The Apple Watch has great potential, but it’s by no means the perfect device. Even with the improvements delivered bywatchOS 2, and the impending arrival of watchOS 3 there’s still so much to get right.
While no-one has even come close to smartwatch perfection yet, there are some great ideas among Apple’s stiffest competition that it will be looking at with envy.
That’s why we’ve picked out 10 key features that Apple should ‘borrow’ from its rivals for the next edition of its flagship wearable.
Phone-free calling from LG
You can make and receive calls on the Apple Watch — as long as your iPhone is close by. Plenty of other smartwatches, including the LG Watch Urbane LTE unveiled earlier this year, have an integrated SIM which means they can latch onto the mobile network themselves, letting you get in touch with people (or access the Web) with no phone nearby — handy for those times your smartphone dies or you just don’t want to take it out with you.
Better fitness tracking from Garmin
Garmin’s fitness tracking platform is definitely for the seasoned athletes but it’d be nice if such a mainstream device from Apple could up the ante and supply its own platform for the fitness fans. TomTom has MyRun, Polar has Flow, Adidas has MiCoach and again, Garmin watches use Connect.Microsoft Band 2 even has a Health platform for its users which isn’t as strong as the fitness focused brands, but still more well rounded than what Apple is currently offering.
Music streaming from Pebble Core
The current Apple Watch does give you enough room to store some of your iTunes faves, but we’d like to see the ability opened up to other music services. It could even go one step further and give us something like the Pebble Core – except it’d be a clip on Apple Watch body that can play music through LTE. After all, Pebble even based the Core design on an older Apple product – why not actually do a refreshed version considering the interest people have in Core?
Water resistance from TomTom
Or from Garmin, Moov, Pebble, Suunto, you name it. Not many big name devices (Moto, Samsung, LG) are water resistant or water proof but there are plenty of others that are as you can see from the list – so it can be done. Swimming and water sports are areas that need more top trackers and hopefully Apple will consider making the second round of watches less susceptible to water.
Google Now from Android Wear
Even Siri’s biggest fans would have to admit that Google Nowmakes more sense on a smartwatch, where screen space is at a premium and interacting with the device can be fiddly at the best of times. You really want a smartwatch to show the most pertinent information without prompting, and that’s exactly what Google Now has been designed to do — assuming you’re prepared to give it access to all your emails, calendar appointments and journeys, of course.
The rotating bezel from Samsung
As well as its Force Touch display the Apple Watch has its Digital Crown, which is great for manipulating the device’s software without obscuring the screen, but we reckon Apple can do even better. Consider the rotating bezel on the Samsung Gear S2, for example, which is a smart and intuitive way of scrolling through options, selecting menus and so on. Of course this would also involve Apple making a circular version, which we reckon would look just as stylish as the existing ones.
GPS from Moto 360 Sport
Apple, no one really wants to take their phone out for a jog or a cycle, especially if it’s an iPhone 6S Plus: how about some on-board GPS so we can track journeys, get directions and measure distance without a phone? There’s a battery trade-off to consider but as the hardware and software gets more efficient we reckon Apple could squeeze a GPS sensor in there, just like the one in the Android Wear-powered Moto 360 Sportor our current Android Wear fave, the Sony Smartwatch 3.
Battery life from the Vector Luna
You’re looking at two days maximum from the Apple Watch in terms of battery life, whereas the Vector Luna manages an astounding 30 days between charges. Yes, it sacrifices some finesse and quality in terms of the display, but surely there’s a middle ground here? Having to charge up a smartphone every night is frustrating enough without throwing a smartwatch into the equation too, and of course if a watch is charging then it can’t be tracking your sleep quality at the same time.
Wireless charging from the 2015 Moto 360
Admittedly the Apple Watch’s magnetic charging port makes a very satisfying snap sound when you get it lined up, but we’d rather just place our timepiece down on the desk and let it be. Both the new and old editions of the Moto 360 support wireless charging, either through the officially approved dock or one of the many third-party mats and charging stations available. Something for version two perhaps, Apple?
Customisation options from Android Wear
Apple gives you some degree of customisation over the look of your watch interface but Android Wear offers a greater level of control overall — you can even design your own watch face, should you want to. As on the main Android platform itself, you can also get apps that change the way you browse and launch apps, so almost every aspect of the user experience can be tweaked to suit your own preferences.
Smartstraps from the Pebble
We started with the Pebble range so let’s end with the Pebble range. The company has thrown its full weight behind the idea of third-party smartstraps that add extra sensors, extra battery life, extra functions and so on — it’s promised $1m in funding to help find bright ideas and clever innovations for the Pebble’s strap, and one of the early frontrunners is a modular strap that adds GPS and NFC. We can’t imagine Apple allowing such freedom for accessory makers, but we can dream.
Timeline interface from the Pebble Time
Pebble continues to plough its independent furrow between Google and Apple, and not only does it have a decent hardware design, it also has a very intuitive approach to software. The Timeline interface on Pebble’s smartwatches lets you scroll back into the past and forward into the future and it makes perfect sense — in fact it’s so simple to use that Apple is already starting to ape it with its Time Travel mode on the Apple Watch, though we still prefer Pebble’s approach to this feature.