100 Days of Apple WatchPublished by Kirk on .
By their nature as something that you wear, watches are a personal item, so I’ll begin with my own background with watches. I’d worn watches intermittently throughout my childhood, but I last wore a watch over ten years ago. I was going to be late to a class in college and ran down a hill and across a street. Unfortunately, I still had downward inertia from the hill and ended up falling face-down onto the street and sliding. My Fossil did not survive. I was in no hurry to replace my watch, however, since its primary function—telling time—had been obviated once I had begun carrying my cell phone regularly.
When Apple Watch was first announced, I—who had taken off work to wait in line on the day the original iPhone was released—decided I’d wait till the second version came along. I was intrigued, but not fully sold. I’m a minimalist, and like to carry as little on me as is possible. When leaving my apartment, I generally carry only my iPhone, my ridiculously thin wallet, and my keys (and I skip the keys when I can). Over the next few months, however, I gave it much thought and decided I should get one after all. It may not be for everyone, but I thought it would be right for me. Thanks to Apple Pay, I was able to successfully order my Apple Watch within the first minute preorders started and received it on launch day. It’s not the kind of product where a “first impressions” review can really do it justice, but I’ve now had it exactly 100 days, so here are my thoughts on what it’s actually like to live with it:
I have the 38mm Apple Watch Sport with the white sport band. Apple Watch looks big in pictures. It’s not. Years of coddling our phones have taught us that electronics are fragile. It’s not. I’ve been mostly, but not entirely, successful at avoiding banging it against random hard objects such as desks and door frames. Still not a single scratch. I wore it kayaking in the ocean to track my exercise, splashing plenty of salty, sandy water on it in the process. When I was done, I just rinsed it off under the bathroom faucet. The sport band is easy to put on, secure while wearing, easy to take off, and surprisingly comfortable throughout. It hasn’t stained or discolored. The fit and finish of the product is extraordinary. Aesthetics are, of course, intensely personal, but I find it attractive. It’s also completely gender neutral and either size can look equally at place on either male or female. You just get whichever size fits you best. Depending on which model and color you get, it can look athletic, classic, or elegantly luxurious.
The Digital Crown
It’s not as groundbreaking as multitouch was, but it’s still an incredibly useful feature. When the content you’re trying to view is only a little bit bigger than fits on the screen, it’s not so bad to just push it up with your finger, but when you’re trying to scroll through something that’s a little bit longer, it definitely makes a difference. And then there are other uses. When configuring the watch faces, you cycle through different “complications” (the extra things on the face, such as the weather), and through different color options by turning the Digital Crown. On a screen this small, the added utility of being able to manipulate things without always having to touch them is quite valuable.
Apple Pay on Apple Watch is the promise of better payments finally made real. I’m a big advocate for Apple Pay, and began using it on my iPhone as soon as it came out. Apple Watch, however, takes it to the next level. I’ve already written at length on how Apple Pay works and why you should use it, so for now, I’ll focus only on how Apple Watch improves the in-store experience. To pay with a physical card, the basic steps are to: get out your wallet, remove the right card from your wallet, swipe it, put the card back in the right spot in your wallet, and put your wallet back in your pocket (or purse). Using Apple Pay on the iPhone with your default card requires you to: get your phone out of your pocket, move it to the card terminal while holding your thumb on the Touch ID sensor, wait for it to beep and then put your phone back in your pocket. To use a non-default card, you just move the phone to the terminal without holding your thumb on it, then tap on the card you want when it appears, and then put your thumb on the sensor. Conveniently, this is all still a one-handed affair, and it’s easier and faster than using the card, but still requires you to get something out and put it away. With Apple Watch, it’s already out, always. You double-tap the side button and hold it to the card terminal. That’s it. To use a non-default card, after you double-tap, you swipe to the right card first. This means that after you pay, you’re immediately ready to grab your purchase and leave. It also means you can buy things without having to carry your wallet on you. If you want to get a sports drink at a neighborhood store on your way home from a run, and the store accepts NFC payments, then you’re set, and without pulling out a sweaty bill that you stashed in your sock, or having to carry around a card somewhere.
Notifications & Messaging
The “Taptic Engine” is a revelation—a revelation that I really hate the buzzing coming from my phone. I didn’t realize just how much I hated it until it stopped. I’ve taken the Apple Watch as an opportunity to triage my notifications. Things I actually care about, such as text messages and emails from my fiancée (probably about our wedding) or wedding planner (definitely about our wedding), go straight to my watch. The more primitive vibrator found in phones produces a jarring buzz, but I still managed to frequently miss alerts if I was walking. Instead, I now get a gentle tap on my wrist. It’s strong enough to feel, but not strong enough to startle. It’s also completely silent. To view it, I need only look at my watch. It doesn’t require any bizarre or exaggerated arm movements; I just look at it like everybody has always looked at their watch. Many messages people receive don’t require a response, so a casual glance is all it takes. Put your arm back down and you’re done.
Apple Watch is built around the concept of very short interactions. When you check your phone for a notification, it’s all to easy to then find yourself lost in your phone with its many distractions. Apple Watch makes resisting these temptations easier by making seeing the actual notification easier, but making accessing everything else harder. Another great thing about viewing these notifications is that you can even do it *while* you’re talking on your iPhone, so you no longer have to tell people to hold on while you read a message to see if it’s something urgent. You can also reply by using suggested responses, which are good enough for probably half of all of my messages, or by dictating if you’re so inclined. In addition to the contextual suggestions, you can preprogram in common responses so they’re always available.
Fitness for Everyone
I’m not a terribly athletic person, indeed, probably leaning closer to “lazy.” Nevertheless, I still like to complete things. Apple Watch tracks your activity with three concentric circles that you are supposed to complete each day. One tracks your standing. If it’s fifty minutes past the hour and you haven’t stood during that hour, it’ll tap you on the wrist to let you know you’re being lazy. After standing for one minute (in practice, I usually use this as an opportunity to go refill my drink at work), it will congratulate you. If I’m watching a movie at home, I’ll frequently just get up from the couch and jog in place for one minute. It’s eye-opening to realize just how much you sit in a day, but after standing for at least one minute in each of 12 hours of the day, you complete that ring. There is another ring that tracks your progress towards 30 minutes of exercise (any activity at the level of a brisk walk or better) a day, the globally-recommended minimum. In one of the newest Apple Watch ads, they show a person getting ready for bed but realizing he’s a few minutes short of his goal, so he starts doing jumping jacks. This is a completely accurate portrayal of life with Apple Watch. There have been many nights where I’ve started doing jumping jacks, push-ups, random yoga poses I remember, or just jogging around my apartment to get those last few minutes. As I write this I’m at 29 minutes and I’ll make sure to get my final minute before I go to bed. The final ring is the only one that is adjustable. The Move ring tracks your active calories. Every Monday morning you get a summary of last week’s activity, including how many days you met your goal. It will then offer a new goal for that week, encouraging you to slowly improve. With all the rings, you are awarded various “medals” when you break new records or set streaks. Your personal bests are saved for you to look at later and hopefully inspire yourself to break them.
It’ll easily last longer than you. Charge it when you sleep. Never worry about battery life when you’re awake.
The native apps are fast. WatchKit apps are not fast, but this doesn’t bother me in the slightest. If Apple Watch never gained another new feature, only ever getting minimum updates required to continue working with new versions of iOS, it would still be a useful, valuable product. The built-in features cover a wide variety of uses, and they work well. But later this year, watchOS 2 will come out and enable third-party apps to run natively. I have no idea what new categories of apps developers will dream up, nor what new ways they’ll find to bring existing categories to the watch form factor, but the potential is great, and every existing Apple Watch will get it.
I wear my Apple Watch all day, every day. I take it off only to shower and to sleep. Is it right for you? I cannot say, but it’s definitely right for me. The subtle but ever-present integration into your daily life is the key to Apple Watch. Its appeal comes not in some grand, life-changing killer feature, but in the countless small ways that it makes your life just a little bit easier, or a task just a little bit faster.