Two weeks ago I finally took the plunge and got an Apple Watch. I’d been debating getting a “smart watch” for a while, had looked at alternatives such as Pebble, but finally decided that the time was right. I settled on a 42mm Space Grey Sport with a black Sport Band, and, as my friend was at an Apple Store, he picked it up for me.
When I picked up the watch, the first thing that struck me was the sheer size of the box that it came in. This seems like a bit of a departure from the progression of Apple packaging that I’ve been used to over the last couple of years; generally, they’re making packaging smaller. Opening the box, there was another outer shell packaging that felt extremely sturdy.
Within this lay my watch. And it is gorgeous. Much nicer than I expected and I couldn’t wait to get it on.
To turn the watch on for the first time, you hold down the side button (not the digital crown) until the Apple logo appears. Then, the watch goes through the bootup process which takes much longer than I was expecting.
Once it’s up and running, you open the Apple Watch app on the phone and start the pairing process, answering questions as you go along. I don’t want to spoil the experience for anyone about to buy a watch and do this pairing process, but suffice it to say, I was really impressed and it made me smile.
You’re then greeted by the default “Modular” watch face, preset with some of the most common complications. It looks gorgeous.
To be honest, when I decided that I wanted a “smart watch”, I wasn’t quite sure how or what I’d use it for. I just liked the idea, but over the past 2 weeks I’ve used it for all sorts of different applications which have really improved how I spend my time and also reduced the amount I take my phone out of my pocket.
I make a fairly large commute once a fortnight and, as I’m still not 100% sure of the way, I decided to try out the navigation feature. I started by asking Siri to navigate to the target address and then, once the watch had communicated with my phone, I could see the directions appear on my wrist. The unexpected thing was that as I was approaching places on the road where I needed an instruction, the watch would tap me so that I could follow that instruction without even looking. It does this by using different numbers and frequency of taps for different instructions:
- Three pairs of two taps - Turn left
- Steady series of 12 taps - Turn right
You also feel a vibration when you’re on the last leg of the journey and again when you arrive. It’s awesome.
Activity & Workouts
I live a fairly sedentry life. From sitting at a desk all day on a computer, to sitting in rehearsals for shows playing piano, I don’t do any exercise. By having a constant reminder on my wrist of the number of steps I’ve taken, how many times I’ve stood up, and how much exercise I’ve done I’ve found that I’ve constantly tried to improve my “score” in the activity app because of its perceived gamification.
This was somewhat of a surprise to me. I’d previously tried the FitBit One and the FitBit Flex, and neither had managed to make me more active. I think the success of the Apple Watch in this regard is because it’s something I’d have on my wrist anyway, and it requires no effort to sync it or even track the data - it does it all for you.
I’ve even been out for a run using the Workout app, and have also been out for a few walks where I’ve tracked them. Anyone who knows me will tell you that this is certainly not like me, but it’s no effort to tap a few buttons and get a log so I’ve found myself actively doing it.
The one thing that I wish it did have was GPS mapping of the route that was taken. My iPhone was with me anyway (Apple recommends that you take it with you), so I don’t think it would be much effort to add this to the app. Sure, you can get 3rd-party apps that do this, but I’d prefer to keep it simple on my watch and have everything integrated directly into the OS.
Messages & Phone Calls
Messages has been invaluable to me on the Watch. It’s amazing to be able to see messages from contacts, and also to be able to respond to them via Siri dictation which I have never used on my iPhone.
I’ve used it whilst walking around the supermarket, whilst sitting in my car, and also whilst doing other things around the house and it has meant that I haven’t had to divert my attention away from what I’m currently doing as much as I would have had if I’d have needed to grab my phone.
I’ve also had some fun taking phone calls on my wrist, but, to be honest, the speaker just isn’t loud enough to be useful unless the area you’re in is really quiet. This is a real shame as one of the things I was most looking forward to was being able to replace my current hands-free system in my car by just using my wrist.
One of the only 3rd-party apps I have installed is ToDoist. This is partly because the Watch (oddly) doesn’t have a built-in Reminders app, and partly because I purchased a premium subscription a few months ago and have been trying to get better at keeping everything I need to do out of my head and inside a centralised system. Being able to see my ToDos on my wrist has been invaluable and has certainly made me more productive.
The one thing I wish I could do, however, is delete a ToDo from my watch which doesn’t seem to be possible. Sometimes you’ve added something that you just don’t need to do anymore, and, rather than “complete” it, I’d prefer to be able to delete it without needing to grab my iPhone.
Unfortunately, whilst the watch has worked out really well for me, I was struck by some teething troubles. For some reason I don’t have great luck with Apple gear and quite frequently end up with a product that doesn’t quite work properly. For the watch, this ended up being a problem with the haptic feedback.
Sometimes, notifications wouldn’t vibrate at all, sometimes they’d be extremely weak, and other times they’d work perfectly. In addition to this, when turning my wrist over to view the face I’d quite often get a loud “click” that seemed to be the Taptic engine resetting itself.
I reported this to the online support at Apple and scheduled a Genius Bar appointment at the Bullring Store. Quite honestly, this was one of the best Genius Bar appointments I’ve ever had. Because I was within my first 14 days of ownership, they swapped out the entire watch with a brand new boxed one, and stayed with me whilst I set it all up again to make sure that my Activity data was still there. Absolutely awesome.
So is it good?
Overall, I’d certainly recommend the Apple Watch to anyone. It’s really saved me time, made things more convenient for me, and enabled me to keep my nose out of my phone as much as possible. I’d replace it if it broke, and, for me, that’s the ultimate benchmark of whether a product is really useful. It is, and I think I’d be pretty lost without it now.