As of yesterday I’ve been using my Apple Watch for two weeks.
There are plenty of other reviews and opinions out there, but since the Apple Watch is such a personal thing it can be good to get multiple viewpoints, and a few people were asking my about my experience with it anyway.
I didn’t set out to test any particular feature or go through it with a fine tooth comb or analyze its place in the enterprise mobility space, rather I’m just like any other moderately-techy consumer that wanted one. I bought the 42mm Apple Watch Sport (the aluminum one) in Space Grey with a black band for about $430 including taxes, and I’ve just been using it under regular conditions in my everyday life. So if you’re curious as to how useful it is, why someone would want one, and what the heck you might do with it, here’s my opinion.
What I like and use most
First off, I like getting notifications on my wrist, I like that it’s a watch (duh...), and I like that it can show other information (weather, different time zones, fitness activity, my next appointment, etc.) in a single glance. (Yes, I realize that I could’ve done this with Pebble for half the cost a few years ago, but again, this was my personal choice.) I also like the red notification dot on the watch face. (It’s a nice BlackBerry callback.)
Most of the notifications I get and care about are for text messages, calendar events, emails from important contacts (I use the iOS Mail app’s VIP feature), chats, and fitness alerts.
I like reading texts on my wrist, and I even do some voice dictation to respond. (That’s something I’ve started to do more in the last 6 months or so on my phone.) I also like that I get notifications for Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger, but unfortunately neither of those apps have watch apps yet, so I can’t respond to them.
I also find myself using it to control my music library and adjust the volume. (I’m pretty into iTunes and not much into streaming, but that’s another long story.)
Having all of this stuff on my wrist is actually pretty useful for the times I don’t want to pull my phone out of my pocket. I ride San Francisco’s streetcar/subway system, and often it’s crowded enough to make it hard to reach into whatever pocket my phone is in.
I like having it as a fitness tracker, especially since I’ve never had one before. I even respond to the notifications that tell me to stand if I’ve been sitting too long. (My brother Dennis has written some interesting things about wearables on his blog.)
One final thing that I like—by default the setup process recommends a passcode, and you have to re-enter that passcode when you first put the watch on for the day. Combined with the fact that it’s mostly useless when it’s out of range of my iPhone, I’m not too worried about anything bad happening if I lost it.
What I’m not using it for (...yet?)
When I set up my watch, I pared the apps and notifications way down, and then later I pared them down again, and now there are still a lot of apps on it that I’m not using yet. I’m sure I’ll get around to using more soon enough, but the lesson here is to go into the watch as a gradual process of discovery.
The Apple Watch also isn’t a place I go to find content. If I want to read news or check Facebook then I pull out my phone.
Another feature I’m not using yet is Apple Pay, but since I use cash so much in San Francisco I never felt a pull to use it on my iPhone in the first place.
Regarding the hardware and “watch-iness” of it
The battery life is perfectly fine. I’ve had some nights where I didn’t charge it, and I got through the next day with no problems. Raising or turning my wrist to view the watch face seems perfectly okay too—I got used to it in a few days.
I like that this thing is stylish. I’ll admit I’m not a fan of the plain aluminum ones, but I think the black on black one is sharp. I also like changing the watch faces, colors, and elements depending on my mood. I’ve gotten a decent number of comments on it, but mostly from slightly techy types—otherwise it’s pretty non-ostentatious, which is nice.
Interestingly, I did take it off in a bar in San Francisco one day, and it was almost an unconscious decision. With all of the complicated interactions involving the tech scene, housing prices, gentrification, Google Buses, and such, it just seems wise to inconspicuous. (After all, I live in a neighborhood where a few bars banned Google Glass after an uproar last year. I don’t want to be the Apple Watch equivalent of a Glasshole.)
A few hiccups
As other reviews have noted, the Apple Watch has a learning curve. It reminds me of dealing with pre-smartphone electronics where you have to poke around a bit or read the manual to figure out how to do something. Navigating between screens and functions is a bit awkward, and sometimes you just don’t know what to do with it.
The only other major complaint is that sometimes you have to wait a while for actions to complete, and Siri can be a drag and unresponsive, too.
Between my MacBook, my iPhone, and the Apple Watch, the watch is the last one to get notifications. But this isn’t a big deal because when I’m at my desk, I don’t care which one is first, and when I’m out doing other things, I just notice the watch.
The only default settings I changed were to turn off audio notifications (the haptic notifications are good enough for me) and make the text as small as possible so it would look smoother with fewer line breaks.
The other day Gabe asked me if it was worth $350 or $400, and after some hesitation I’ve said, “...Eh... we’ve all spend more on less at some time or another.”
Is there a single $350 or $400 reason to get one? Probably not. But are are multitude of smaller reasons to buy an Apple Watch, so I don’t feel like I wasted my money. The more expensive models are a different story, of course.
So the verdict? I definitely like it. And if you’re moderately techy or into gadgets (and have an iPhone), then you might like it, too.