Watches and stages

Two announcements at WWDC are strongly connected in my mind: watchOS 9 not being available for the Series 3 Apple Watch and Stage Manager not being available for non-M1 iPads. The former got a raised eyebrow from most Apple pundits—after all, the Series 3 is currently for sale—but the consensus was “At least this will force Apple to pull the damned thing.” The latter has caused quite a ruckus, forcing Craig Federighi to go out and give interviews explaining Apple’s reasoning to angry customers with relatively new iPads.

From the start, the iPad has always maintained this extremely high standard for responsiveness and interactivity. That directness of interaction in that every app can respond to every touch instantaneously, as if you are touching the real thing underneath the screen.

This explanation—pre-M1 iPads just wouldn’t provide the wonderful touch experience Apple insists on and its customers expect—has not been accepted calmly. The best summary of opinions on the topic has been collected by Michael Tsai.1

At first glance, Apple’s exclusion of of Stage Manager from pre-M1 iPads seems consistent with its exclusion of watchOS 9 from Series 3 watches. I don’t think anyone asked Federighi about the Series 3 because it’s obvious to everyone that it’s just too old and too underpowered to keep up with watchOS 9.

But if I had been interviewing Federighi and he started going on about extremely high standards for responsiveness and interactivity, I would have held out my left arm and asked him about the responsiveness and interactivity of the Series 3 on my wrist. “Does this,” I would ask, “respond to every touch instantaneously, as if you are touching the real thing underneath the screen?”

You see, things have changed since my defense of the Series 3 back in September. I was still running watchOS 7 then and the experience—apart from OS updates—was perfectly fine. But a couple of months ago, I bit the bullet and went through the multi-hour experience to update to watchOS 8. I had read that watchOS 8 would make the pain of updates a thing of the past. What I had not read was that the occasional pain of long updates would be replaced by the daily pain of a watch that commonly takes a second or two to respond to taps and swipes—if it responds at all.2

So watchOS 8 basically did to my Apple Watch what Federighi says Stage Manager will do to older iPads. I guess that means I’m defending Apple’s Stage Manager decision. But it also means that stuff about extremely high standards for responsiveness is bullshit.

  1. I could add that sentence to any post about a current Apple topic. But in this case Michael has exceeded his usual high standard. 

  2. There are some nice things about watchOS 8. Entering my passcode is actually faster than it used to be because that screen is as responsive as ever, and Apple finally realized there’s no need for an OK button; it can just log me in when I’ve tapped the last key of my passcode. It’s things like that that have kept me from scouring the internet for a way to revert to watchOS 7. But it’s a close balance.