“Hello, Apple Watch.”
My first hours as a brand new Apple Watch user.
I skipped the first generation Apple Watch and somehow held out till now to jump in. It wasn’t easy for me abstaining this long. I am suffering heavily from this thing called GAS which makes it hard to resist shiny new stuff. Many a times over the last year and a half, I was gripped by serious FOMO. Well, that’s over now.
Maybe there are still some of you out there who are bravely fighting the temptation to purchase the watch for this or that reason. This post ain’t gonna make things easier for you. If you want my verdict right away: I think you won’t regret getting one. At least, I don’t. I am enjoying this thing more each day.
Watches are a lot about the looks and wearing a watch is a fashion statement. Instead of competing against other smart watches in terms of specs, the Apple Watch has to first make enough of a case to convince people to wear anything on their wrists, at all.
I have been wearing traditional watches — an Omega Seamaster and a Rolex Oyster Perpetual — for years. However, going without a watch has become more or less the norm for me due to the iPhone in my pocket.
I have played around with fitness trackers in the recent past as alternatives to a traditional watch but those haven’t survived long on my wrist. I always hated the design of the Fitbits and Jawbones. They are flimsy, poorly constructed, plastic toys which tend to break down quickly. I had to exchange my Fitbit Charge HR several times due to dissolving rubber on the casing. It didn’t play along nicely with my iPhone and Health.app, either.
Where these wearables fail, the Apple Watch is different. The first time you hold one in your hand you realize it truly is more of a watch than a tracker. I get why Apple placed a strong emphasis on the fashion side of marketing when they initially released the watch. It does appeal to me.
I have never worn a square watch before. While I regard a circular design as superior for an analog timepiece, I believe the layout of the Apple Watch is both functional and attractive.
If you are torn on the design aspects of the watch, beware that the watch is “in your face”. It’s not an understatement and it’s certainly not stealthy, especially if you opt for something other than the black models. Mine — the gold aluminium Series 2 with the cocoa sportband — draws eyes like a cat wearing a sweater.
I considered the more low key black aluminium model at first, but I didn’t speak to me when I tried it on. But why hide it, anyways? If you wear an Apple Watch, you might as well own it.
I predict that I am going to develop an obsession with watch bands. Swapping bands is easy and I already ordered two alternatives to the sport band (an olive NATO band and a brown leather strap) on Etsy. I like the sportband, though. The fluoroelastomer is a very tactile and durable material. It’s unlike anything I have worn on my wirst before.
All that said, my watch probably won’t age too well. It is in for a though life between heavy everyday usage, water exposure, fitness tracking and bumping into door frames. (Yes, it tends to bump into many things). I also think that my upgrade cycle for the watch will be frequent within the upcoming years as the hardware will steadily mature.
Out of the box, the watch comes with a single charging cable which for me is not enough. I need at least two: one at home and one in my bag. While charging the watch overnight gives you all day battery life a plenty, I intend to test its capabilities as a sleep tracking device. (I have played around with the apps Sleep+ + and HeartWatch for this purpose. I am not sure whether the watch can truly compete with sleep tracking on the iPhone with my favorite sleep app Pillow.) For sufficient battery life, I will have to trickle charge it throughout my day which is rather inconvenient.
When you first start up your watch, it prompts you to pair it to your iPhone by aiming the phone camera at it. It should have worked “automagically” but my watch failed at first attempt. I had to restart my phone to get it to work. Bummer.
In my first minutes with the watch I felt awkwardly helpless. “What do I do now?”
I tried to resist the urge to install a whole bunch of apps right away. The watch doesn’t have to be a mirror of the iPhone to become useful. Notifications on the watch are sufficient for most of the things that you traditionally use your phone for. Simply getting notified and then handing a job over to the phone is often the best way to go. You don’t need to install every app for that.
For most of my regularly used watch faces, I tend to stick with simplicity over complexity. I prefer the analog styles and spice them up with two complications, mostly. My daily driver right now is the Activity Analog watch face (Numerals is another great one) and my favorite complications are Activities, Workflow.app and Weather (I use Carrot Weather instead of the stock weather app). For everything else like calendars or to-do lists, I use notifications and the dock. As my use of the watch consolidates in the next weeks, we will see how this approach develops.
Apps on the watch, however, are great. They start up reasonably fast and even selecting them from the honeycomb grid isn’t as bad as everyone says it is.
So far, I can say the watch is a great complimentary device to the iPhone. It saves time, attention and battery life.
Much of what I used to do primarily on my iPhone, I now prefer to do on the watch. Especially messaging, simple social interactions and quickly digesting what’s happened are things that I now use the watch for. I deliberately go for the watch first if I’m short on time and don’t want to get distracted too much.
At the end of the day, my iPhone 7 Plus now tends to come out with about 30–40% of battery left. It used to drain down to 20% and below on average before.
The watch is heavily branded as a fitness tracker and its passive functions like step counting and heart rate measurements were driving factors in my initial purchasing decision. (I can’t wait for the built-in, but turned-off sp02 sensor to get activated.)
As much as I am a quantified-self nerd, though, I have my doubts about whether it’s a suitable tool for my training routine. I am not a mere jogger (because it’s not how you get fit) but the watch still seems to be skewed heavily in favor of running sports and less so for other types of functional training. I don’t train to burn calories (because it’s not the reason why movement is good for you) but the watch still overemphasizes the inherently wrong “calories-in, calories-out” mantra. (Personally, I am more interested in my heart rate during workouts.)
The watch is too classy to get dirty and chalked up during my Crossfit and Strongman workouts and wearing a watch while doing kettlebell snatches where weights impact on your wrists, for instance, is just impossible. I have logged a few rowing, jumping and running WODs by now, but these alone don’t give a representative picture of my overall routine.
I love Siri on the watch. (I also like it on the iPhone and use it daily.) I don’t share the common grief about it among certain bloggers and media people. For those of us who made iOS their primary operating system, Siri is a huge facilitator over a traditional computing setup.
On the watch, Siri is more focused than on the phone and I use it for targeted commands like home automation, setting timers and sending messages, mostly. Also, there is no better or faster way to set calendar entries than via Siri. It’s the simple things that make Siri great even though these don’t make for fancy commercials.
Next to Siri, the Digital Crown is my preferred input method on the watch. Swiping and tapping doesn’t come as natural on the watch as it does on the iPhone for the screen real estate is small and the responsiveness of the touch screen and tapping targets are somewhat sluggish when compared to the iPhone. Twisting the crown to navigate through the dock, through an app interface or to regulate the volume in the playback app is delightfully precise. It’s one of those intimate, “nibbling around with it”, Jony Ive experiences. Double clicking the button or the crown, however, are rather clumsy when the watch is on your wrist.
To bring this piece to a close: I really like the watch. It’s an exciting device that enriches my workflows and that only further emphasizes the mobile future of computing. For all those of you late to the game, now might be a great time to hop in.