As the Apple Watch hits its first birthday, there seems to be in increasing number of bloggers complaining about it. One (which I refuse to link to) titled “My Year of Hell With the Apple Watch”. I think the article has since been re-published with a slightly less inflammatory title, but really! Did somebody rivet the watch to his wrist? If it was so awful, why not just stop using it?
I am a watch nerd and have always loved watches and having one on me. I liked watches with features and even had a calculator watch at one point although as a woman with skinny wrists, I found it constantly annoying that watch makers put all the gadgets into man-sized watches so I was left with the choice of no features or a watch that looked stupidly large on my wrist.
A few years ago I stopped wearing a watch. I can’t remember now why I did it - maybe my watch strap broke and it wasn’t important enough to get a new one. I always had my iPhone to give me the time.
But I ordered three Apple Watches as soon as they were available and myself, husband and eldest son have been using them ever since.
Here are what I consider to be the best features of the Apple Watch:
Accuracy: It is a fantastically accurate time-piece. Not enough people give this credit, but we have always been used to clocks and watches that were inherently inaccurate. Having a device on my wrist that I know to be perfectly accurate is an amazing thing.
Notifications: this takes a bit of work to get right and with every new app, you need to assess whether to have its notifications appear on your wrist. But the wonderful thing is knowing that you haven’t missed anything and being able to glance at your wrist when a notification arrives and tell - unobtrusively - whether this is something that needs immediate attention. And the ability to respond instantly to messages and emails with just a couple of taps is amazingly useful.
Customisable watch faces: depending on what I am doing, I need quick access to different pieces of information. When travelling, I can set up a watch face with multiple time zones. When working, I need a timer. When on holiday, I prefer one of the more relaxing but less detailed watch faces.
Activity: I am not the world’s most active person so I find the three rings to be a really good motivator. In fact I just had to stop typing and run up & down the stairs to get another notch to the blue ring. The goals are not out of my reach, so I like trying to fill in the rings every day.
Voice commands: being able to send a text message completely by voice when driving or when my hands are busy is fantastic. Starting a timer, doing unit conversions and navigating are things I do frequently by voice.
Excellent battery life: I started off having the battery life complication always visible, but it very quickly became apparent that this was unnecessary. Right now I have been wearing the watch for about 11 hours and the battery is at 74%. And charging is so fast that if I did run it down, a 30 minute charge would get me through most of a day.
The Milanese Loop: best watch band ever.
There are other good features, but I think those are my favourites.
So what don’t I like?
Third-party apps are still a problem. I know. I have published three myself and sometimes they just doesn’t happen. However this appears to vary a lot. Some people say they can never get apps to run, even Apple’s apps. Others say they work but with a long delay. My watch seems to be better than the average but it is still an issue.
Sketches don’t always get through or can take ages. We thought it would be a lot of fun to send each other little sketches and so it is, despite our total lack of any artistic skills. But it loses a bit of impact when you have to send a message 20 minutes later asking if the sketch has arrived.
The exercise tracking seems to be a bit erratic. If my husband and I go for a walk together, he comes back with 25 minutes of exercise and I only have 7 minutes. Am I not going fast enough? Are my arms not swinging enough? If it is very hot and my wrist gets sweaty, I seem to get better numbers - is this because my heart is beating faster or the capillaries closer to the surface have expanded? Or is the watch picking up a better signal that way? Either way, I still like the activity circles, but the green ring frustrates me a bit.
And what would I like to see in Watch 2 / watchOS 3?
Some sort of always-on display of the time.
A speaker to allow Siri to talk back to me and to play audio.
FaceTime audio calls.
Better support for third-party apps - perhaps open up some private APIs?
Allow developers to create watch faces or apps that told the time.
Allow developers to say that an app should stay as the frontmost app once opened.
Will I buy Watch 2?
At this stage I would say no. We bought the bottom-of-the-line Sport models because with version 1.0 of anything, you don’t want to spend so much that upgrading is ruled out. However these watches are still going great and a lot of the improvements I am looking for will be in software not hardware.
But 14 months ago, I was waiting for Apple to announce the iWatch as we all thought it would be called, and saying that I didn’t think I would get one. The feature list convinced me and I have been delighted with it. So if Watch 2 comes up with some killer feature that matters to me, then I might have to re-consider…