How I Use My Apple Watch [2017 update]

I was apprehensive when I bought the Apple Watch about 7.231 months back. Do I really need it? Will it fit comfortably? Can I handle the constant barrage of notifications on my wrist? Is it worth the price? How long will the battery last? Does it really help with fitness? Will it help save battery on my phone? I had just bought the bigger iPhone 7+ (still find it difficult to hold) then and wanted a companion device to check notifications without having to take the big phone out of my pocket every time.

Tl;dr The honeymoon period is over and I still like it. It might not be a necessary gadget as phones are, but it’s a good sidekick.

I wear the watch almost daily when I’m out which means I only use it when I’m active and not lazily piled up on the couch binge watching Netflix. Here’s how.

FITNESS. I keep a track of my step count, not because I’m a fitness junkie (I should be), but because it tells me how (in)active I’ve been the whole day. Compared to Fitbit HR2 (which my wife uses), Apple watch is usually about 10% behind in step count. I’m not sure if Fitbit is more conservative or Apple Watch more aggressive in this regard, the difference is consistent though. Completing goals like 10,000 steps a day does feel good. I use the Apple exercise app to track my running pace and timing, which is very handy, not only recording the runs but also motivating to run more. On a couple of occasions, I have used the watch to track swimming. During my local gym’s aquafit class (where I give tough competition to much older folks I am usually surrounded with), I was skeptical if the watch would survive the constant submergence in water, it did. Watch also reminds me to get up my ass and move every hour which is useful.

NOTIFICATIONS. And how does the watch communicate? By gentle taptic vibrations. These are nice little nudges that are strong enough not to miss and gentle enough not to trouble. You can turn on the sounds if you’d like but I prefer to keep the watch silent. It also has a I-want-to-be-offline-for-5-seconds mode, I’m watching-a-movie-and-not-checking-my-phone mode, I’m in-a-meeting-don’t-beep mode which I use from time to time. When using Apple Maps, the watch gives subtle taps mapped with directions, which is nice!

COMFORT. A big one for me. I was not a watch person and wanted something that is pleasant to wear throughout the day. Apple watch is surprisingly comfortable, specially the default sports band that I use.

APPS. This area was a let down. Apps haven’t caught up in ubiquity that phone apps have, may be because of screen form factor and speed. I use the multi-factor apps (Authy, Duo), Now Playing app (to control the music), and that’s it. I keep testing the new apps but haven’t found anything consistently useful. Good thing is, many Watch apps are available to choose from and you can pick things to your usage and taste. Some apps worth mentioning are Starbucks, Dark Sky (for weather), remote Camera app, calendar, reminders app — however most of these things can be done without opening the app and by just using Siri.

SIRI. Speaking of Siri on Apple Watch, Apple’s digital watch assistant has become better. Keep in mind though it can still frustrate you on occasions and is no way near as good as Google assistant to understand what you’re saying (specially if you’ve an accent). It can perform basic tasks like set alarm, set reminder, set timer, call someone pretty accurately though. Things like “Hey Siri, Drive me to nearest gas station” , “Hey Siri, Home Depot hours today” rarely work with Siri. And lord bless you if you want to use some Hindi words with your Siri request, like, “Hey Siri, who is Amitabh Bachchan?”. Google gets these right much more often.

APPLE PAY. Using Apple Pay from the Apple Watch is blazing fast! Love it. When it works. Apple Pay itself is much faster than using credit cards wherever it is supported, and Watch takes it to another level with speed. One of my favorite Watch features!

Looking back at my initial concerns, here’s how they have been answered so far.

  • Do I really need it? No, not really.
  • Will it fit comfortably? Yes.
  • Can I handle the constant barrage of notifications on my wrist? It is manageable if you’ve notifications turned off for most apps like I have.
  • Is it worth the price? Depends on how you take it. Worth the price for timekeeping? No. Worth the price for a smart watch? Yes.
  • How long will the battery last? Lasts about a day and a half easily between charges. I just charge it overnight. I’d like it to be more though.
  • Does it really help with fitness? Yes, if you want to use it.
  • Will it help save battery on my phone? In theory, since you use your phone less now to check notifications Watch should help save battery. In practice, nah!

My Wishlist for Apple Watch. There’s a nice list here. My top wished features are listed below.

  • Longer battery time
  • Fasters app performance
  • Better app designs
  • 3G/LTE support (needs hardware upgrade)
  • Enhanced NFC usage (E.g., Pay for bus pass via Apple Watch tap)
  • Stop reminding me to stand up when I’m driving

To sum it up, Apple Watch has room to improve, however at the same time, for me, it is proving out to be a handy companion device to iPhone. Plus there’s no competition if you want a smart watch today. Moto360 is dead, Samsung Gear Watch is inconsistent, and Android hasn’t picked up as a watch operating system. This is the best choice out there if you want a smartwatch. Apple Watch’s competition (just like iPads) is the Apple Watch itself. I hope that doesn’t slow down innovation from Apple.