in tech

Recently, I completed four years of owning the Apple Watch, and today, my watch told me that I’m 75% of the way to completing a thousand move goals.

I think it’s a good time to talk about the Apple Watch. I own the original, first-gen, Series Zero, the one that doesn’t support the latest WatchOS, and doesn’t calculate resting heart rate, because, according to Apple, it doesn’t have the battery to support that function. But that’s OK. I can’t miss something I’ve never had.

Very soon into owning the Apple Watch, I knew I had to make some compromises. Only a few days in, I had to turn off notifications for WhatsApp, because watchOS had no notion of grouping notifications. Progressive improvements may have made things better, but this year is anyways the year when I’ve sworn to remove as many notifications as possible from every device I own.

I also realized, as the watchOS version number increased as frequently as it did, that there is probably a hard stop to when my watch will no longer be supported. I think iOS 13 is that time. The watch might still work, but OS support will drop, apps will stop working, and eventually, Apple will kick this device to the curb. My next phone might not even support this elegant piece of hardware that I’ve strapped to myself for most of the last four years.

But till that happens, I can enjoy what I’ve got – the watch is pretty great at recording my calorie burn – I’ve compared it with OrangeTheory’s Mio Link devices and I can’t say whether that’s a testament to Mio Link or the Apple Watch. The watch is also great at notifications for things that are timely. Sometimes, I’ve noticed that when I’m intensely focused on something, I’ll ignore notifications, even though I’ve set them on the highest vibration. But other times, noticing a notification right as I need it is great!

Over time, I’ve removed apps and features from the watch. I used to let the Watch app install pretty much every iOS app’s corollary to the watch, but that’s just taking space, unnecessary processing, and battery. After removing all but the most essential apps, the battery life almost doubled for me. At this moment, I have a total of three third-party apps on the Watch, out of which one is for near-daily use, while the other two are purely for navel gazing.

Apple introduced some new features to the WatchOS at some point, including a feature called theater mode. The reasoning was that the watch would turn on at inconvenient times, say in the dark, when watching a movie, and this would prevent that. I have a few thoughts on that. First of all, within a few days of owning the watch, while on a walk, I tried to raise my wrist to wake the screen. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get it to work! Somehow, my walking was completely negating the action of raising my wrist. I had to hard stop to get the watch to work, and I wasn’t even walking fast, it was a leisurely stroll. Since that day, I’ve had this gripe – the Apple Watch needs to grow up and join other watches in letting me see the time any time of the day. Until that happens, until Apple launches an OLED version that includes always-on (something that is glaringly missing in the latest, most expensive iPhones ever), the Apple Watch is NOT a watch.

Secondly, what kind of execs and movie-goers work at Apple? What amount of gesticulating do you do in your average movie? Just wondering.

Lastly, Apple advertised the watch as being able to wake up 90 times in an 18 hour day. This is nice, specially since that’s far more than the number of times you probably actually look at the time on your watch. But all those times that the watch misfires because it didn’t read your intent correctly are lost chances, are they not? So instead of releasing theater mode, I’d much rather Apple work on improving battery life. Now that Mr. Thinner-than-before is out the door, maybe this will come to pass? (Incidentally, turning off raise-to-wake is one of the things recommended by blogs to improve your watch’s battery life, and frankly, that is a stupid and terrible idea. If you have to tap the device every, single, time, to look at the time, just use your iPhone.)

The Apple Watch is a great piece of technology, but there’s one more thing that irks me to this day – that the time is relegated to the side. I don’t know if this is a patent issue, or just a design philosophy, where the time is the time, but the other features are what are supposed to matter. But the fact that Apple embraces this idea that the digital watchface must put everything other than the time in the center is a far cry from what I expected the Apple Watch ethos to be.

This is not an ode to the Apple Watch, nor, hopefully, just a list of gripes. I love this watch. It’s got a simple set of features that matter to me, and the price is just right for something I’ve worn for four years and can continue wearing for another four at least. A few years ago, I wanted the milanese loop band pretty badly, so I bought one off Amazon for a couple bucks. You know, those ones that ship from China and take a couple weeks to get here. It was such a bad experience that I swore off third party bands completely, wearing only the original that came with the watch. Recently, I changed bands, and this new band, though it is a complete mismatch for the watch color, feels pretty great and sits well! I feel like I’ve given the watch a new lease of life, even though the original band still works perfectly and sits on my side-table, vacantly staring into the abyss.

There’s not much else to say about the Apple Watch at this time – the latest hardware features that Apple introduced – the larger screen, and the ECG, are novelties which I wouldn’t ‘upgrade’ for. If they introduce something like a glucose monitor, or, like, a thermometer – anything that enables an elevated level of idle introspection – then I’ll consider buying the next watch that comes out, and only when this one is all but dead.

Till that day, I charge it every day, even though nowadays the battery lasts me a day and a half (I’ve reduced animations on the watch, which greatly helped my sanity, and the battery), wear it every day, and still grumble when it dies on me mid-hikes. I wanted to write exclusively about the Apple Watch, without once mentioning traditional watches, but I want to say just one thing – I’ve seen this watch on almost every wrist lately – from service industry workers, to gig economy laborers, to bloggers, to world travelers. The Apple Watch is versatile, but maybe it’s still attractive only to those people who have always worn watches. After all, keeping track of time is not something everyone bothers with, is it?

What do you think?

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