A few months with an Apple Watch

Trying on different models at the Apple Store

On eve of the rollout of the new iPhones, new software and a bunch of other Apple stuff, I thought now would be a good time to reflect on owning an Apple Watch. I debated on joining the others in doing a post shortly after its release but despite ordering mine on the day it became available to order, I still didn’t receive mine for nearly two months after that.

Apple Watch

I originally passed on the iWatch. This is despite being a big ‘smartwatch’ fan and having owned nearly every incarnation/abomination that has been called a ‘smart’ watch since the 90’s. The only reason I even looked at one on launch day back in April was because my friend Paul had an extra spot for one of Apple’s sessions where you can book time with someone that will let you try on all the different models and band styles. I figured what the hell.

The Apple Watch viewing tray

Of course, Apple knows how to do retail and once I had that thing on my wrist, I was hooked. Paul had convinced me to order one…worst case, just flip it since it was the hottest thing on ebay at the moment. He actually ordered two. One to flip and one (paid for by the flip) for himself. After trying all the models/bands I still chose the Sport…not because it was the cheapest but because it felt the most comfortable to me…I’ve never been a fan of metal bands (or any metal) on my wrist.

So after all that, I was still surprised I wouldn’t see my watch until the end of May.

Was it worth the wait?

I think so.

I’ve owned and/or tried every Android smart watch and nothing has been as simple and sleek as the Apple Watch. Cross compatibility issues aside (which Google recently addressed and Apple is rumoured to unveil soon), the integration between phone and watch is better (but not perfect) on the Apple side. I found the Android options clunkier and felt like an after thought.

Never been a fan of metal watch bands but this pretty nice

Arguably the least important and the most important feature of a smart watch is the watchface customizations. You’ve got this screen on your wrist, how much can you change it and how much information is too much? I was spoiled with my Pebble and it’s endless customization options. Out of the gate, Apple Watch 1.0 was pretty lacking in my opinion. Only a handful of available watchfaces with nothing I loved.

Fortunately, being a registered Apple Developer, I was able to play around with the beta of Watch OS 2.0. This brings a few new watchface options with the biggest one being able to sync a photo album from your phone to the watch to set as a watchface. Every time you check the time, you can see a different photo behind the non-configurable clock digits.

Possibly my favourite watchface yet #starwars

It’s amazing (or sad) how much happier this simple functionality alone made me feel about my purchase. Every time I check the time, I get to see a photo of my cat, one of my travel adventures or anything else I want. Instagram photos are perfect for this…and to add one it’s simply a matter of adding it to your designated album on your phone and it will automagically get added into the watchface rotation.

What else can you do with it?
Every day a new app gets released that does something but the 1.0 OS is still pretty limited. With 2.0, developers will have a lot more ability to build out their apps.

Lately I’ve used it a lot to check into flights,
I like these new fangled boarding passes

getting Slack notifications (you can set up your notifications to mirror your iPhone or be selective):

Love that I'm already getting weather updates via Slack for Palm Springs next weekend for #yxyy
and pay for my coffee (not using Apple Pay unfortunately, just the Starbucks app/barcode scan).

Apple Watch

The activity tracker has also surprised me…I didn’t even configure it for weeks because I didn’t think it would tell me much but was glad when I did as it does a decent job of giving you updates, prompting you throughout the day with the haptic tap as a reminder to stand up or move.

Of course, I even 3D printed a stand for it:
3D printed stand

So lets break down the pros and cons of the watch:

Pro

  • that screen – it’s a pretty stunning display on your wrist and your notifications have never looked so good
  • comfort – easily the most comfortable to wear smartwatch I’ve ever owned
  • voice commands – surprised at how well Siri can take wrist dictation to reply to a message
  • activity tracker – not the reason I bought the watch and I even resisted configuring it for a few weeks but have actually enjoyed it’s updates throughout the day rather than simply telling me I beat my score
  • custom watchfaces – weak in Watch OS 1.0 but gets way better in 2.0 thanks to the photo album option (for me at least)
  • haptic touch – easily one of the nicest bits of physical feedback on any device…like someone literally tapping you on the wrist rather than a vibrate motor whirring
  • tough – I’m usually pretty hard on stuff attached to me but I’ve yet to scratch it or otherwise damage it in anyway. I’ve certainly hit it on stuff and glanced off desks and things but no damage so far

Apple Watch

Con

  • Cost – even the cheapest model is still over $500Cdn for the 42mm model. The Sport should come in at ~$300. There is no reason a silicon band on it’s own should cost $70 – thankfully there are third party vendors with less expensive options
  • Battery life – pretty much a given but during the course of the various beta OS’ I’ve tried the battery life was all over the place…once the ‘oh shiny’ factor wears off, you can easily go a whole day with it…some people even two days
  • apps – still quite limited in functionality but that should improve when Watch OS 2 comes out of beta
  • customization – typical Apple style of telling you how you’ll want your watch set up rather than letting you tweak everything – gets somewhat better in 2.0 but lots of room to allow personalization

Will there be another hardware update next year? Of course. Will I buy it? Hard to say. But so far, I’m content with my purchase and I continue to wear it every day.

3 Comments

  1. jaypiddy says:

    All great points John. What I discovered about a smart watch is that I actually don’t want the notifications on my wrist. I love the fact when I put my phone down I choose to step away from notifications. I did not know prior to owning the Apple Watch that it was even an issue. I realized there are times in the day when not being notified is a good thing. That of course is a personal choice that would not everyone else preference. I also have work emails with quite complex information and that the truncated data supported by the Apple Watch was all but useless and I found myself picking up the phone anyway. Lastly I hated the fact that I had run my arm in a certain way for the watch to illuminate, after a while waiting that second every time I wanted to see the watch face began to really get on my nerves. I so wanted to love it, I really did, but alas I sold it to a chef on Criag’s List that I hope could love it longer than I.

    • John says:

      I agree, the truncated email notifications are pretty usueless on the watch…I’ve been tempted to disable them but currently I mirror my iPhone notifications so it would be a bigger pain to adjust that. I’m also the first to admit that a smartwatch isn’t for everyone so cheers to you for opting out!

  2. Nadia Aly says:

    I love my iWatch, all great points! I have been through a few smart watches, and apple is the only one I have used long term :)

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