The Apple Watch: eight months in

I got my Apple Watch just over eight months ago. After the initial excitement died down, it continued to be a useful addition to my ongoing collection of gadgetry. However, not all tech continues to deliver, especially after the original excitement and glee has subsided.

Sometimes, as soon as the product fails to live up to expectations. Sometimes as soon as a new model is released. And therein lies the world of FOMO and time spent in line at the Apple Store.

But for me, the Apple Watch bucks this trend and continues to be a great little device. I thought it would be timely – now that pundits are already talking about the Apple Watch 2.0! – to review how it’s working out for me.

So how do I use it?

It’s fair to say that I use some of the Apple Watch functionality much more than others. Eight months in and my daily use focuses on the following:

  • Fitness – I keep an eye on my fitness goals through the day and having the watch has motivated me to simply walk more on days when I don’t make it to the gym. Even now, there’s something great about getting the notification that I’ve met all three of my fitness goals for the day. And it’s not just exercise, but movement in a more general sense, as the reminders to stand up and move around are particularly useful in my extremely sedentary job.
  • Alarms and timers – I use the alarms and timers for everything from cooking to managing meeting times. The subtle vibration on my wrist helps me politely end appointments without actually looking at my watch, keeping me on schedule and reducing the time I spend dashing from one meeting to the next.
  • Notifications – notifications from a small, select group of apps keep me up to date through the day. I have intentionally kept this selection small so I don’t spent my day flicking my wrist to find out what’s going on. The main notifications I accept are breaking news from the BBC and Guardian, reminders from ToDoist and when I’ve been “mentioned” in Twitter.
  • Messages – one of my favourite apps on the watch is Messages. I tend to read text messages on the watch and many can be responded to with a predetermined strong of text (e.g. “Yes”, “Thanks” or “Can I call you later?”) Or an emoji. Quicker than digging my iPhone out of my pocket and unlocking it. And easier to do while walking down the street.
  • Calendar – the main way I use Calendar on my Apple Watch is to check the addresses or other meeting details for appointments. This includes the reference numbers for rail tickets I need to pick up or the postcode of an office I haven’t been to before. I’ll also confess to checking the names of people I’m about to meet and whether an agenda for the meeting was included in the meeting invite. Calendar is probably the most versatile of the apps on my Apple Watch, purely based on the kind of information in calendar events.
  • ToDoist – my task management app of choice, ToDoist is a star on the Apple Watch. Reminders pop up in a timely manner and I can access today’s priorities, tasks I can do based on my context (via the ‘Labels’ shortcut) and make really good use of ‘dead time’ between appointments or calls.

Functionality I hardly ever use

Even though the Apple Watch can do a a plethora of things, I don’t find them all equally useful or helpful. I realise this is a very personal and subjective perspective, but all the same here are the things I’ve stopped using over time:

  • Phone calls – I’ve made a grand total of two phone calls from my Apple Watch and stopped after these brief experiments as I felt so embarrassed. For me, it’s the equivalent of Facetiming without earphones, where everyone around you can hear the entire conversation. I’m sure plenty of Apple Watch owners find it useful, but right now, it’s not for me.
  • Sketches / heart beat – again, after a couple of quick experiments, I’ve not sent any more ‘sketches’ or shared my heart-beat. It’s a nice gimmick, but it’s still a gimmick. The screen is two small to send anything bar the simplest of symbols and I find sending an emoji via Messages to be much easier and less likely to be misinterpreted.
  • Email – I’ll admit, there have been times when I’ve checked my email via my watch. It’s when my iPhone has been tucked away in a pocket in my backpack and I’ve had a few minutes to spare. But I’m actively checking my email less frequently (and don’t have it set to ‘push’ anyway) so this isn’t as useful for me. The screen is too small to read much and you can’t respond with anything other than the briefest of messages, which could lead to confusion and even more emails.
  • Music – While I’ll control music (and podcast) playback via the watch, especially when out running, I don’t keep any music on the watch. For me, this means just one more device to keep in sync with my music library, which is an absolute no. I’m never without my iPhone when I want to listen to music, so it’s just not relevant for me.
  • Apple Pay – Again, while I occasionally use my iPhone to pay for things, I’ve never used my Apple Watch. If I’m honest, it’s about being self-conscious, but also a level of control. Not every payment with my iPhone has gone smoothly and if there’s one thing I don’t like doing (living in London), it’s slowing down a queue. Maybe with the next iteration of the Watch OS, but not for now.

My top tips

So with several months of consistent Apple Watch use under my belt, what are my recommendations to others? Just two things, really.

  • Be cautious about notifications – I can’t emphasise this enough. If you don’t control the number of apps you give permission to notify you via your Apple Watch, you’ll have nothing by buzzes on your wrist all day long. Have a think about what you really need to get notified about and take it from there. Less is most definitely more in this case.
  • Buy a spare charging cable – the Apple Watch battery does get me through an entire day, and then I charge it overnight, every night. I travel a lot and find it helpful to have a spare charging cable in my bag. As I now find the watch so useful, it would be a real headache to be in another country without the ability to recharge it.

Is the Apple Watch for you?

This is really an impossible question for me to answer. Essentially, the Apple Watch is an extension of the iPhone, albeit an extremely convenient and useful one. So if you were to ask me “Do I need one?”, I’d have to say “It depends”. If you’re a heavy iPhone user, you might find it quicker and easier to glance at your watch instead.

If you’ve never had a smart watch before, might a Pebble be a better option? The entry price is a lot lower and although its functionality is a lot more restricted with the iPhone, it could represent a relatively cost-effective way of experimenting in the world of smart watches – without going all in and buying one from Apple. I had a Pebble and found it to be a great device. Getting an Apple Watch was an upgrade, but that won’t be an inevitable path for every Pebble user.

Do you know anyone with an Apple Watch? Maybe you could get an honest opinion and review from them. Maybe someone slightly less technology-obsessed than I am! Understanding what someone you know does with their watch could be the best preview of how you might use it.

That said, it’s still a personal choice and usage can really vary based on your daily routine and approach to technology. I’m definitely not advocating that everyone goes out and get one!

Apple Watch: my verdict

All that said, for me the Apple Watch is definitely a keeper. I’ve found it to be a really useful addition to my tech ‘arsenal’ since day one and it’s made a lot of things easier. On the other hand, I’m realistic and can see its many drawbacks. As it’s a 1.0 model, I’m sure version 2.0 will come with a host of improvements.

What am I looking for? Nothing outrageous, but what I think represents a list of realistic and much-needed improvements, including:

  • Better battery
  • Sleep tracking
  • A snappier interface
  • The ability to track a wider range of exercises

I’m interested to see what direction Apple Watch 2.0 will take and hopefully pricing will come down to make it more accessible to more people. My watch no longer attracts a lot of interest (or derision) so based on that experience, I think we’ve entered a phase where smart watches are no longer weird or terribly exclusive. Which is great!

 

 

5 thoughts on “The Apple Watch: eight months in”

  1. Superb review / tips!

    As I’ve blogged this week, I’m opting for the new Blaze, which I know to be substandard as far as “smart” goes. My 2 core needs are extended battery and sleep tracking. If the AW2 would be comparable, to be honest, I’d still waffle based upon price and that is ONLY because I haven’t owned one before. While I know it to be more elegant and higher quality….would my individual USE make up the difference for an elite gadget?

    As you stated your individual use is geared towards this and that, mine would be different (probably). Another MAJOR point to consider is my new job at the gulag means NO phone on premises, never mind pocket or clear backpack that I’m allowed (no handbags, either).

    I believe the music controls would be AWESOME (Blaze has them) for when I’m in the car, travelling under some other mode or when I get out for a rare jog. I tend to carry my phone in my HAND for ease of shuffling fwd. To put it away w/o care of dropping? Hellz yeah.

    Notifications when commuting, while never a great idea, would be a quick glance. I do not “do” them otherwise.

    I have Bluetooth mic and speakers installed in my car, so the AW phone wouldn’t be necessary and like you? Not in public, thanks. Maybe whilst cooking at home? Bro and Sis have an uncanny ability to ring when my attention is needed in the kitchen. I have a clamp – magnet thing for my phone on the fridge because of their timing!

    I’m keen to keep tabs on daily movement and don’t require non-phone (linked) GPS (the Surge has it, Blaze does not). If I have need of GPS, I’ll have my phone anyway.

    All in all, I’d rather the AW but as an entree into that realm, without my 2 “demands” I don’t think I’m up for it THIS time. I do not doubt battery and on-board sleep tracking aren’t far off for AW and by that time, I bet I’ll be ready to take off the training wheels.

    Well-done, Lapin!

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    1. Looking forward to your review of the Fitbit Blaze. Sounds like a good option for you, considering work rules re mobile phones (which just reading about brought me to a cold sweat!) 😉

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  2. Great longterm review… I’m still not convinced (but I’m a bit of a ticking bits of metal kind of guy when it comes to watches) but maybe it’s something I need to keep an eye on.

    The comments about work rules for mobiles reminded me of a previous job where I worked for a defence contractor. Mobile phones, recording devices of any type, cameras, cellular anything, personal computing devices etc were all utterly banned from the entire site. There were two separate – airgapped – networks, one unclassified and one… not; and ne’er the twain shall meet. Wifi? Not a chance. I had to leave my (dumb) phone switched off in the door pocket of the car in the (secure) carpark while I was at work – or alternatively leave it with the guys at the security post – so I can’t help but wonder how such organisations would react to someone turning up with an Apple watch on their wrist… and that site wasn’t even particularly highly classified!

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    1. Thanks! Yep, all these wearables probably do represent a security headache. Especially given the computing power of most modern mobile phones.

      As I said, I don’t think the Apple Watch is for everyone. It’s not a must-have but I find it very useful. I’ll be interested to see how and when traditional watchmakers start to incorporate some of this technology over the next few years.

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