I was recently gifted the Apple Watch by my girlfriend and despite my initial apprehensions, I love having this device strapped to my wrist. I was test-driving the Pebble watch before this and I have an analog and a digital watch I alternated between before that. But the Apple Watch definitely has blown all of those out of the water.
As my brother Nipun once said –
Cons of buying a smartwatch, now I cant buy regular watches anymore 🙁
— Nipun Khanna (@2Nipun) August 3, 2015
But how was my first week with the Apple Watch? I tracked the experience with daily entries to the DayOne app, made not using the Apple Watch but my iPhone in the usual way. Here are the entries, with modifications and notes in brackets –
Apple Watch Day 1:
Got this watch as a gift. I have been apprehensive about this watch since it came out. But having it on my wrist felt amazing!
I couldn’t believe the amazing software that has gone into making the watch. To sync the watch with my phone, I held the watch in front of my phone and the phone’s camera read some kind of pairing animation from the watch screen. This synced the two devices. The initial setup was simple and somewhat boring. Since I had way too many apps that support the watch (I’m so late to this game), it took a while for all the apps to transfer over to the watch over Bluetooth.
But once it was done, boy the experience! I started off with the standard watchface and the standard apps and I haven’t had reason to stray beyond them since then!
iMessage has many cool features associated with the watch but, as expected, it still doesn’t do voice to text very well. The feature where it reads through a text and understands the question (and prompts me to pick one) is just mind-blowing!
Late into the evening, the watch reminded me to get up and walk around as I’d been stationary for too long.
Of course, Apple maps still sucks. But the interface for using maps on the watch is amazing!
I’ve also installed shazam on the watch and hope to use it soon!
This entry was started on the watch, since I checked in at some random location through the watch. But the writing was done solely on my phone.
Check-in @ 9198 NE 9th St, Bellevue, Washington, United States
Apple Watch Day 2:
Charged my watch last night and the magnetic charger, though a tad bit flimsy, works wonderfully well. It charged the watch rather quickly.
Wore it in the morning after getting dressed. I needed to take an uber to the office but realized that there’s no uber app on the watch (of course there is. I was wrong on this point), so took out my phone. Realized that before this point, the idea that to use some services, an app had to be installed on the phone was the biggest irk (as opposed to using the mobile web) but now it’ll be the watch which will face this fate.
It’s been working pretty well all day. I turned it to silent and toned down the haptic feedback. Both those things are rather loud, something I didn’t expect from a watch.
Rearranged some apps and some glances. Then, an update for DayOne came through and I installed it. It seemed to be taking too long and I realized this must be because the phone is updating the watch DayOne app too. Something happened and the watch app is stuck in updating mode right now. I guess I’ll restart the phone and the watch to see if the update goes through.
Canceling notifications is not easy on the watch. It’s a slow two-step process and the animations make it rather slow. But then I realized I shouldn’t be doing that at all. All notification cancellation should happen on my phone.
Still haven’t changed my watchface. Not sure I want to. But then I realized that the default watchface gives too much attention to calendar events and not enough space to the time. I don’t have a lot of calendar events in my work, so I guess I should change the watch face. Also, it’s painfully difficult to get to the watchface modification screen. I guess I don’t have the gesture down correctly. (turns out that I’d forgotten that I need to force touch the screen to get to the edit screen)
Also, whatsapp notifications are useless on the watch. Oh, and, I’ve moved the apple watch app from somewhere in the boonies to the second page of my phone. I guess I’ll be using it a lot more now.
I also noticed the Apple logo on powering up the watch. It. Is. Marvelous.
Apple Watch Day 3:
Lady in the elevator noticed my watch when I approached to pet her dog. She asked me how I’m liking it and I told her frankly that it was only my third day but I was already loving it.
Also, I didn’t charge my watch last night. But had to charge my phone. So as of right now, my watch has run longer than my phone. That’s good enough battery life in my opinion. I’m not using it any different from my Pebble watch and that was giving me dismal battery life according to expectations.
I’ve received about 300 whatsapp messages since I charged the watch last and I’ve installed apps, updated them and let most features run rampant. I’ve not used glances much, and I reckon that’s what sucks the battery dry. I glance at the time just as often as I do on a standard watch. Since I sit in a cubicle, I muted my watch both days, so maybe not having to inform me loudly about every single thing is helping the battery.
I’ve not bothered with the heartbeat monitor either, though I hope it’s been recording the data regularly, since I did some brisk walking earlier and I hope that got accounted for.
The watch screen has not yet been scratched like my phone, but it gets smudgy easily.
Also, is it me or does the Nest app not have an Apple watch app? #opportunitylost
My watch nudged me to get up since I’ve been sitting since some time. I had ignored its request last night, so I obliged this time. After I’d walked out to the lobby to get some water, my watch nudged me again, this time to congratulate me on ‘having done it!’ It seems that standing up and moving around is an achievement of some kind. That’s good to know!
Apple Watch Day 4:
So, it rained today when I was coming back from lunch. Not rain rain, Seattle rain. So I guess I could have just ignored it. But then I thought of this expensive piece of electronics on my wrist that I would like to keep dry. I just turned my wrist upside down and the few molecules of water that must have touched the watch (that’s how much it rains in Seattle nowadays) surely did not affect it.
Sitting in a Starbucks, I heard a song I wanted to identify. I’ve been streamlining my shazam process (moved the shazam glance to a more appropriate spot) to make it ever more easier for me to get to it quickly. But then, when I needed it, two things happened –
- I realized that glances are really not that good at shifting from one screen to the next. Most of the time when I’m moving from one glance to another, it skips a screen. This happened just then too.
- Shazam, in the eternal crappiness that will forever define song identification, cannot listen-in from a glance. Tapping the shazam icon took me to the shazam ‘app’ (this did not try to open the shazam app on the phone, thank god for that, because that in itself is a whole new level of disaster) but on the watch itself. That means shazam launched on the watch, contacted the phone over Bluetooth and then got ready to listen to the music I needed. The song had finished by then.
Good thing the next song which played was also something I wanted to identify (no I did not. I knew the song. It’s the powerpuff girls theme song which was inexplicably playing on Starbucks radio. But once shazam has been beckoned, it’s a shame to not use it, much like a sword that once unsheathed must draw blood.)
As I walked home, the watch nudged me to tell me that I had completed the day’s calorie goal. That’s awesome! I want to screenshot that! Wait, can I even screenshot on the watch? Intuitively I pressed the dial button and friends button together and voila, screenshot automatically saved to the phone’s library! Thank you Apple for consistent user experiences.
Apple Watch Day 5:
As I drowse off, I realize that my watch is at 30% and I’ve not set it to ‘watch-only’ mode. Let’s see what happens to it tomorrow.
Apple Watch Day 6:
So yeah, woke up and the watch was dead. Wore it anyway and kept the charger with me to charge in the office.
It rained today, the heavy kind and I specifically took a sheltered path to go for lunch instead of running across the yard as I would have done had I been wearing a normal watch.
I’ve noticed that I’m not really doing a lot with the watch any more. I turned off whatsapp notifications, so at least now my wrist isn’t constantly buzzing. The only main notifications I get are Gmail and iMessage. There are a few others but I mostly ignore them.
While walking briskly, I tried lifting my wrist to see the time but the watch just wouldn’t come on. I tried it a few times and it didn’t respond the way it does when at rest. So I guess walking at a specific pace negates the motion the watch needs to activate the screen. Interesting problem to have.
I also feel that the basic watchfaces are really not that useful to me. I seriously have maybe 2 calendar events a week, so the default watchface just doesn’t make sense. I like to have my time at the center of the watch, with all other complications to the side. And I prefer digital time over analog. So I’m not sure any of the watchfaces fulfill my needs. I hope Apple lets third parties make watchfaces (or comes up with better watchfaces). Some serious innovation needed in this sphere. It’s quite apparent that for all the innovation they’ve put in the Motion watchface, among others, it’s just too personal a thing that Apple shouldn’t be controlling so much.
Apple Watch Day 7:
So, I took my watch for a hike today. It was an interesting experience. First of all, it’s fun to track your physical activity and heart rate with friends. I was constantly updating them about how much I was going above and beyond my daily activity. My watch was telling me at frequent intervals that I had completed 200, 300 and 400% of my day’s exercise goal (a fact I more than compensated for my doing absolutely no exercise over the next week). I also showed them how the heart rate monitor works and it led to some good discussion about the merits of the watch, which soon devolved into Apple vs Android, so there’s that.
The watch performed exceptionally well throughout the journey. I was using the Walkmeter app on my phone and using my watch to monitor the progress. Both devices worked wonderfully in conjunction, specially since I saw rather happily that the watch was not being used by the Walkmeter app to do any tracking, only reporting (because smartwatches are notoriously bad at tracking steps). As soon as I went to the app on my watch, it contacted its master on my phone to get the latest stats.
Sadly enough, my phone was not at full charge at the beginning of the hike and so, at somewhere just after the 5th mile, my phone died and my watch became orphaned for the time. It could not report the weather on the basic watchface and I think that had I turned on one of the apps, it would have turned me away, reminding me that the phone is not available. I did not try because I was dead tired from that long hike and least bothered with such issues as what the watch would say if I tried to make it do something it could not.
When I finished the trek and got back home and finally put everything to charge, my phone came back and one of the first notifications I got was from the Jawbone UP app, congratulating me on the awesome 18 mile hike I went for today. Clearly, the app was very confused and probably using multiple sources and depending on faulty GPS data. Turns out, the faulty data was coming from my watch, which it seems, got confused from all the movement I was doing. It reported that I took 30,377 steps and that equated to 18.48 miles somehow. The Walkmeter app, on the other hand, was able to get a pretty good estimate of 5.76 miles before my phone died. I’m sure I covered at least 2 miles after that. Lesson from that is that a professional app like Walkmeter using the phone as its primary source will definitely do better than the watch for movement tracking and so, unless Apple can solve that problem, they should allow for Watch tracking to defer to third-party app tracking based on my approval, so I can get more accurate readings for my activities.
Later, sitting with friends, I was tinkering with my watch and I realized that I had turned on the passcode when I had first setup the watch. I tried turning it off but it turns out the option is disabled on my watch (and the watch management app). This seems to be in deference to my phone. Since my phone has company email and I can’t turn off the passcode there, my watch is forced to keep the passcode on as well. This is only because of mail, which sends notifications to the watch.
I have always enjoyed owning a watch. I see a lot of Apple watch reviews from people who had abandoned watches completely and so, for them, it is more a tech gadget than a watch. Not so for me. A watch occupies an important space on my wrist and in my consciousness and so it must do important things. I love how I don’t have to flick my wrist to see the time (as I had to in the Pebble). I can simply turn it around to face me and all the information I could ask for is right there.
I’m not completely happy with it. I would love it if there was a watchface that put digital time in the center, with all complications on the side, including the calendar, instead of relegating time to the side the way the watch does in all digital watchfaces. I have played with other watchfaces but Utility and Modular remain my go-to, with Utility and it’s beautiful analog dial playing my current favorite. I have never really been a fan of the sweeping seconds hand, primary because when silence falls, I enjoy listening to the seconds tick away on my wrist, but with the silence of the modern mobile era, I’ve gotten used to my devices not making any sounds and thus Utility fits in perfectly.
One of the things I do with my non-IOT time pieces is that I push them a few minutes ahead from the actual time. This gives me the small advantage of being a little ahead of my appointments and deadlines. It’s just my simple way of getting some discipline in my life. When my dependence on my phone grew, the importance of automatically syncing timezone and daylight savings caused me to really think about what to do here. I decided that I would let my phone tell me the absolute right time while my wristwatch would lie to me as I needed it to.
With the Pebble, again, the importance of synced time took over and when I got the Apple Watch, I had this dread that I would not be able to maintain that habit I so enjoy. Imagine my surprise, then, when I noticed a small feature in the watch settings. I have the option of moving the time on the watch by a few minutes in either direction. Now, the same feature technically exists in my phone and Pebble watch, but in what form? If I set the time manually in those devices, it becomes static, ignoring time zones and DST. It would also affect alarms and thus be more pain than good.
But the Apple Watch promises that I will get notifications on the correct time and I suspect this means that any time the time changes, the watch will overlay my preferences on top of that. I cannot stress how much I am blown away from this feature. I love it. This alone makes this watch worth it, simply because you know that the design team sitting in Apple’s offices is smart enough to study human behavior and inculcate it into this infinitely personal device. This respect that they have shown for the ways of the old is amazing and worthy of noticing.
So, is the Apple Watch worth it? I’m not sure I am fit to answer that question, since it was gifted to me. But is the Apple Watch good? Yes. There’s no other way of putting it. It manages to show me notifications in a predictable and comfortable fashion. It alerts me to phone calls when my phone is on the table or deep in my pockets and I’m busy with something. It shows me the time in a very elegant and very real manner, something I expected of Apple, but haven’t seen in a long time, since their time display on the iPhone is a static digital watch that I have no control over.
It even has some quirky and interesting features. My brother was pointing out to me the other day that the dial is on the right, which means it’s for people who wear the watch on their left hands. It didn’t strike me right then, but if I change the orientation, I can flip the watch around and wear it on my right wrist too. There’s a lot for me to still figure out about this device. There’s watchOS 2 coming out soon and I’m sure there are some rather interesting features for me to discover there too. But as a watch? As a watch, I’ve figured it out. It’s a great watch. That’s all you really need to know.