When Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) unveiled the Apple Watch last week, I was pleasantly surprised by how it addressed several long-standing complaints about smartwatches. Its design is remarkable, for one. Apple Watch also affords users a wide array of aesthetically appealing options through customizable faces, three different finishes, and a variety of interchangeable bands.
And by using the crown -- sorry, "digital crown" -- in addition to a touchscreen for navigating its custom OS, the Apple Watch aims to greatly simplify wearable user interfaces without obstructing its tiny display. Not to mention that it's packed with intriguing features like a heart rate sensor, accelerometer, scratch-resistant sapphire display, and a host of other wondrous little touches from Apple, including the ability to gently "tap" you on the wrist through haptic feedback for notifications.
But for all the Apple Watch's intriguing features, it's not perfect. In fact, two big problems could hold consumers back from adopting the the device en masse.
About that battery life ...
First, while some people say Apple didn't disclose how long the Apple Watch's battery will last, Apple CEO Tim Cook disagrees. When asked by The New York Times' Brian Chen why he skipped over battery life during the rollout event earlier this month, Cook replied:
I don't think we skipped over it. I addressed it in the presentation myself. We think that based on our experience of wearing these that the usage of them will be really significant throughout the day. So we think you'll want to charge them every night, similar to what a lot of people do with their phone.
In short, this means the Apple Watch's battery will probably last less than a day.
At first that seems fair enough. After all, Apple created a slick induction charger that uses magnets to snap itself into place, so the process couldn't be much simpler.
And one day of battery life isn't a huge departure from the competition. Samsung(NASDAQOTH:SSNLF), for example, claimed roughly 25 hours of typical usage time for its last Galaxy Gear smartwatch, and its recently unveiled Galaxy Gear S model is widely expected to offer the same. Meanwhile, though LG's new circular G Watch R boasts roughly two days of battery life with the screen dimmed, TechRadar's review of the device noted that turning up the brightness and using apps or games will leave it struggling to reach a full day.
For many, however, Apple's fashionably late entrance into the smartwatch scene means it's held to a higher standard. And arguably the most significant of those standards begging for improvement was battery life.
It's an iPhone companion device
Next, Apple Watch requires an iPhone 5 or later, and was designed as a companion device to work in tandem with its handheld sibling.
This means you won't be able to enjoy many of the Apple Watch's best tricks without an iPhone present. For example, the Apple Watch connects to your iPhone to receive real-time notifications for incoming calls, texts, and messages, and also uses the iPhone's GPS and Wi-Fi to measure the distance you've traveled in more precise measurements than a pedometer allows.
By contrast, Samsung's Galaxy Gear S features built-in 3G, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connections, which means it can handle turn-by-turn pedestrian navigation, and send and receive calls, messages, or notifications from social networks, calendars, and other apps without the help of a smartphone -- though you can still pair it with one if you choose.
But the Apple Watch isn't entirely helpless: Last weekend, Cook revealed it can play music through a Bluetooth headset without an iPhone present. While additional details remain unclear regarding other tasks it can perform independently, don't be surprised if they at least partly include its suite of health-related features.
It's not all bad
We shouldn't forget that the Watch won't hit the market until early 2015. The folks in Cupertino will almost certainly continue working to improve unsatisfactory features such as battery life until the last possible minute.
The decision to require an iPhone wasn't a big surprise, either, as nobody really expected Apple to cater to folks outside its own ecosystem. The move will also encourage users of older-model iPhones and other competing devices to upgrade or switch brands, respectively. Considering Apple received a record 4 million pre-orders for its new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices in their first 24 hours of availability, and sold 35.2 million total iPhones in the last quarter alone, it's not as though the Apple Watch's prospective customer base is tiny.
But however deliberate, these two issues are still trade-offs that will undoubtedly provide fodder for Apple Watch skeptics to pan the device. In the end, that could prove more than enough to prevent many undecided consumers from jumping on board.
Steve Symington owns shares of Apple. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.