Tomorrow will be the end of my first week with the Apple Watch. During that time, I’ve struggled to come to grips with becoming someone who wears a watch on a daily basis. My original purchase was made without the benefit of a try-on. I’m not sold on the model I selected, so the result has been further time spent gazing at the watch options on the Apple Store coupled with a second try-on at the Huntington, NY location, which was markedly better than the first at a different store. The sheer number of choices when it comes to sizes, bands and materials makes for an incredibly complex purchase. The last week has been fun. It started with an unboxing on Periscope and since then, the experience has been filled with ups, downs and a few surprises. Real life, meet Apple Watch.
1. I’ll use it for calls
You can make or take phone calls with the Apple Watch. It’s the one feature that while necessary, didn’t seem like it was going to be a good fit for me. Dick Tracy be damned. Why would I use my watch, when I’ve got a perfectly good iPhone 6? When life takes over, sometimes the watch makes more sense. I’ve got a 2-month old baby, and where I can, I try to chip in and help my wife with the feedings. The little-man likes to consume a bottle or 12. It’s not uncommon for me to be holding him, while my iPhone is out of reach. On more than one occasion, the watch would ring. I’ve been able to take calls and have conversations, all while not disrupting the boy. The call quality is surprisingly good, on both ends. I went in thinking I would not use it as a phone. As it turns out, I like talking calls on the watch and will use it often for this purpose.
2. Battery is not a concern
People I’ve talked to have all asked about battery life. Concerns are likely driven by real issues with iPhone battery life and no shortage of media coverage on this topic, much of which wasn’t driven by actually using the watch. I haven’t torture tested the battery. Instead I’ve used the watch as intended, to be an ancillary device with my iPhone. Apple has done a fantastic job extending battery life on the Apple Watch. My custom watch faces have, up until now, contained a read out with battery levels. I have never reached the point in day where it goes into Power Reserve. This includes a fair amount of notifications, texting, app usage and phone calls. Battery life is less of concern on Apple Watch than it is on the iPhone.
3. I use my iPhone about the same
The Apple Watch certainly helps fill a few gaps when either I don’t have my iPhone or the watch is easier to access. Having said that, I don’t see my iPhone usage going down. It still remains a critical part of my digital ecosystem. If anything, there are times when I’m alerted to a notification, which causes me to look around for my iPhone. And if it goes missing in my house, which isn’t uncommon, the ping iPhone feature is killer. If you’re planning to use your iPhone less, I wouldn’t bank on it.
4. Apple Care may not be a bad idea
I passed on Apple Care, but have been re-thinking my decision. That seems to be the norm with just about everything related to my Apple Watch purchase. I’m pretty good at caring for my products. I’m the guy at the party who will point out if someone’s phone is too close to a beverage. I’m intent on returning my current watch (more on that later), so it needs to get through these first two weeks unscathed. Despite being careful, my watch took the side of a wall earlier today. I was doing nothing but coming up a stairwell and my arm swung a little too much and boom. I breathed a sigh of relief and noted the incident, with the off-chance that maybe I could find a way to be more careful. I doubt it and it’s the reason why I’m definitely going with the harder sapphire display and considering Apple Care. I’ve also seen more than a handful of Sport owners complaining of scratched displays.
5. You Need To Twist
The display is off, until you twist your wrist. It’s not necessary to move your arm. There have been a number of times when I want to look at the watch, with more of a flick of my wrist. You need to do a fairly big twist to get the display on. This works as intended, given the steps taken to insure great battery life. I do wish there was a setting for watch display sensitivity. I’d trade some of the battery life for the ability to have quick glances, with little effort.
6. Apps Can Be Slow
For a day or so, I took my own advice and avoided the app glut. But then it was time to jump into the app pool, starting with apps I had already installed on my iPhone. By now, I’ve got a good relationship with this apps and they certainly enhance the day to day with my phone. In the short time I’ve used third party apps, I’ve experienced some good and some bad. Let’s start with the glass half-full. Apps that don’t try to do too much excel on Apple Watch. Instead of being full-bore programs, they feel like widgets, but on my wrist. I had hopes going in, that the watch would be the perfect companion to a smart home and I wasn’t disappointed. The Philips Hue app lets you turn on a scene with a single tap or turn off all of your lights. Alarm.com also focused on making their watch app do one thing and doing it fast. You can disable or enable your home alarm, in seconds.
On the flip side, there are apps which act more like a full version of their sibling apps. One example would be a prominent weather app I’ve started using. It’s fantastic on the iPhone and the developer tried to bring much of that functionality to Apple Watch. In doing do, it results in the watch struggling to pull all of that data from the iPhone. Making matters worse, I’ve had instances where the watch display would time out three times before seeing any information. To be fair, I don’t fault the developers. This probably works great in the Watch SDK. Developers have been asked to create apps for a product they haven’t used. And those who ordered a watch, may not have one yet due to supply issues.
7. It’d be nice to dismiss notifications on iPhone
As we outlined in our Apple Watch Notifications guide, you can clear all notifications using force touch. It’s awesome and something I’d love to see on the iPhone 6s. That aside, these devices are attached at the hip. When I dismiss a notification on the watch, in theory that should carry over to the iPhone. Notification overload is a big enough concern when using multiple devices. Being able to sync notification actions across devices would be a nice addition to iOS 9.
8. There is no Reminders app
You can ask Siri to remind you of something at a location or time. “Hey Siri, remind me to flip the burgers in 5 minutes.” That’s great, but where’s a full-fledged Reminders app? Oddly enough, there is a setting in the companion app to ‘mirror my iPhone’. My wife and I use Reminders to share grocery lists. We have one for Costco, Target and the grocery store. They work great. When scrambling around the store, I’d love to be able to use the watch to view my reminders. This seems like an opportunity lost.
9. Stock is where it’s at
The stock apps work very well. If Apple didn’t allow third party apps, this would still be a remarkably useful device. I’ve found the stock apps to be fast, efficient and well thought out. Messaging in particular is effortless and I’ve found Siri’s ability to dictate messages to be quite good. For a 1.0 product, the software works well, despite it having a slightly more difficult learning curve than iOS.
10. The 42mm is what you want
When you look at photos of hairy wrists across the Internet, the Apple Watch looks big. In reality, these are more like small and medium versions. Unless you have a freakishly small wrist, I’d say go for the 42mm watch. It’s not that much bigger than the 38mm, but enough that you’ll appreciate the larger display. But don’t just take my word. Take the time schedule a try-on appointment at your local Apple Store and see which watch works best for you.
At some point, we’ll have a full review, but these have been my takeaways after a week with Apple Watch. What’s been your experience?