A couple of months ago I ruminated on what the Apple Watch could and couldn’t do (as indicated by Apple’s own descriptions, since the watch itself wasn’t out yet). I also ruminated on what it seemed to be doing right and what it was doing wrong. Now that I’ve actually had one for a bit and have been using it daily, some of my thoughts have changed. Some for the better, and some for the worse.
So it’s time to take a look back at what I got right (ha-ha!) and what I got wrong (boo!).
The Cynical Stuff
Actually talking to people from your wrist
The Reality: Very limited usefulness
My initial problem with the Dick Tracy-style wrist communication of the Apple Watch was that I viewed it as nothing more than a passing fad that people would get sick of in short order. In truth, I got sick of it even sooner than that because holding your wrist up to your face for extended periods of time is both annoying and tiring.
I’ll admit it has very limited usefulness, though. For example, if your phone isn’t right next to you and you receive a call, you can pick up using the watch and keep the conversation going until you get to your phone and switch over. Other than that it’s not a particularly worthwhile feature.
Responding to text messages
The Reality: Kind of convenient
This is where I think I was a bit too quick to judge, honestly. I scoffed at the idea of prefab responses and dictation instead of typing, but in actuality I’ve found it’s actually kind of helpful. Granted I feel like too much of a doofus to dictate text responses in public (you have to say punctuation out loud, like “How are you doing question mark”), but it can be nice for quick replies. The voice recognition is also incredibly good, which means there’s very little need to repeat yourself. It’s still not safe to do while driving though, since you have to look at the watch screen to select responses.
Looking at photos
The Reality: Extremely limited
I’ll admit that pictures look good on the Apple Watch screen, partly because it’s so tiny, but despite looking nice it’s still not a very useful feature. The small screen isn’t ideal for displaying images like that, and you have to contort your wrist (or remove the watch entirely) in order to show stuff to anybody that doesn’t want to get uncomfortably close.
As a way to view photos other people send you in a text or something, it’s not bad. As a way of showing other people your photos, it’s not good.
Sketch, Tap, and Heartbeat
The Reality: Why is this still a thing?
At the time I thought all three of these features would end up being relatively pointless. None of that has changed. Not only are they little more than passing curiosities, they also aren’t even an option in the first place unless your contact has their own Apple Watch. Actually, you also have to go into your settings and add specific contacts to your Friends list for the Apple Watch. So there’s an extra step involved. If anything I think I like this idea even less now.
”Stand up” reminders
The Reality: Much appreciated
This is another thing I’m surprised to find I don’t actually hate. My initial concern was that the constant poking and reminding would get obnoxious, but it really doesn’t. There have been a few times when I’ve been busy and opted to ignore the notifications, but they aren’t insistent or repetitive - they go off once and that’s it for the hour. The tone and strength of the watch’s ‘tapping’ are also soft enough that they don’t become grating. In all honesty I’ve grown to appreciate these reminders since I spend most of my day sitting in front of a computer. The prompts to stand up and stretch for a minute have been nice.
The magnetic charger
The Reality: Very handy
Silly me. Here I was thinking it would be something of a hassle to hunt for the Apple Watch’s charging cable at the end of the night and get the watch hooked up to it, but in reality it’s almost as fast as simply placing the watch on my nightstand. The weight of the disk-shaped charging end of the cable is heavy enough to keep it from sliding off the surface and into that crack between the stand and the wall, so no cable-hunting is required. And because of the magnet inside of it you don’t even have to line the watch up to get a connection - it just snaps into place.
The Optimistic Stuff
The Reality: Needs work
I still believe that being able to customize the Apple Watch’s face will be an important feature to many, but at the moment what we have is extremely limited. A few minor elements can be tweaked on some presets, but there aren’t any real significant changes that can be made. I’m still holding out hope that Apple will expand these options - or that we’ll see some clever third party apps that find a way around it.
The Reality: Not bad
It’s no surprise that the Apple Watch uses a different sort of interface from other iOS devices. The touch screen functionality is a bit limited due to its size (pinching to zoom and stuff like that simply wouldn’t work well) but being able to give it a firm press opens up a few more possibilities. As does the inclusion of the digital crown that can be turned, pressed, double-pressed, and held, along with the side button that can be pressed, double-pressed, and held. More apps could stand to incorporate these interface elements, but it’s a lot more versatile than you’d think. It also doesn’t take very long to get used to.
Health & fitness stuff
The Reality: Disappointing
I didn’t really expect the Apple Watch to take the fitness world by storm, but I figured it would make more of a splash than it has. It does manage to get a few things right in terms of accessibility - such as with Workout and Activity - but it needs more than a couple of easy-to-use apps if it’s going to compete with the other more focused fitness devices out there.
The Reality: Scary easy
With more and more places accepting Apple Pay, it makes sense for Apple to include it with the Apple Watch. It’s also even easier to use with the watch (as opposed to an iPhone) since the watch is always at the ready and all you have to do to enable Apple Pay is double-press the side button, wait for the prompt, then wave your wrist over the scanner. It’s just as secure on one device as it is on the other, but what’s spooky is just how easy it is to wave your hand and buy a thing. It’s almost as alarming as Amazon’s 1-Click Ordering.
Reasonable battery life
The Reality: Better than expected
Some have been lamenting the Apple Watch’s battery life, but in my experience it’s never been a problem. This could be because I received my watch after the first run, or it could be because some people use their watch a lot more throughout the day than I do. Regardless, I’ve found that with regular use - things like checking the time/weather, viewing and responding to messages, getting Activity updates, and so on - I can go a full two days without needing a charge. That’s pretty impressive.
The Reality: Decent for glances
I have to say that being able to glance at my wrist to check a map is a fair bit more convenient than having to pull out my phone - especially in a crowded area. It’s also handy to be able to use dictation to find and set destinations. The only problem is that the lack of any real text entry makes adjustments or corrections kind of problematic. Still, it’s a pretty handy method of finding your way around.
The Reality: On-point
I almost never use Siri on my iPhone but I’ve found it to be extremely useful for the Apple Watch, what with the whole not having a keyboard thing. It does an impressive job of recognizing speech, and it works quite well as a way to jump straight into an app with the relevant info you need rather than having to open it up and input things directly. Once third party apps become more prevalent we might need a way to tweak what apps Siri opens by default, though.