The Apple Watch is the Only Watch I Want to Wear
For this tech-obsessed developer, the Apple watch wins
For this tech-obsessed developer, the Apple watch wins
I finally had the opportunity to get my hands on Apple’s latest addition to its product line: the Apple Watch. I purchased the 42mm stainless-steel version, with the black leather classic buckle. I also got an additional sports band for running and other fitness-related activities. In this post I will be covering my experience with the watch after one week of integrating it into my daily routines.
Unboxing the watch was quite the experience. The first thing I noticed was that the watch comes in an all-too-familiar square white box that has a very premium feel, something many users will definitely appreciate. The quality of the watch itself surprised me a bit, as it looks much better in person than it does in photos. Although I’m not a big fan of the square face and overall shape of this watch, I must admit that it looks pretty slick—it’s definitely not something you’d find in a cereal box.
Setting up the watch was fairly easy; however, when I turned it on I noticed the boot-up time was somewhat slow—about a minute and a half. Thankfully, the pairing process with the phone was seamless and I was able to start using the watch right away. iOS 8.3 comes with an Apple Watch app, which is your main hub to control how you want your watch to function. I soon found out that every notification already enabled in my iPhone was showing up on the watch, which was very distracting. Thankfully I was able to turn off those individual app notifications from displaying on the watch, keeping only the ones that were more relevant and immediate for me: calendar, email, texts and calls.
The user interface on the watch, along with its multiple forms of inputs, can be a bit confusing to the average user. In the beginning, I myself wasn’t too sure how to navigate the multiple sections of the watch: watch face, home screen, glances, notifications and contact screen.
There are multiple ways of interacting with the Apple Watch: by touch, by press touch, with the digital crown, and through the contact button. It’s not a particularly complicated interface, but it is very different from what I’m used to using on my iPhone and iPad. It took a couple of days to get the hang of it. However, after a few days, users should have no trouble using the watch; in fact, they will most likely know how to use it very well. They may even come to expect not-so-obvious inputs, like touch-press, to provide them with additional functionality. This is something that app developers should keep in mind when building apps for the Apple Watch; the screen real estate on this device is very small, so it makes sense to take advantage of every layer of interactivity available to the user.
There are currently more than 3500 Apple Watch-compatible apps in Apple’s App Store. In order to quickly access this collection, users must go to the Apple Watch on their iPhones. To my surprise, I did not need to download any new apps for the watch—every Apple Watch app that I was interested in was already on my iPhone.
All Apple Watch apps are extensions of iPhone apps, providing an additional layer where one can access information quickly, right from your wrist. I was thankful that Philips Hue, Transit, Uber, Strava and Deliveries already supported the Apple Watch. On the other hand, since I no longer use iTunes for music, I was devastated when I realized that Spotify did not yet offer Apple Watch compatibility.
Third-party apps on the watch rely heavily on a direct connection with an iPhone via Bluetooth. This communication can be somewhat slow. I found myself staring at the watch screen longer that I would like as it tried to connect to third-party iPhone apps. While at times this process is pretty quick, it often takes longer than 12 seconds and it can be somewhat uncomfortable to keep your arm at a 90-degree angle for that long, especially when you’re in the middle of a walk or run. Hopefully Apple will improve some of the connection delays in upcoming Watch OS updates.
There are two main ways of using the Apple Watch: as a means of viewing information like notifications, weather and news headlines, and as a new way of engaging and interacting with different features, from phone calls and text messages, to video games and other activity-type apps. It’s similar to what I already do on my iPhone, but it almost feels as if this new, smaller screen on my wrist takes over to some degree. On one hand, the watch seems like the perfect place for glancing information quickly. On the other hand, my iPhone is what I want to use to complete more complex or involved tasks. Both devices have overlapping features, but their strengths become clearer as you use them in unison. Personally, I think that the Apple Watch’s true strength and benefit come from being able to access information quickly, combined with sensorial data (although Apple still does not provide an open API for many of the sensors in the watch) and haptic feedback. A good example is when using Apple Maps on the watch. The app provides me with a different tap sequence on my wrist (haptic feedback) when it’s time to turn right or left. Once I arrive at my destination, I could feel a continuous vibration. This is an excellent example of how the sensors in the watch can be leveraged in a useful, creative and effective way.
As I mentioned before, the available screen real estate is insufficient for most tasks, but it’s just enough to consume snippets of information that are relevant to the user. I would not be surprised if most consumers end up using the Watch simply to have information available at a glance, with little interaction. Brands should focus on providing these types of solutions that are more information/notification focused. One strong example is The New York Times Apple Watch app, which condenses stories to one-sentence headlines, enabling the user to understand what the article is about with merely a glance, and then save the rest for later reading. These kinds of apps will also tend to leverage the built-in “Glances” screen in the Watch. “Glances” are accessible by swiping up from the watch face. This section allows the user to see tiles of information, with no interaction required other than opening the corresponding app on tap. Delta Airlines and Transit provide examples of how “Glances” can be put to good use by giving the user quick but very important flight details and public transit schedules.
Smart homes are becoming increasingly popular as technology advances, and there are instances where some smart home devices can be remotely controlled from your smartphone. The Apple Watch is perfectly suited for this use case. In my case, my house is setup with Hue Bulbs, Nest Thermostat and a Smart Lock. My home is the one place where my iPhone is not near me at all times, but the watch is always strapped to my wrist. This simple fact allows me to comfortably control my lights without reaching for my phone or a physical light switch. I only wish I could also control all of my other connected devices.
Unfortunately, at the moment, only a couple of smart home system manufacturers provide Apple Watch-compatible apps, but we can expect this to change in the near future as we see this concept extend to smart thermostats, security cameras, smart locks and other devices.
The Apple Watch truly shines as a fitness tracker. I ordered a separate sports band for fitness activities, since the leather band will definitely get damaged with sweat and rain. The watch uses the heart rate and accelerometer sensors to track intensity as well as distance for multiple activities such as running, walking, rowing, cycling and elliptical. I’m used to going for runs without carrying my phone with me, and with the Apple Watch all it took was lifting my wrist to access my heart rate, distance, racing time, calories burned and goal completion.
Although the watch was sufficient for my fitness activities, as I mentioned before I was not able to listen to music using Spotify. Instead I had to sync a couple of playlists to my iTunes and then transfer selected playlists to the watch. Hopefully, in the near future, it will be possible to sync playlists directly from Spotify and other third-party music libraries. Needles to say, wireless headsets are required to be able to listen to music directly from the watch.
On the other hand, about 3.3 million fitness bands were sold in the U.S. from March 2013 to 2014 (according to the NDP Group). Millions of users already own a fitness band, and they may be quite satisfied with the hardware/software combo they are currently using. However, if any of these users want to use their Apple Watch while still leveraging software from their favorite fitness apps, this is not yet possible. Unfortunately, third-party fitness apps aren’t able to access some of the Apple Watch hardware, like the heart-rate sensor and accelerometer, but we should expect that to change in the future. The technology available in the watch would allow fitness apps like Strava to provide more accurate readings, leveraging the accelerometer and gyroscope from a device attached to your wrist—as opposed to the phone in your pocket. Additionally, existing fitness band manufacturers like Fitbit would also be able to create apps for the watch that will keep users within their software ecosystem, and even consolidate data between the Apple Watch and their fitness band.
Though the Apple Watch has a lot of potential, there are currently some issues that need to be addressed. Further enhancements will be needed during the next software and hardware iterations. More third-party support, home kit integration and open APIs for most of the watch’s hardware and watch faces would help improve the product’s current state.
However, regardless of its current limitations, the Apple Watch is expected to have sold about 1.7 million units in the U.S. Many companies already provide iOS-compatible apps, and so to extend this existing software to the watch is only natural. This is new software territory. Brands should take advantage of the fact that this is a new product with barely any available software, as it is a chance for them to strengthen their connection to their consumers by providing them with new and unique ways to engage. Being one of the first to capitalize on this new technology may directly influence consumers’ purchase decisions. Currently, new Apple Watch apps face significantly less competition within their respective categories when compared with the iPhone and the iPad.
After spending one week with the watch, I decided to stop wearing it to see if I would miss the utility and comfort it provided me during these past few days. Needles to say, I kept raising my blank wrist in disappointment. I found it very inconvenient to have to fetch my iPhone just to find out the temperature, or when my next appointment was. I also went back to my old self, constantly missing text messages when my iPhone was on silent mode. My workout and activity records for that day were nowhere to be found. More importantly, random strangers in the street no longer kept asking me if I was wearing an Apple Watch. It was just a sad day in general. That’s why I put it back on 4 hours later.
Personally, I feel that this watch provides a higher level of convenience in comparison to conventional watches, which tend to act more like expensive bracelets. It is also a great fitness device – one that you feel equally comfortable wearing to a workout session, or to a nice dinner.
Overall, I believe that the Apple Watch is a solid product that will find its way into the lifestyles of many consumers.