My Apple Watch: It’s the Silences, not the Music

Before my Apple Watch, there were my Pebble and Android LG G watches.

The Pebble

The Pebble watch burst onto the scene in 2012 when it raised over $10 million on Kickstarter. The watches started shipping a year later, and I bought one.

I stopped using my Pebble because its buzzing drove me crazy. After one update it often stopped telling me why it buzzed. I’d curse, twist my wrist to see what now, and there’d be nothing.

The watch faces were beautiful and useful, and I did like seeing texts and reminders — but not with the dreadful buzz, and not in the sea of other buzzing notifications. Trying to configure all my iPhone’s notifications for it required a degree in disjunctive logic.

The custom charger’s magnets were so loose I occasionally found I hadn’t charged it overnight. It came with only one charger, so if the Pebble died at work, it was game over. If I turned off all the buzzing, I just had a pretty watch with a terrible battery.

Android LG G

It was a good-looking watch, but I couldn’t use it as one.

My Android watch bombarded me with so many notifications, I couldn’t use it to tell time. I’d be swiping notification cards away one by one just to get at the clock face, but give up after about ten. There was no feedback about how many notifications were stacked up, so I never knew how many more I’d have to swipe to finally find out what time it was. There was no way to just dismiss or delay them all.

While mercifully the watch didn’t buzz like the Pebble, it vibrated haptically and frenetically. I fiddled with my Android phone’s notifications, which were clearer than for the Pebble, but eventually I drowned in variables and gave up on the sounds, vibrations, cards, and types of notifications I can no longer remember now, and mostly didn’t understand then (what is an Interruption??).

The battery lasted only into the mid-afternoon. It was also only a matter of time before the little rubber cover over the charging port broke off. At least it wasn’t a custom plug like the Pebble had, just a normal mini USB, so I didn’t have to carry a special cable around to charge it at work and at home.

The LG G was beautiful and it had a beautiful screen, but like the Pebble, it was less than useful. It also helped push me away from Android back to an iPhone.

Apple Watch

I’ll start with the bad.

First of all, this is an ugly watch. Maybe I have poor taste, but I liked glancing at my two other watches just to (re)admire their aesthetics, even when their screens were off. Not so with this oversize black chiclet. Bleagh.

Second, the Apple Watch’s charger is also not pretty, and it is almost as ungainly as the Pebble’s. The main problem is that it is practically impossible to get it to lie down flat. It’s a white disk at the end of a *very* long and not very flexible cord, but the disk isn’t heavy enough to fight the cord’s twisting. Adding the watch, at least the lightest (and cheapest) model I have, the Sport, doesn’t provide enough weight to get it to lie flat. I always have to double-check it’s actually charging, then leave it at some crazy angle tangled up with all my other charging cables.

So, if you want to charge the watch at home and at work, you’ll have to carry that charger around with you, too.

This is where we get to the good things about this watch though:

You won’t have to: The battery is phenomenal.

On the evening of my first day with the Apple Watch I checked the battery, and my jaw dropped. It showed 73% left. It’s been almost a month, and that’s turned out to be normal; it’s never gone below 65%. And I have about fifty apps on it, at least ten of which I use every day.

First I charged it only every other day overnight. Now, for the last three weeks, I just top it up for an hour when I get home, and then sleep with it on. If I miss a day, it doesn’t matter. After the other watches, this is fantastic.

But that’s not why I love it.

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silences inbetween.” — Mozart

I love this watch because of what it doesn’t do, for how well it chooses the few things it believes I ought to know of, and for how discretely it lets me know of them.

I imagine Apple had musicians, composers, psychologist, and neurologists labor for months and years together over the sounds and vibrations of the Apple watch, observing their effects on subjects in numberless experiments, endlessly refining them.

How else to explain the delicate perfection of its soft chimes? That they are neither so short and penetrating as to convey a false and irritating urgency, nor so long as to disrupt and to embarrass me by catching everyone else’s attention? That they are of just the right length and tone for a routine calendar appointment?

Somewhere between the infuriating buzz of the Pebble and the rumbling haptic tremor of the Android LG G, there lies a sweet spot of vibration that does not nag or alarm, and Apple has found it.

This Watch murmurs gracefully, courteously. It does not prod or poke or hurry me, it just quietly lets me know I would do well not ignore it. When I am ready. And like Bertie Wooster, I have learned that it is always right.

And, increasingly, that it is indispensable.

An incoming call: my iPhone rings, somewhere, I don’t know where. My OSX devices start ringing. Maybe an iPad nearby rings as well.

No more hunting to find the devices: my Watch rings delicately, and if I choose to answer it, speaking and listening is effortless. I even talk less loudly than with a phone mashed against my ear. The speaker is much less loud than the phone’s speaker-phone mode. Or, I calmly dismiss the call, without all the usual fumbling for the nearest gadget.

I don’t answer many texts on my phone anymore. It’s easier just to talk to the Watch. Siri is as useless as always, but the Watch’s speech recognition is now up there with Google’s phone app, my personal gold standard.

I used not to use Trello. Now I use it a lot. I think of something while I’m walking along, and a few gentle taps later it’s added to my todo list.

The Crown

One of the main reasons I got an Apple Watch was because I thought the crown was as brilliant an innovation as the mouse. A way to scroll without your finger obscuring what you see, with the infinitesimal precision of the human hand that no touch-sensitive screen can hope to match? Genius! And yet so obvious! How did nobody think of it before?

But, I hardly use it. This has been surprise. I’ve stood in crowded rush-hour subways and buses, and instead contorting myself of to wrestle my phone from an inner pocket without jabbing people, I have calmly scrolled through the news on my wrist. Without the crown. It’s easier just to swipe the screen gently. I actually wish I could use it for swiping widgets left and right, which is hard to do without triggering one of their actions. Perhaps the right app for it will come along.

That’s alright. I can wait.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.