall clock or computer, its not like the 18th century when finding out the time was a chore, it's available everywhere now. A new apple watch for silly money? - Sim card smart watches are available for a tenner on amazon, yes they will be pointless and pants, but so will the Apple one, just considerably more than a tenner.

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I have a Casio Waveceptor watch, it has solar charging, sets the time from LW transmissions and is waterproof to several metres depth, all for around the £100 mark. Had it now for over 5 years and no battery change needed, and never run out of power to tell the time accurately. Sure I can dig my phone out but a wristwatch is far more convenient.

Now if someone could add a useful smart feature and keep that sort of power budget they would have something worth buying.

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@PaulCrawford.

There you haveit!

If Apple wants to know what kind of added feature watch sells, they should look at the offeri gs from Casio and probably Tissot's T Touch watches. If they can make watches as good as those but with ariuos smart phone features they may have a chance.

Personally I would prefer a Tissot or G shock plus a phone for phoney work.

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" its not like the 18th century when finding out the time was a chore,"

Wrist watches were invented so that gentlemen would not have to reach into their pocket to pull out their watch. We've regressed back to that point.

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I've got one too, but adding smarts would mean having to add more buttons - the manual is like a giant list of Konami Codes as it is.

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Battery life is always brought up as the be-all, end-all of smartwatch success. I used to be one of them. But I got an Apple Watch anyway - and, guess what, charging every night is just no big deal. I already charge my phone every night on my night stand, so what's the big deal laying the watch next to it? Sure, some would argue "what about sleep tracking"? The obvious answer: get a different device if you care about that. But for anyone other than those sleep-obsessed few, laying the watch on its charger next to the bed is just fine and dandy.

The author thinks an Apple Watch with 4G is a bad idea (battery life, Dick Tracy look, yada, yada, yada). I think she should have qualified that: it's a bad idea IFF Apple made all Apple Watches 4G-enabled. I think it's a great idea to have it be an option - sort of like 4G is an option for iPads. You don't have to get it (and pay for it) if you don't want to.

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Holmes

Indeed, even an uncased small mobile is a hassle to take out of a trouser pocket, worse for a cased/larger mobile, probably more so that a pocket watch on a chain, and it's a bad idea to have a pulsed microwave transmitter near your manhood!

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I don't know how to put this delicately, but for me, accustomed to need to think about the energy requirements of my wristwatch no more than twice in a decade with exactly zero willingness to change that, having to charge it every single fucking day IS kind of a bit of a big deal...

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RE: No, Apple. A 4G Watch is a really bad idea

Sleep tracking is possible on the Apple Watch. I use "AutoSleep" and it seems to do the trick.

As I get 2 - 3 days out of my 38mm watch anyway, there's no immediate need to have it charging up each night. Mine usually gets charged during my morning "getting ready for work" routine.

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