Apple Watch Experiences

I speculated before the Apple Watch was announced, and apart from the high end pricing, I think I came pretty close to what was ultimately released. It’s been 5 months now, and I’ve had my own Sport Edition since May, so it feels time to write about it again.

As a Pebble user since the original Kickstarter, and a happy one at that, the Apple Watch wasn’t a difficult purchase decision. I even switched from an Android handset back to an iPhone 6S so that I could use it. But the common question I get whenever people see me with it is “any good?” and even after 4 months, I’m still not sure I have a good answer.

Notifications are the bread and butter of the smart watch world, that was my main use case for the Pebble, and continues to be my main use case for the Apple Watch. I get a lot of server notifications from our Nagios monitoring system throughout the day, and getting those on my watch is genuinely useful. As are WhatsApp notifications when my wife is asking me to pick up milk, or when my NAS finishes downloading a file. For those apps that extend their notifications to be actionable, being able to approve my Duo Security two-factor push notifications without taking the phone out of my pocket is also great.

Battery life is also just fine, always making it through a day without a problem, almost two days at a push. I don’t find the user-interface confusing or difficult to understand, but I do sometimes find force touch unresponsive and I had to ratchet the Taptic engine up to full strength before I could feel alerts properly. The fitness features aren’t much more comprehensive than the Garmin fitness tracker I wore before, and in the area of actually being a clock, yes it tells the time just fine.

And now we’ve reached that point where I’m unsure what else to say about it. Not everyone is going to find notifications helpful, and even the most basic Casio watch can tell the time just fine. Apple call this the most personal product they’ve ever made, but I don’t think that’s because everyone can see it on your body, I think it’s because it’s usefulness is so varied from person to person.

I have a whole bunch of apps installed, but I never feel any reason to launch any of them. The slowness of launch and the random failures of not launching at all is definitely a factor in that, issues that I would hope are resolved by Watch 2.0 later this year, but even if they launched instantly, I’m still not sure what I do with them. Holding up the Shazam app to identify a song from your wrist is cool, but I find Shazam only useful about twice a year as it is. I don’t need to know the weather often enough that I need it right there at all times, and I never have a reason to follow directions, set alarms or timers, check stocks or view my Instagram feed on a tiny display.

For all intents and purposes, the entire screen of apps is pointless to me. Much the same as it was on the Pebble. I’ve used the directions once, and it worked pretty well, using different styles of tap on my wrist so I could tell when it wanted me to go left or right without looking at the screen – but the experience wasn’t that much better than just holding my phone out in front of me.

A whole button for communication? Never needed to use it. Ability to send drawings to other Apple Watch users? Don’t know anybody else with one. Apple Pay? Super futuristic when you use it, hobbled by lack of contactless payments at the shops I visit, and the £20 limit when I do. Siri? Something I wish was smarter, but constantly mis-understands me, or can’t do what I want anyway.

It doesn’t paint a rosy picture of a device that starts at £300.

Yet I put it on every day, and I like my notifications, and I miss it when it’s not on. That’s the real reason it’s personal, because it’s mine and I don’t want to give it away.

Just don’t ask me if it’s any good, because I still don’t think I have a good answer for you.