My Grandma Wants an Apple Watch (and Other Conundrums of the Wearable Tech Era)

It’s been more than a month since the Apple Watch’s release. You like the idea of Grandma having one so she can stay in contact. But after all the hype, is it worth it? Is it a product that Grandma will actually use? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons to see if the Apple Watch is something Grandma should get.

What is Grandma’s ideal smartwatch?

First things first: You need to ask if Grandma is willing to wear a watch in the first place. If that’s a yes, then you can move onto the next step, which is figuring out what you both want from a smartwatch. On my list for Grandma I have:

  • affordable
  • easy to use
  • long battery life
  • ability to easily send and receive calls and texts
  • ability to call for help in an emergency 

Why an Apple Watch?

The Apple Watch has some exciting features that make it stand out.

  • Notifications—Using Taptic technology, notifications feel like a tap on the wrist. She will no longer miss your messages.
  • Quick responses—Grandma can choose from prewritten text messages or use Siri to reply to you directly from the watch.
  • Customizable watch face—Whether she wants an analog clock, digital numbers or a visualization of the sun’s location in the sky, there’s a watch face Grandma will like.
  • Interchangeable watch band—The watch bands are easy to adjust and easy to change. Grandma can mix and match her styles.
  • Heartbeat sensor—Get an idea of Grandma’s general fitness level by tracking her heartbeat.
  • Fitness tracking—The watch contains an accelerometer that helps determine the wearer’s activity level. Great for encouraging Grandma to stay active.
  • Activity reminder—Does Grandma get stuck on the couch for hours at a time? The watch can tap her to remind her to get up and move so her joints don’t stiffen up.

There is an exciting future for the health applications of the watch. With the heartbeat sensor, an app could alert you if something goes wrong with Grandma’s heart and send for help. But unfortunately, the technology and app development is not quite ready to support this vision yet.

Why Not an Apple Watch?

The Apple Watch is not perfect. As a first generation product, it has many ways it could (and likely will) be improved. Some of its limitations include:

  • Too many notifications—If Grandma gets a lot of notifications on her phone, the constant reminders on her wrist will drive her crazy. You will need to set up filters for her so only the important notifications get through.
  • Battery life—The battery has turned out to be better than expected, but it still should be charged it every night. Forgetting means running low the second day.
  • Not waterproof—Grandma can wash her hands, but she shouldn’t submerge the watch in water.
  • Small screen—The screen is small and can be hard to read with aging eyes. It is difficult to tap precisely on such a small space, even with the digital crown as the main way to navigate.
  • Needs an iPhone—In order to use most of the watch’s functionality, including texting, making calls or using GPS, Grandma will need to have her iPhone nearby. The Apple Watch is a companion device, not a standalone product. This means the watch isn’t a replacement for her phone—she will still need to bring it along in her purse.

The Verdict?

The Apple Watch has a lot of potential, but it doesn’t tick all of the boxes that it needs to. Keep in mind that it is a first-generation product. It will be exciting to see what comes next. For now, there are alternatives that can do a better job at each task for a better price.

The Alternatives

For telling the time, it’s hard to do better than a traditional timepiece. But if Grandma has decided on a smart wearable, you have other alternatives that beat the prices and features of the Apple Watch.

  • For alternative smartwatches, take a look at the Samsung Gear and the Pebble. The Pebble in particular might be a good fit. It’s a standalone piece with a longer battery life and simpler controls.
  • If Grandma likes the fitness aspects of the watch, she should try out a fitness tracker like Fitbit or a posture reminder like Lumo Lift.
  • For the ability to call for help in an emergency, nothing beats a medical alert system. Those that work around the home are entirely waterproof, so Grandma can wear them in the shower and bath where she needs them most.

In conclusion, talk with Grandma about why she’s interested in the Apple Watch, and take her to the Apple store so she can see it for herself. If she’s technologically savvy, she might have a great time with it. But this technology is new, and is bound to get even better in the next version. For now, there are other products on the market that will better fit her needs.

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide. A Certified Aging in Place Specialist, Shayne has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a master’s in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.

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