Just finished day #4 with the Apple Watch. I keep getting asked what I think about it so I’m collecting my impressions here.
Some background: I’m not a watch guy. I have little interest in expensive mechanical watches and haven’t worn a watch since sometime in elementary school. If you want to read impressions from someone that knows about and likes nice watches, check out Marc van der Chijs’ impressions.
Why I bought it
It seems pretty obvious to me that computing devices are going to keep shrinking. Once we solve power and interface issues that make big phones the ideal today, we’ll look at photos and videos of today’s smartphones and they’ll look as ridiculous as the huge phones of the 1980s. I also think that it makes a lot of sense continuously collect and track data about our health.
Apple doesn’t come up with the ideas they revolutionize but has a track record of being the first-to-not-suck to market, so I thought it would be fun to try their take on wearables. We’ve been getting increasing requests for an iOS app for Pay4Bugs - perhaps a Watch app is also in our future.
The Physical Device
I bought the 38mm Apple Watch Sport with the white band. I was concerned that the size would be too small, but its the perfect size for someone like me who is 169 cm and thin.
- Sports band feels great and is very comfortable.
- Contacts button feels a bit loose which makes it feel cheap.
- Very light almost feels like its not there - which is what I wanted.
The first question I usually get is about the battery life. Battery life is absolutely fine. A 2 hour “outdoor walk” up and down a mountain with the workout app running uses about 20% of the battery.
I did experience a charging problem where the watch said it was charging when I went to bed yet woke up to find it at 5% power in power reserve mode. The culprit appears to have been using an old iPhone usb charger with the watch charging cable.
The interface for WatchOS seems well-thought out and easy to get the hang of and navigate around. Activate on wrist raise seems a bit buggy: sometimes the screen will light up and turn off after only a second or two when you intended to use it. I also had a problem with the Taptic engine where I couldn’t feel any haptic feedback for an entire day before I figured out restarting the phone solved the problem.
Uber - I’m usually with friends when I take Uber, so I always felt incredibly anti-social and silly walking around with my phone held in front of me like some sort of digital car metal detector waiting for the Uber to arrive. Uber on Apple Watch solves that - one big button to call your Uber and it displays the driver’s license plate when he arrives. No more need to ignore your friends.
Turn-by-Turn Directions on your Wrist - If you drive a motorcycle or scooter like me, Apple Watch changes everything. Before the Watch, I would have to periodically pull over to the side of the road (dangerous!), fish my phone out and memorize the next upcoming turns when going to a new destination. The end result being that I’ve spent a lot of time driving around Mong Kok and Sheung Wan in circles. Now, a brief glance at your risk tells you your next turn. Unfortunately, it uses Apple Maps which is pretty horrible in Hong Kong.
Music - I like being able to leave my phone in my bag or pocket and control my music. Previously, I would constantly be pulling my phone in and out to control music and get distracted by social media notifications. It’s also refreshing to be able to leave my phone at home and take a walk or run some errands away from notifications.
Apple Pay - I couldn’t believe Apple Pay could be even faster on a Watch - but it is. At places like McDonalds in Hong Kong, Apple Pay on Watch is even faster than pull your wallet out of your pocket and pay with Octopus. An impressive feat!
Alarm - I’m the type of person that only ever has one alarm set in the future. It’s annoying that asking Siri to “wake me up at 9am” creates a new alarm that sticks around after it goes off. Also, the alarm on the Watch is so quiet to almost be useless even for a very light sleeper. Would be great if alarms were mirrored on the phone.
Digital touch/iMessage - Digital touch didn’t really work for me. It’s also confusing how its suppose to work because there’s no indication in iMessage on other devices that a digital touch was sent (yet animated emojis show up). I’ve also been experience more iMessages issues than normal since the arrival of the Watch. I’m frequently seeing “delivery failed” when sending messages to contacts on my phone that are working fine from the watch & my mac.
FaceTime Audio - You can’t make FaceTime Audio calls from the watch only traditional phone calls. Most of my calls are over FaceTime Audio or Signal and my traditional phone calls are almost all international, for which I have to enter a dial around code in some countries to avoid being charged an arm and a leg. Calling from the Watch is pretty useless in its current state for me.
Authy - I was really looking forward to Authy on Apple Watch to put an end to searching for my phone every time I log into a site with two factor authentication. Unfortunately, the Authy watch app only shows the 2FA code when your phone is unlocked and the Authy phone app is open. That makes the Authy watch app rather useless.
I haven’t experienced most of the slow speed issues other people have complained about. I suspect much of it has to do with the pervasive very fast, low latency Internet here in Hong Kong. The weather glance updates current weather in about half a second, the map glance can take about a second or two to show the map. The slowest loading glance for me is the heartbeat glance which takes several seconds to show an up to date reading, but this is because it starts taking a new measurement when you swipe to the glance.
I’m a swimmer who is in the pool almost every day, so I’m very disappointed that I can’t use it to measure my swimming. Besides that, I really like the built in activity and workout apps - I’ve tried apps like runtastic and other apps targeted more at people who have things like gym memberships and lots of proper fitness equipment. They always seemed too fitness nerdy to me and I never liked that they wanted to store your workout data in the cloud.
Activity and its three concentric circle visualization makes it super easy to see at a glance how active you’re being in a particular day.
Wearing a watch again
The verdict is out on this one. The watch is lighter and smaller than I expected, so I’m not as bothered as I feared by it. On the other hand, in a humid climate like Hong Kong and as someone who is in and out of swimming pools very frequently, the moisture that builds up under the band is annoying and sometimes itchy.