8 Big Disadvantages of Apple Watch You Must Know in 2024

By Kevin Hollington - Staff Writer
8 Min Read

From outrageous pricing to a closed ecosystem that locks its users in, there are many disadvantages of an Apple Watch.

Apple Watch is a wearable smartwatch that allows users to accomplish a variety of tasks, including making phone calls, sending text messages and reading email. Apple released the Apple Watch on April 24, 2015. Here are eight disadvantages of an Apple Watch in 2024.

1. You’ll Need an iPhone to Start Using the Apple Watch

One big disadvantage of an Apple Watch is that you can’t set it up without using an iPhone. The Watch must be paired with an iPhone to link an Apple ID. You can’t even activate the watch using another Apple product, like a Mac, Apple TV, or iPad. The Apple Watch app only works with the iPhone.

Apple’s choice to make its smartwatch a companion device to the iPhone has been controversial. An iPhone is expensive, and not everyone wants to shell out the cash to use the watch. Also, companies like Google have been more lenient. Android watches are compatible with other operating systems, including iOS.

You can’t use an Android device to set up an Apple Watch. The Watch is designed to be a companion device to an iPhone for much of its functionality. This is particularly true of the Wi-Fi model, though Apple also sells an Apple Watch with cellular connectivity that operates more like a standalone device.

Once you’ve set up your Apple Watch with cellular you can do many of the things you’d normally rely on an iPhone for, like receive text messages, take phone calls, and access functions that depend on the internet. Unfortunately, this isn’t advisable due to the power drain placed on your Watch when using cellular data.

You’re unlikely to receive all-day battery life if using your cellular Apple Watch away from your iPhone for prolonged periods. Wi-Fi models depend on your iPhone so you miss out on a lot of functionality when your paired iPhone is out of range. The exception here is when you’re in the presence of a Wi-Fi network that you’ve connected to before (when your iPhone was present).

2. Apple Watches do not work with Android phones

An Apple Watch and an Android phone might offer some users the best of both worlds, but it’s never that simple when it comes to Apple and Google.

If there’s one notable disadvantage of an Apple Watch, it’s the lack of compatibility with operating systems beyond iOS.

With a device as popular as this, it’s not surprising that Android phone users might want to consider pairing their smartphone with an Apple Watch. However, that’s not a very good idea as the two are just not designed to work with each other. To be clear, an Apple Watch can technically be used with an Android phone with a number of workarounds. However, there will be many issues to overcome, resulting in an experience that’s just not worth it for most consumers. Not to mention, an iPhone will still be needed to begin with.

The Apple Watch will only work with iPhones, which isn’t ever likely to change. To activate an Apple Watch, you’ll need an iPhone with the Watch app installed. There’s no substitute for this on Android, even if your device supports Bluetooth connectivity.

The main issue with using these two devices together is that they cannot be paired with each other. Considering that’s the main purpose of a smartwatch, the lack of pairing support and the inability to share data negates the point of owning a smartwatch and smartphone. More to the point, an Apple Watch needs to be connected to an iPhone during the initial setup process. Unless an iPhone is accessible to the Android phone user, they won’t even be able to get started with an Apple Watch.

In short, anyone can wear an Apple Watch, including Android phone users. However, the reality is that anyone looking to have a proper smartwatch experience should stay within their own OS lanes. Android users should use Wear OS or third-party platform watches, iPhone users should use Apple Watches.

3. Notifications on Apple Watch can be overwhelming

The Apple Watch is able to shoulder the tsunami of notifications you receive on a daily basis, letting you glance at updates without getting sucked into your iPhone. But most people don’t need or want such constant access to updates.

A more complex reason is that some alerts are only useful for learning information rather than doing something with that information without the iPhone. Furthermore, if you still view your iPhone regularly throughout the day, dealing with notifications on two screens instead of one can add to the mental load, rather than reducing screentime as intended.

Never-ending notifications can be harmful to both productivity and mental health. The Apple Watch make it possible never to miss another notification. But this isn’t necessarily a good thing.

4. Apple Watches are overprice

Yes, you want it. But do you want it to the tune of $799?

Generally speaking, you want to buy the newest watch you can afford so that it continues to receive software updates from Apple. The latest update, watchOS 10, launched on the Apple Watch Series 4 and newer models, though no one can say with certainty whether the Series 4 will get the next big software update. But the problem is the price.

In 2022, Apple launched its latest batch of smartwatches including the $399 Series 8 and the new $249 SE.

Oh. Did I mention there is a $799 model of the Apple Watch? The Apple Watch Ultra is made out of titanium, costs $799 and is built for extreme athletes. But a Peloton class with Olivia Amato is about as extreme as my workouts get, so these exciting new features were lost on me. If you’re like me and exercise is something you do to stay healthy, you don’t need to spend $799 on the Ultra.

For the same price, you can purchase a mid-range iPhone. The phone will have a bigger screen, higher specs, better functionality, and a built-in camera.

Apple Watches have their benefits, but in terms of value for money, there is no comparison.

First of all, you need an (overpriced) iPhone (a current model) in order to actually use your watch. Have an Android phone, or (like me) have no phone at all? Too bad, so sad. No Apple Watch for you.

Hypothetically, assume you have an iPhone. Then you buy an Apple Watch. Then your iPhone gets dropped down some stairs (hey, it happens). Now you need a new phone. Well, you better go plop down the (nearly) thousand dollars on a new iPhone… otherwise your exorbitantly priced watch just became a useless brick attached to your arm.

So what? It’s psychotically expensive. And, yeah, it forces you to use only specific pieces of technology for the indefinite future – effectively locking you out of any other technological advancements that happen outside of the Apple Watch/iPhone world. That doesn’t inherently make this a bad watch… does it?

Yes. Yes, it absolutely does. Add to this the fact that the Apple Watch hit the market a year later than the Android-powered smartwatches (which have more flexibility and more power than Apple’s gadget), and the Apple Watch instantly becomes a status symbol that declares to the world, “I have too much money, I want to be locked into a hardware ecosystem, and I like my technology to be out of date before I buy it.”

In such a situation, you are left wondering whether the watch is a fashion statement or a gadget. But the problem is that the device seems likely to fail on both counts. Viewed as a gadget, the device is just too expensive given its limited functionality. Yet it’s going to be an uphill battle to sell a square, bulky touchscreen device as a fashion statement. In trying to be both a gadget and a luxury item, it’s at high risk of falling in the no-man’s land between the two.

See also: Why Are Apple Watches so Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)

5. Apple Watch Need Regular Charging

Another disadvantage of an Apple Watch is that it needs charging every one or two days. This is understandable given the functionality but it’s something you should think about if you’re planning on replacing a traditional watch.

Having an Apple Watch means one more electronic device that you’ll need to keep charged. And if you forget, your new watch won’t even be able to tell time.

The current lineup of Apple Watch models will easily get you through a full day before needing a charge. In my testing, both of the new Apple Watch models get at least 32 hours of runtime, but this is on the low end compared to other wearable devices on the market.

For runners using watches, battery life is indispensable to the experience. It can be a huge barrier, effectively rendering a run non-existent if the battery runs out. If there’s even a remote risk, the value is diminished.

Apple hasn’t strayed from its 18-hour battery life claim in what feels like a lifetime. If you ask, Apple Watch loyalists won’t hesitate to tell you their charging regimen to get around the fact that it needs daily charging. But the Garmin and Polar fans love getting a minimum of 14 days on a single charge and somewhere between 30-40 hours of GPS activity. In comparison, you get roughly 5-6 hours of GPS activity on the Apple Watch. That’s more than enough for the average person, but it still requires endurance athletes to do a little math or specifically remember to charge up their watch before a run. With a Garmin or Polar, you don’t have to think about it at all. You can just go.

The Apple Watch Ultra has twice the battery life of the regular Apple Watch. And while this is great, it still pales in comparison to Garmin. Let’s take a look:

Battery Life:

  • Apple Watch Ultra: Up to 3 days
  • Garmin Epix: Up to 10 days
  • Garmin Epix Solar: Up to 17 days
  • Garmin Fenix 7: Up to 18 days
  • Garmin Fenix 7 Solar: Up to 30 days
  • Garmin Enduro 2: Up to 45 days

Or if we take a look at how the battery life holds up during regular GPS Mode:

  • Apple Watch Ultra: 12 hours
  • Garmin Epix: 42 hours
  • Garmin Fenix: 57 hours
  • Garmin Enduro 2: 150 hours

On top of that, longer battery is more convenient than scheduled fast charging if you prioritize sleep tracking. All in all, battery life is still a big reason why some people opt for Fitbit, Garmin, and Polar devices. Now if Apple were to figure out multi-day battery life? That’d be an entirely different story.

6. Fitness Tracking Is Sometimes Unreliable

Fitness tracking is a relatively new concept. This means that the data that you receive from them isn’t always entirely accurate.

Data tracking issues apply to both Apple Watches and fitness trackers. They can give you a lot of information that you wouldn’t otherwise have. But the accuracy of that data is not something that anybody’s health should rely on.

7. Apple Watches Are Not Convenient for Phone Calls

Apple is improving the Apple Watch all the time, but the watch is not yet convenient for making phone calls. It’s easy to argue that it never will be.

Holding your wrist to your ear is never going to be comfortable, and until everybody changes their mind about this, you’re always going to look pretty strange doing so.

Apple Watches do work well with hands-free headsets like airpods, but the benefit of a watch over a phone in this scenario is debatable.

8. A Fitness Tracker Might Be More Practical

Apple Watches are designed to be used as fitness trackers. They achieve this goal, but there’s a reason that many people opt for a dedicated device instead.

Fitness trackers are significantly cheaper, often much smaller, and usually have much longer battery lives. For example, some fitness trackers last for up to 30 days without a charge.

If you’re looking for a device that can track your activity 24 hours a day, an Apple Watch might, therefore, not be the best choice.

Conclusion

Apple Watch has improved a lot in recent years, and it has also become a lot more popular. But, with so many disadvantages of an Apple Watch, it hasn’t yet become must-have accessories. If you’re an Apple fanatic and want to try something new—or you’ve simply been looking at new watches to try—the Apple Watch will likely appeal to you. But before you commit to a purchase, you need to critically think about these disadvantages of an Apple Watch.

By Kevin Hollington Staff Writer
Kevin Hollington is a seasoned tech journalist based in Los Angeles with a penchant for all things Apple. He started writing about Apple products in 2007 and it’s been a love affair ever since. He has spent over a decade testing and writing about iPhones, iPads, Macs, and other Apple products. In his spare time, he likes nothing more than catching up with the latest news and sports podcasts on the beach.
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