Apple Watch First Impressions


I realise that every one has written one of these posts, but given that everyone looks for and notices different things, I think it is still valid.

My first impression was “Why does it come in such a large box?”. The courier delivered two boxes - my 38mm Apple Watch Sport and Tim’s 42mm Apple Watch Sport. They both came in long boxes, with the 42mm box significantly longer. And both boxes were heavy!


Un-boxing:

Opening them was a typical Apple experience: pull the tag to open the external cardboard box, lift out the white internal box. This opens to reveal the watch with the default strap attached (short for 38mm, long for 42mm). Lift the watch out and pull the tags to remove the plastic protective coating. (On a side note, it drives me crazy when people leave this coating on devices, but I can’t see this happening on the watch.) Underneath there is a sleeve containing the other half watch strap so you can swap from long to short. My family tells me that this also includes a user guide, but I didn’t read that - typical Apple user… Under the sleeve is the power block and charging cable. The charging puck is larger than I expected and the cable is very long. Having removed all the components, the packaging is still quite heavy, so I guess Apple just wanted to make sure that no watches were damaged in transit and that it felt like a quality product.


Pairing:

Pairing my watch to my iPhone was amazingly slick. After selecting my language, the watch displayed a sort of nebula pattern. On the iPhone, I launched the Apple Watch app, selected the pairing option and pointed the phone camera at the watch display. This did the pairing. Then I waited while all the relevant apps transferred their Apple Watch components to the watch and I was ready to start using it.


The Watch:

The watch comes with the modular watch face showing by default. This is a digital time read-out with various ‘complications’. Force-touch the watch face to change it - this takes a surprisingly strong touch. Then you can swipe sideways to select a watch style. Once you have a style selected, some of them offer further customisations: select how much detail is shown, choose what extra information to display, adjust colors.

This is a lot of fun and I am still changing mine very frequently. The good thing is that your customisations are stored, so if you set up the utility watch face in a particular way, then swap to the modular and configure it, when you go back to utility, your previous settings are all still there.

The screen is gorgeous - very crisp and easy to read.

Twisting your wrist to show the time works well most of the time. There is a delay that I would estimate at about half a second, presumably to avoid false positives triggering unnecessary displays. If you are holding your wrist at an unusual angle e.g. showing the watch to someone, this twist will not always work, but tapping the screen will display the watch face instantly.

Tapping on a complication will take you to the relevant parent app e.g. tapping the current temperature will open the Weather app.

A minor quibble is that the phases of the moon are displayed from a northern hemisphere point of view and do not match what we actually see here in Australia.


Battery Life:

This is a complete non-issue. On my first day with the watch, the battery was at 70% when I first turned it on. As you can imagine, usage was very intense that first day and I got to 8%. Since then, the battery level has only got down to 40 -50% over a day and it recharges to 100% within 2 hours. Tim’s 42mm model gets slightly better battery life as expected.

I started off having the battery indicator as one of the ‘complications’ on my watch face, but now I just ignore it.

And the battery life of my iPhone has improved remarkably due to so many quick transactions being done through the watch instead.

I did have a charging problem one night. I woke up and checked the time and realised that the watch was quite warm to the touch. I checked the battery level which was actually lower than when I had put it on the charger. I took it off the charger for a few hours, then put it back and all was well.


Notifications:

Here is where you need to be careful. I had turned off most notifications on my phone before getting the watch, so I have not been inconvenienced, in fact I have been able to re-enable many notifications as they are no longer so intrusive.

At first we thought some notifications were not getting through to the watch, then we found out that if your iPhone is awake and un-locked, notifications are not passed on to the watch. So drop the time until sleep on your phone to the minimum which saves your phone battery and makes sure you receive most notifications on the watch.

If you want to stop any apps sending notifications through to the watch, this is easily set in the iPhone’s Apple Watch app.

I have noticed there is a bit of a delay. I hear an email or message arriving on my phone and it can be half a minute before it gets to my watch.

Once you get a notification, you can tap it to go to the parent app, swipe up to process it in some way depending on the type of notification, or swipe to the left to see a button that will clear the notification. If you want to get rid of all your notifications at once, do a force-touch on the notifications screen to get the option to clear them all.


Glances:

Glances are designed to be one screen indicators giving you important information as quickly as possible. From there, you can decide whether to go to the parent app or not. These are accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the screen when looking at the watch face.

I found that the most important thing here was to reduce the number of glances shown, since they are displayed sequentially. If you have 20 glances installed, you have to swipe at least 20 times to see them all. So go to the Apple Watch app on your iPhone and turn off the glances you do not find essential.

The first glance in the sequence is essential though as it allows you to toggle airplane mode, do not disturb and silent mode. It also has a button that can make your iPhone make a sound to help you locate it. Hold this button down to make the iPhone flash come on as well.


Activity:

Here I have to confess to my first disappointment. The activity app tracks three things: Move, Exercise and Stand. When you first start the watch, you tell it your age, sex, weight and height. It computes a suggested daily move goal for you which you can adjust at any time. Then it tracks your daily activities and shows how well you are doing in relation to your goal. For exercise and standing the goals are 30 minutes exercise and standing for at least one minute in an hour 12 times though the day.

The move tracking seems to be fine. I am not sure what metrics it uses, but on more active days, the numbers go up.

The exercise one doesn’t work for me. We went for a walk and when we returned, Tim’s watch showed 25 minutes exercise and mine showed 1 minute. We had walked the same distance at the same speed, as confirmed by the pedometer. Subsequent tests revealed that I don’t swing my arms enough when walking to trigger what ever sensor this is using. I can’t quite see why it ignores the pedometer completely, but hopefully this can be fixed by a software update. For now, I just ignore this circle.

Standing is another issue since I use a standing desk, so I stand for many hours each day. Even when standing, I get my hourly reminders to stand. However I use this as a trigger to make me to move about for a minute, so I suppose that is still useful.


Communications:

The various forms of communication are a real strength of the watch. With Tim & I both having watches, we can phone, message (audio or text) and use the new Digital Touch to send sketches, taps or heart beats. While it feels a bit weird to be talking to your wrist, this works really well and the sound quality is amazing for such a small device. If you need more privacy, it is very easy to transfer a phone call back to your phone.

Oddly, the watch does not appear to offer FaceTime but always uses standard phone calls.

Messages are where the watch excels. If you get a message with a question, the watch can suggest possible answers so you just have to tap a button. Even without this, there is a set of pre-defined answers which you can edit in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. And you can also use dictation or the new animated emojis. Dictation seems a lot better on the watch than it ever was before on the phone. And even if dictation is not transcribed perfectly, you can send the message as an audio recording instead of text.

When recording, tap the Done button as soon as you have finished speaking. The inclination is to wait for the text to be processed, but the recording carries on, so stop the recording and let the text processing finish in its own time.

The animated emojis work when you send them to other devices as they appear as GIFs. You can choose from 3 sets: faces, hands and hearts. Once you have swiped to select a set, use the crown to scroll between the options. You can also swipe further to get to the standard emojis.

Digital Touch works between watches only. It is a fun gimmick and I can imagine us developing a set of key codes or sketches, but neither of us can draw very well, so the sketches are very rough. The heart beat is amusing, but the tapping is surprisingly effective as an attention-getter.


Summary:

I think this is the start of a new way of interacting with our technology in a way that is both closer to us and less intrusive. I am loving the watch so far and can’t wait to see where it goes from here.



Tags: apple watch   watch   ios   iphone