My Apple Watch arrived a few days ago. While I had been looking forward to its arrival, my enthusiasm was tempered by numerous news reports and reviews declaring the watch both expensive and confusing.
So it was with some hesitation that I slit open the packing tape and began unboxing the watch. The packaging itself is classically Apple. Lots of white plastic and custom cut, slightly sticky cellophane. When I finally got to the watch itself, I found it beautiful. This is the stainless steel model with sapphire crown and looks as much like a wearable museum piece as the Movado did when it was introduced decades ago.
But make no mistake, this is wearable technology and not art, however attractively packaged. If it fails to serve its intended function it will become a useless piece of junk in the bottom of a drawer or appear on eBay in the near future.
Start your engines
Also in typical Apple fashion, the instruction manual was a few pages at most, in a dozen languages with lots of photos. I didn’t bother looking at it, opting for what I assumed was the power button. In seconds the Apple logo appeared and I walked through the setup process, pairing it with my phone in just minutes. The only issue I encountered was with my iMessage password. While it was already in the phone, apparently the watch needed it too, and I entered it incorrectly.
Taking it personally
Apple markets the watch as their most personal device yet, and this is precisely why I wanted one. Being able to receive and send messages from the watch without opening my iPhone was essential. Color me relieved when it worked without a hitch, once my password issue had been resolved.
Reviews have complained the Apple Watch offers only canned responses for reply. It does offer canned replies, but these are configurable in the app, and of course I can reply with Siri. With my Southern California accent, this worked acceptably well. Based on past experience with Siri, I know that won’t always be the case, but I’m okay with it for now. On to the next test.
The next step was to test phone calls using just the watch. Check. At least for incoming calls or when calling my favorites. Sound quality, both hearing and what others heard, was acceptable.
For calling others, you’re relegated to Siri or opening your iPhone. You might as well start with the phone because Siri on the watch will simply hand you off to the phone anyway.
Calling all cars
Speaking of phone calls, I wondered how the watch would behave while I was driving since my phone is also paired with my car. It didn’t take long to get my answer, the phone paired with my car as normal. Calls originated from the phone connected through the car, and incoming calls rang in the car. I could still initiate a call from the watch, but there’s not much need to do so in the car.
A flick of the wrist
Speaking of cars, as I drove I noticed the watch display would become active frequently, showing the clock face. This surprised me since I read that many were having difficulty waking the watch. I discovered it was completely controllable with no effort. With my arm in a horizontal position, all it took was rolling the phone over from a horizontal position.
I like how easy it is to activate Siri. Simply roll the watch awake and say, “Hey Siri.” The biggest problem I encountered was that many things I asked Siri to do required me to open the handset, offering me something called, “Handoff.” Let’s just say that’s going to take some getting used to. So far, I’ve found it frustrating.
When push comes to shove, I ordered the Apple Watch so I could be more heads up and engaged with people rather than checking my phone. It certainly seems to be doing that in just the first day of use. I do plan to evaluate it for possible workplace learning uses, but that will have to wait for a later report.
Tap tap tap tap….
Early reviews of the watch complained about constant tapping on the wrist and excessive notifications. I hardly found the tapping annoying, which I attribute to having set my notifications conservatively on my phone in the first place. That is, until a few Skype groups became active. Suddenly my wrist was subjected to an annoying barrage of taps. I hadn’t realized how desensitized I had become to those notifications on my phone all these years.
After stopping Skype notifications, I began adding notifications I had no use for before, notably incoming email, which I never cared to see on my phone. The watch offered a quick way to see and dispense with email.
The Missing Google
Using the Apple maps app on my watch alerted me to a notably absent suite of Google applications. I thought this was some form of retribution for the Apple Watch being dedicated to an iPhone, and perhaps it is, but it is infuriating. I subsequently read about Google News, the first iPhone app to support Apple Watch. Of course I installed it.
The Nerd Factor
A subjective measure to be sure, I am interested in what I call the, “Nerd Factor.” I wrote before about the, “New Nerd” and the heads-down society caused by mobile handsets. My hope is that effective wearables could start to reverse this. From a wearability perspective, I found my stainless steel watch and band anything but nerd-like. Still, I had to ask a few others. It’s not a statistically significant sample, but those in my age bracket and above were firmly in the nerd camp. Of those younger than me, the watch was universally greeted with a, “That’s so cool!”
After a day with the Apple Watch, I feel I need to address the critics who have complained that this is the first Apple device with a learning curve. I disagree, and strongly so. Today’s smart phone has so many features and functional gestures that many of us have had time to learn incrementally as they were added. I’d like to hear the opinion of someone handed a modern smart phone for the first time at the age of 50. Let’s see how intuitive that is for them.
I like the home screen interface and don’t mind the small screen display of the apps. I’m much more disappointed at the limited function of many of the apps, but understand that’s going to be an issue.
I initially forgot to mention this, and it hold good potential for learning applications. Some have reported the Apple Watch is, “essentially a notifications device.” They apparently missed the control apps, specifically “Remote” and “Keynote”. I tested both of these watch-specific apps and loved how well they worked. Remote controls my Apple TV, and Keynote is effectively a remote control for Keynote on my iPad. The former lets me navigate through choices on the Apple TV and choose what to play. The latter allows me to move freely – hands-free (unlike my phone, which can also control Keynote), and make presentations from my iPad. Very cool stuff, and a hint of what’s possible for interactive training. I also imagine it could control security systems, thermostats, and other Internet of Things devices that have yet to be developed.
Wrapping it Up
So far, I like the watch and now experienced a few more days with it on my wrist. Here are a few observations:
- I had trouble finding a battery monitor. Just after the first 24 hours, I discovered Glimpses by swiping up on the watch face, and a battery monitor was included in there. I later discovered I could add a battery monitor in one corner of my clock face.
- Battery life after the first full day of use was at 64%. I was surprised after reports of short battery life. After the second full day of use, battery reserves were down to 40%, presumably due to adding apps to Glimpses and activating more notifications. I hadn’t noticed that I used the watch any more than the day before. Nonetheless, I removed Glimpses I didn’t really need and eliminated some useless notifications. We’ll see how that works to conserve battery power.
- Battery charging was not slow, despite previous reports. My watch charged from 40% to full charge in about an hour.
- Remembering that I intentionally avoided reading the owner’s pamphlet and skipped the online videos, I discovered that the red dot at the top of the clock face indicated unseen messages, and swiping down revealed them. This opened a new range of possibilities for me. Passbook, for example, offered my Starbucks card to scan when I was close to the store. Paying with my watch was greeted with more comments of, “That’s so cool!”
I don’t think the watch is cool. I think it is a well-thought-out piece of wearable technology. It was comfortable on my wrist, and looks attractive in its stainless steel case. What did strike me as odd was that there was no, “I want to play with this device all night long,” effect for me, as there has been for many other devices in the past. Apple Watch is, at its core, an accessory for the iPhone, and learning to use it effectively can’t really be done in leisure time – it needs to be done in the flow of work and other daily activities to personalize it for optimum benefit.
I can imagine some great uses similar to those imagined for Google Glass, such as proximity-dependent display of information such as in a museum. Time will tell whether such applications, or those yet-to-be-imagined, become useful, or if the resulting increased use of the display and Bluetooth tax on the battery life are sufficient to support them. Stay tuned for further developments.
If you have any questions, leave a comment or drop me a line.
Thanks for reading!
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Based on a work at tom.spiglanin.com.