It was named one of TIME Magazine’s inventions of the year, months before it was even available (source). Some analysts estimate that nearly a million were purchased on the very first day of sales (source). But is the Apple Watch living up to expectations? What’s it like to have one on your wrist? And what if the wrist it’s on belongs to a pharma marketer? What are they thinking?
We wondered — especially in light of recently announced improvements, like the Watch OS2’s ability to allow apps to run natively (source). As its potential as a standalone health tracking device becomes clearer, we brought a few Intouch Apple Watch experts together and listened to their thoughts.
Our roundtable voices:
First impressions are good, and aesthetically, there are no complaints.
Faruk: “Of course the Apple Watch has a very elegant design.”
Angela: “My Apple Watch is the fanciest thing I ever bought to put on my body. I had to wait two months after ordering for the pink one. It came in an awesomely shiny box. Tiffany’s got nothing on an Apple box.”
How’s the learning curve, though? Opinions vary.
Faruk: “At least initially, the Apple Watch is not for everyone. Even with Apple’s famously user-friendly design and my comfort with technology, my learning curve with the Apple Watch has been fairly steep. (Luckily, online or in-store training can help overcome this.)”
Andy: “It seems to be a close-to-ideal level: easy to get into, but feature-rich if you want to dive in.”
What do you like?
Jacob: “I love using my Apple Watch while I golf, since it works with my Arccos Golf Sensors to pair location data with shot statistics related to each club and learns how I play to provide real-time recommendations as a virtual caddy. It’ll tell me, ‘You’re 150 yards away. You should use a 6-iron.’
“I’m looking forward to more IoT sensors to show swing path and ball spin/trajectory to expand into a full-blown real-time virtual coach. Mix in a little augmented reality with real-time 3-D scanning to read the undulations on the green, and we’ll be closer to the singularity.”
Angela: “The Apple Watch has quickly become a part of me, of my days. It gives me little taps to stand up. As a person who spends many hours in meetings or absorbed with my computer, I really appreciate this feature. It reminds me, ‘Hey, brain, think about your body for a second. Remember you have legs. Standing up isn’t so hard, is it? Taking the stairs isn’t so hard.’ I was never one for quantified self tracking. For me — and so, I assume, for most — active tracking is a big fail. But this watch does it for me. It’s a passive tracker. I like to review its work. I found, for example, that I burn about 200 calories on a weekday and nearly three times that on a weekend day. The numbers surprised me. This gives me a reason to stand up and walk around every hour.
“Also, because of the meetings and computer absorption, I have literally spent years being awful at catching calls and messages and running late. But now, this thing on my wrist taps me and makes me see them! It’s not rude to take a moment to look at your watch. So I do, and I keep in touch way better.”
Faruk: “I can say that the experience is a great improvement over the fitness bands I used previously. The everyday tasks the Apple Watch can manage — texts, email, phone calls, Apple Pay — are obviously useful, but how it and other wearables will help me maximize my health … that’s what I’m most interested in. For example, the Watch reminds me when I’ve been sitting too long by ‘tapping’ me on the wrist and literally telling me it’s time to stand up and move around for a minute. It’s easy to disregard a reminder that pops up on your phone or computer. The visual and sensory cues from the Watch are somehow more motivating; maybe because it’s attached to my body. The Watch is a personal coach I can’t walk away from.”
Andy: “The Apple Watch doesn’t replace a mobile phone, but it does reduce how many time-wasting interactions I have with my phone. I’ve noticed that I spend much less time checking email, social media, the weather or the news.
“Also, I was surprised how convenient it is to take a phone call on the watch. You don’t need to hold it up to your face. I can move about with my arms at my sides and still carry on a conversation.”
What’s disappointed you?
Faruk: “The screen is very small, so it might not be ideal for people with poor vision. The Apple Watch has a limited battery life, and it seems to be missing some core health functions, such as a sleep monitor. Finally, it doesn’t currently have independent GPS capability, so to use any navigation or map features, your iPhone must be nearby.”
Angela: “I can see two flaws that probably made engineers rip out their hair and throw up their hands — and either one solved would give the Apple Watch more real use. First, it doesn’t work when out of range of your phone, so you have to carry it around, too, and that feels very redundant. Second, it tracks movement, but not vitals. The Apple Watch screams to be a health companion, but health is relegated to movement only for now. That’s a big miss. Overall, I see the promise. I feel the promise. It’s been great for me. It is changing my days and my outlook. But they’ve got work to do before I would recommend it broadly.”
Andy: “I didn’t set high expectations. I know that its true power will come from apps and integrated systems, and those things take time to get right with any new platform.”
What are you looking ahead to?
Faruk: “I’m most interested in the role the Apple Watch and other health and fitness wearables have begun to play in the digital health sphere.
“The selection of apps for the Apple Watch is growing daily, and although there are countless options for entertainment and organization, I see it and other wearables as tools that will change our behavior and help us manage our health for the better. I’m looking forward to watching the evolution of the Apple Watch and, through my work at Intouch, contributing to its value in the digital health market.”
Andy: “The future of the Apple Watch is less its future and more of an integrated future. I think the watch, in concert with other technology, will unify our daily experience and create opportunities for new interactions. I can see interaction becoming hands-free, where we look back at the world and wonder why we spent so much time touching stuff. If I can take an Uber to a theater, pay for tickets and candy, and meet my friends without touching anything, that would make the world feel like the future.”
Where do you see the future of the Apple Watch? What are the opportunities for healthcare? Could the Apple Watch be a digital pharma game-changer?
Angela: “As it functions now, the usefulness of the Apple Watch is very white-collar. Without those two critical things listed above, people will not need to have it, as they did with the iPhone. The expansion of the health piece could drive the need. For example, my dad has sleep apnea, and my husband has high blood pressure. I would put an Apple Watch on them both if it was a real health companion. I’d advise pharma to buy thousands and loan them to HCPs to help patients track outcomes. You could run trials with it. The potential is boundless, but as it exists today, it’s just not critical. You can achieve the same with a much cheaper Fitbit or Jawbone tied to a web portal or an app.”
Jacob: “The 2.0 version of the Apple Watch OS, coming out in the fall, will support standalone applications instead of just extensions. It will allow for WiFi connections for data sharing between the iPhone, as well as video calling. This immediately makes me envision telemedicine through your watch.”
Andy: “If it does turn out to be a tipping point, I’d guess that it’d be because pharma will have snuck in the door of the healthcare revolution. As the quantified self movement becomes mainstream and tools like ResearchKit make it possible to analyze all that data, pharma will need to be smart enough to capitalize on it.”