My thoughts on the Apple Watch

I’ve been using my Apple Watch every day since it launched in April. People ask me all the time what I think about it and the best response that I can give is that I would purchase another immediately if I lost or broke it today.

It seems that the media and blogosphere has been bashing the Apple Watch recently due to reports that sales have declined since its launch. It sort of makes sense to me that sales have dropped off after the initial surge, but I also get why it isn’t taking the world by storm just yet too.

Now that the novelty has worn off, the Watch for me is 80% watch and 20% everything else. I think that this is the right proportion really as the device was meant to be an extension of your phone rather than a replacement. But that 20% is really, really useful.

Here are my top features:

Notifications

Apple Watch Texts

I like getting notifications on my watch. You get that ping from your phone when it is in your pocket and have to take it out to look only to find that it was a message that you have voicemail or that the retail price index just increased or that a friend posted something on Facebook or someone liked your Instragram photo. Getting all of thee on my watch is a much better experience and something that I would definitely miss if I stopped wearing the Watch.

Heart monitor

Apple Watch Heart Beat

I like seeing the heart beat history in the Health app – it’s oddly reassuring. I actually like the whole HealthKit concept and see quantification like this becoming an increasingly more important aspect of our lives over the coming years.

Glances

Apple Watch Dark Sky

I don’t use the apps on the Watch – perhaps because they have been restricted in the current WatchOS (WatchOS v2 will be released in the autumn). However, I really like Glances. You swipe up from the bottom of the watch and you get quick vignettes into the apps that really matter – current heartbeat, weather from Dark Sky, calendar, etc. This is a great concept and provides a far superior user experience compared with having to navigate the full UI of each individual app.

Navigation

Apple Watch Directions

Probably one of the best examples of how the combination of phone and watch provides a better experience than each on its own. I use this all the time in London. When you get directions from Apple Maps on your iPhone, you can put your phone in your pocket and leave it there. As you walk towards your destination, the Watch will tap your wrist when you need to do something. You can walk around like a normal person (without your face in a phone) and then simply glance at your watch with each tap. It will give you the next step in your journey. It is simply brilliant.

Replying to texts

Apple Watch Reply to Text

When you receive a text message, you get a tap on your wrist (I turn off all sound notifications on my Watch). You’ll see the text message and you can then quickly and easily reply with some predictive text messages (e.g. “Thanks” or “OK” etc). You can also reply with an emoticon or dictate a response. It is quick and easy and works great.

Other bits and pieces

Apple Watch Hey Siri

I don’t really use “Hey Siri” on my watch any more.. not sure why not. It works well but perhaps I don’t like the whole talking into my watch experience? I don’t send heart beats or draw doodles to anyone either. I rarely use any other apps and in fact have disabled the watch option for most apps that also have Watch apps.

WatchOS v2

Apple did a smart thing with their launch of Watch. They locked it down pretty tight so that 3rd party apps couldn’t screw up the initial user experience.

Every Watch owner will tell you that they have been impressed with the battery life despite all the early warnings from the pre-launch media. This is down to Apple restricting 3rd party apps. Imagine if your Watch only lasted 3 hours because the Facebook app was killing the battery life. Everyone would have blamed Apple and not Facebook. The device would have been dead on day one. This was a really smart decision by Apple.

Around October this year, Apple will be releasing a new version of their Watch OS that will be more open. All the 3rd party vendors will be able to access more of the Watch features. This will mean infinitely more useful and intuitive apps and it will be interesting to see if I actually start using them when this happens. But they will also have an impact on the Watch’s performance I suspect.

Here’s a quick list of the other new features coming in WatchOS 2:

  • Time travel – this is a neat feature.. you can scroll the digital crown to change the “complications” (those additional snippits of information on the watch face like weather or calendar). So you can change to see how the weather will look, or your calendar, etc during the day.
  • Independent wifi – currently, the Watch connects to wifi via your iPhone. In WatchOS 2 it can connect to wifi on it’s own – which should also increase the range that it can be away from your iPhone and still get access to notifications and so on.
  • Watch faces – you will be able to have photos as the background to your watch face.
  • Nightstand – with your Watch on its side, it becomes a bedside table alarmclock
  • Email replies – you currently can’t reply to emails on your Watch.. but in the upcoming release you will be able to do so – similar to how the text message replies work I suspect.

Summary

The Apple Watch is a great device and I would recommend anyone who wants one to get one. The key here is “want” as it is absolutely not essential or life changing (yet) – however, there is enough value to still make it worthwhile; plus, its pretty great at telling time.

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