I’ve had my Apple Watch since June and I’ve finally worn it long enough to offer my final verdict: indispensable, but not for everybody.
While the majority of my friends are indifferent to me wearing the Watch, which really isn’t very ostentatious, there are a few who either love it and wanted to try it on or told me they hated me for existing on the same planet as them.
I don’t think this blog post could really persuade anyone who doesn’t want a Watch, but maybe it can help you make a decision if you’re on the fence about it. I’ll cover the main uses, the pitfalls, and where I hope to see the Watch go in the future.
The iPhone app has a lot of features and, to be honest, it’s a bit much to navigate, at first. Icons can only be arranged from the app, you’ll manage glances and notifications from there, install new apps – actually, all Apple Watch setup happens on the phone.
This really isn’t a bad thing. I find it a lot easier to use for these things, due to screen size. There are also redundant settings here like general, brightness, haptics, and more; this also proves useful for initial setup. After that, settings can easily be managed through the Watch.
I mentioned that you can sync your apps from here (and music), but there are honestly very few apps that I’d use on my Watch.
The most useful apps for the Watch are Shazam, Robinhood, Uber and JustPressRecord. I have a lot of other apps, but I think they all struggle with how to take advantage of the small screen.
Shazam is obviously greater on the wrist; it actually works better on the wrist than the phone for a number of reasons. In glances, you can quickly pull up the widget without obstacle; tinkering with your Watch to catch a song feels more native; and it actually seems to work faster (very much not the case with most Watch apps.
Robinhood is a 0 commission stock trading platform that is mobile exclusive. The design is amazing and simple, and they translate this well onto the wrist. When I wake up, I see a countdown to the market open and I get a light tap when it opens, displaying my portfolio movers. Throughout the day, I get convenient notifications when something drastic happens with a stock in my portfolio and even related news updates. This is invaluable and on the phone would serve as more of a distraction than a convenience.
I’ll probably stick to hailing Uber through my phone, but I was very surprised to feel my Watch tap me when the car had arrived. On another occasion, much more alert this time, I found that it actually gives the arrival estimate, license plate number, and I can imagine this improving even more were the vehicles to gain some sort of beacon technology to guide you right to the car.
Just Press Record is awesome on the wrist. When I need to take a quick audio note down, it sort of went unused on my iPhone, because of the barriers to pulling up the app. On the Watch, it sits right on my watch face and a single tap lets me covertly record assignments in a lecture or important meeting notes. This extended functionality has definitely given the app new life and it is quickly becoming one of my favorites.
Obviously the largest selling point of the Watch is the fitness tracking, although it largely duplicates the functionalities of the iPhone. Tracking my heartbeat certainly isn’t a great enough selling point for me to want to purchase, and since my iPhone is primarily in my pocket, it is already measuring my steps and general fitness level. The Watch, however, specifically tracks three major metrics: time sitting, time active, and calories burned (both active and passive). It approximates these using your weight and height, and I suspect a slew of sensors that I have no idea how to take advantage of.
So how does any of this help to improve my general health? Honestly, I’m not sure; I stand for some arbitrary duration every hour to ensure I meet my stand goal (since sitting is the new smoking), but I don’t find myself pushing any harder to fill those activity rings. I just stick to my normal workout routine.
Here is where it really comes in handy: there’s no way to track my running since I have a massive iPhone 6S Plus; this means it’s too much of a hazard to run with it. I could definitely get a less expensive Fitbit or other wearable to track; however, the Watch also syncs with my playlists and my Wireless Powerbeats. This is, I feel, the greatest selling point of the Watch.
This has ended up being much more useful than I ever imagined. For one, it reduces the repetition with which I check my phone, which lengthens the battery life. The gentle tap on the wrist, or more urgent vibration pattern, let’s me know the importance of the notification and I can prioritize more effectively.
Typing at my desk, right now, it’s simple to glance down to check who has messaged me without distracting the actual typing to pull up Messages, where I am much more likely to succumb to the pressure of responding immediately. Additionally, I can issue quick responses to messages or use voice dictation for longer messages. I’ll never be that guy walking around talking to my wrist, though, unless I’m deliberately trying to irritate a friend (looking at you Megan).
The most useful notifications are FaceTime calls, which I can put on hold via the Watch and answer at my leisure; calendar alerts, which is the most analogous for how a time keeping/scheduling device should be utilized; and text messages. I’m not crazy about emails swarming my wrist, so I have them turned off on both my Watch and iPhone.
Apple Pay is amazing. Double tap the power button and your cards appear. It’s like magic. You get a slight vibration to confirm your payment went through and a satisfying ding that only you seem to hear. I mostly use it at Subway, but I looked up a list of vendors recently and it looks like a lot of places accept.
Checking the weather is useful, though I don’t use it often. Siri is as godawful on the Watch as she is on every other device (including the new Apple TV), but Voice Dictation is surprisingly great. 3rd party apps are less than useful, at the moment. I have a few ideas for applications that will be more useful.
App Idea 1: Use the microphone on the iPhone to detect when a call on hold has shifted from elevator music to a live representative and lightly tap the wrist, rather than forcing you to keep the annoying music blaring as you grow increasingly irritated.
App Idea 2: Exchanging contact information via handshake, by detecting the accelerometer, gyrometer, proximity, and pairing modes of two Watches, and activating over bluetooth. The functionality could easily be built into Glances, and ensure that you are only exchanging information with the correct person without requiring a direct device communication prior to the action, thereby reducing vulnerabilities that ensue from opening a connection in a public space.
Further customization of the Watch face is a must; currently, only a few Watch faces allow certain complications and it’s quite frustrating that Apple has yet to open up this area to developers.
The ability to answer the phone from the Watch is great, but it doesn’t work with bluetooth headphones. I’m not Dick Tracy. I’m not talking to my wrist. Fix it.
The Watch was actually pretty good at detecting when I raised my wrist to look at the time, but now it appears to turn on with any wrist movement or require a dramatic wrist action to activate if the Watch face is already turned upward. The problem didn’t exist in watchOS 1.0. This needs to be fixed.
For a first generation product, the Apple Watch is definitely in a better position than the 4th generation Apple TV that is buggy enough to have been withheld from developers, but was oddly released with more bugs than a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. The Apple Watch has enormous potential to reduce the need for the iPhone home screen and notifications can live comfortably on the wrist while increasing the quality of life for users by reducing FOMO fatigue.
Even the design isn’t a clincher for me, though. I purchased the second cheapest option in order to evaluate the actual utility of the device, and I’m certain I’ve seen nothing that has encouraged me to drop 10k on the coveted gold Watch.
Final verdict is a B-, because Apple has managed to accomplish what other wearables have not in terms of something I wouldn’t mind wearing on my wrist. It’s not in the way, too much; the notifications are convenient and covert (not an audible vibration, but a light touch) and it allows me to silence all of my devices without missing a moment. If you’re on the fence, I’d encourage you to try it on in store, or come check mine out for a while. It’s definitely a cool device and I’m excited to see how it improves with—time.
By: Marlon Stevenson