The latest Apple Watch isn’t connecting — literally.
The smartwatch, which was introduced last week and was the first version to connect directly to the web via cellular service and not through an iPhone, received a flurry of negative reviews citing an array of issues, including power drain and problems with calling and general cellular connectivity.
The battery issue appears to be an errant matter related to one of the Apple Watches used for review, however connectivity is a larger problem, as it’s required for Siri voice features, a cornerstone of the device.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in a statement to The Verge, Apple blamed Wi-Fi issues, explaining “that when Apple Watch Series 3 joins unauthenticated Wi-Fi networks without connectivity, it may at times prevent the watch from using cellular. We are investigating a fix for a future software release.”
At the unveiling of the Apple Watch 3 last week, chief executive officer Tim Cook claimed that the device had lapped traditional watchmakers, including Rolex and Fossil, to become the top-selling watch in the world — a determination the company made based on revenue.
Apple hasn’t publicly disclosed sales figures for the product line, but last month, ahead of the iPhone and Watch announcement, research firm IDC described Apple’s growth in the smartwatch sector as continuing “to outpace the market.” Within the report’s broader category of wearables, Apple’s 3.4 million shipments in the second quarter of 2017 put it second only to Chinese tech-maker Xiaomi, which led with 3.5 million shipments. Apple’s slice of the pie, capturing 13 percent market share for the quarter, represented a 49.7 percent year-over-year change.
News of the Watch 3’s disconnect hit Apple’s stock Wednesday — after tumbling 3.1 percent early in the day, shares closed down 1.7 percent at $156.07.
The current crop of Apple Watch issues aren’t the first stumbling blocks for the company. In previous years, the iPhone maker took heat when Apple Maps directed people to drive into lakes, and for its handling of “antennagate.” In 2010, the iPhone 4’s antenna design created reception issues when users held the device with their fingers in the wrong spot. Apple’s early response — “Just avoid holding it that way” — led to widespread ridicule.
Notably, those issues and the company’s subsequent public relations recovery landed during the Steve Jobs years — an era fondly remembered for the Apple cofounder. Under Tim Cook, the iPhone suffered another hardware fumble, when the casings of some iPhone 6s would bend. Now Cook will be tested again with the company’s handling of the current Watch issues.
Other smartwatch companies will be carefully eyeing how Apple handles this matter. However, interest from tech-makers seems to be cooling off, as companies such as Motorola have pulled out of the watchmaking business and others, like Pebble, have sold its interests. At TechCrunch Disrupt, Intel ceo Brian Krzanich casually mentioned that his company is backing away from smartwatches.
In the face of this plateau, Apple’s device was supposed to be the shining light carrying the wrist wearable category forward, making the timing of the connectivity issues all the more inconvenient for the tech giant.