After wearing the Apple Watch for three weeks, here are my thoughts.
It’s a nice digital watch that does many things, quickly. I call this “fast utility”. I value the watch’s fast utility. When it gains phone call and map independence from the iPhone, I’ll value it more. When Siri is able to provide intelligent prompts or surface key information from apps, I might consider it an essential tool. And if the industrial design evolves from functional-but-bland to functional-and-beautiful, I’ll probably love it. But today, it’s just “nice” and a perhaps a few years from “love”. That’s fine. I know it’s Version 1. I’m adopting a wait-and-see attitude. Would I buy one again? For professional use, yes. For personal use, it’s too early to tell. Probably, if it advances the way I outlined above (and at the end of this post).
Where do I think, in more detail, Apple Watch is going next? Click here to zoom to the end of this post, or scroll down.
- Model: Sport 42mm, space grey, black flouroelastomer band; $399.
- This isn’t a review or a “product manager” perspective. Judgments are relative to my specific values, needs, or expectations.
- I’ve worn a watch for >30 years.
The right industrial design for a smartwatch, but not a design to “enjoy”.
- I always agreed: One button for the watch face, and one for connecting with people, makes perfect sense. People/communication deserves a dedicated button.
- And I continue to agree with the placement: putting it on the opposite side of the device would be less comfortable. And more visually cluttered.
- I will spend ~1.5 hours this year putting on the watch. That’s because it takes me ~15 seconds to put it on, as the band slides around. Two key drivers:
- The need to charge it every day.
- The design of the Sport band. The Milanese Loop or Link band would reduce the time greatly, but they’re priced much higher.
- For comparison, my link-band Victorinox takes 2 – 5 seconds to put on.
- Without always-on watch faces (discussed below), it’s not the same kind of fashion accessory that a mechanical watch is. It lacks the combined rugged / classy / mechanically sophisticated appeal of my old watch.
Like the industrial design, it’s high on utility and low on enjoyment.
- Apart from its fashion role, the watch is a tool (as opposed to an entertainment or content-consumption device). In that context, the view that holds the most bits of useful information, and that’s on the longest, is most valuable. That’s the watch face. (See my related post, here.)
- The ones I used the most:
- Modular: My preferred watch face. The most information-dense: time + 5 complications. But bland. And it’s the only digital face… on this digital watch. (I owe that observation to Jason Snell, on Macbreak Weekly.)
- Simple: Second preference. Classic face, plus 5 complications. Lots going on, around the round face.
- I don’t find the included faces compelling. I get great and frequent delight in seeing a beautiful or classy watch face. It’s like admiring a good-looking car. None of the current watch faces reached that level. They’re “neat” or “cool”, but… that’s not the same. There are three reasons, with the first two likely driven by battery considerations:
- Background: There isn’t anything that, for instance, resembles mother of pearl.
- Brevity: The watch face doesn’t stay on for more than about six seconds.
- Design: There isn’t, for example, a face that looks like my Victorinox watch.
- In this last matter I am, in many ways, longing for skeuomorphism. This may not be a factor for people without a “watch habit”.
- More generally – for reasons of utility and aesthetics — in my view, the odds that Apple would deny developers access to the watch face are low. John Gruber believes the odds are low that this will happen, but that if it *does* happen, Apple may use an approach similar to the one for apps on the Apple TV: allow faces only from select partners.
General User Interface Observations
Mostly fine, but laggy.
- The “Home Screen”: No issues. Familiar, yet tailored for the display size.
- In situations where I have the option to swipe or use the Digital Crown, I swipe 99% of the time.
- When I do need the digital crown, it’s very helpful (e.g., set alarm time).
- The predictive face-lighting-up is perfect… until it’s not. The times when I twist my wrist and *don’t* see the watch face are frustrating, especially if it flashed on a moment ago. Must-fix.
- Similarly, sometimes the weather complication doesn’t display a number, for a moment or two. This drives me to pull out my smartphone, defeating the purpose of the watch. Must fix.
- The activity ring user interface is horrible. Emulated and not much better, in my view. It allows for the indicators to have “length”, relative to a straight bar, but they’re hard to recall and hard to read.
- Test: quick, tell me which ring means what. And is it the length of the ring that matters, or the number of degrees it spans? (It’s the latter… Which is still confusing, because it means rings of two different lengths indicate the same degree of progress.)
- I realize this was probably an unpleasant trade-off Apple had to make. And, on the views that isolate each type: calories, exercise, standing, the circle fills the screen in a pleasing way. But on the watch face, or in a glance view, they’re not helpful. And on the iPhone “Activity” app they’re difficult to visually trend over time.
Glances & Notifications
Very handy when needed.
- Glances: Staged, helpful information, available quickly. Widget-like. I really like them.
- I live a low-notification diet, and that transfers to Apple Watch. No intrusions for me. But, I was using the watch on “Silent Mode”.
- The most interruption I get is from the Stand reminder, and I sometimes welcome that…but, honestly, I’ve started to ignore it, and I might disable it.
Multiplies the utility of the watch. Does simple things fast. The epitome of “fast utility”.
- Love the voice activation: bring the watch up near my face, say “Hey, Siri”, ask Siri.
- My most used Siri requests: placing a call, alarm or timer, weather forecast, trivia.
- I miss voice feedback from Siri.
Nice to have. Convenient.
- Nice. Definitely saves on fumbling for wallet or phone. I just stretch out my arm toward the terminal, and boom.
- Have you experienced this: McDonalds was able to accept Apple pay, but not well prepared (at the drive thru). The attendant had to find the hand-held NFC terminal, reach out the window, and hold it there with both arms. Took longer to pay than with a credit card. If the line is long, I’d be more inclined to use my card. I’m assuming this will improve.
I’m glad it’s there. I’m hoping it’ll help me be at least a little healthier.
- The watch looks out for you. And the prompts aren’t intrusive. I appreciate both. I fully expect it to make me a healthier, more health-aware person.
- Great perspective from Andy Ihnatko on Macbreak Weekly:
- “The most valuable thing that fitness watches […] can do is simply expose data that is normally invisible to us.”
- I think the watch does a decent job in Version 1. Can’t wait to see how this evolves.
- That said, three weeks in, I ignore the stand reminders or progress reminders. No, they don’t motivate me to keep a streak going. There are more important things.
- The activity rings…. Horrible. See my comment above.
High-value feature. Convenient and sometimes essential. Again, “fast utility”.
- Super convenient to be able to answer a call when it’s in your pocket or not near you.
- Speaker works well. The people I’ve talked to believed I was simply on my iPhone.
I’m not into navigation on the watch; it’s a last resort. I prefer the phone.
- I do need more time with this feature. I like how Maps uses Force Touch, as the way to drill down and search.
- Sometimes it’s a bit hard to distinguish between left and right vibration cues.
I admire it, but I don’t think it’s relevant to me.
- I value the thought that went into this, but I’ve not used it. My friends don’t have an Apple Watch.
- I think iMore’s Serenity Caldwell mentioned this on the iMore show: Digital Touch would be more useful if you could use it to communicate with iPhones, too. I’m assuming that’s coming.
Third Party Apps
I haven’t needed any. I’d love to discover one that makes my life easier.
- Marco Arment: “For most types of apps, the Apple Watch today is best thought of not as a platform to port your app to, but a simple remote control or viewport into your iPhone app.”
- I haven’t needed 3rd party apps. That might be my low-touch preference for the watch, limited awareness (as in, recommendations from friends), or limited selection. But so I’ve used very few of them.
- This reflects my preference to use the watch only for quick push / pull micro interactions. For apps like Twitter, Yelp, or Amazon (nice voice search), I’d rather use the phone or not use the app at all.
- The apps that look most attractive to me are the activity-specific ones: for lists, exercise, remote control. Basically, to help a workflow or provide control.
What I Like the Most / Is there a Killer App?
Fast utility. There’s no killer app today.
- Fast utility: I value the overall combination of Siri, Apple Pay, Notifications, Weather, Activity Reminders, Next Calendar Appointment, and Date and Time. It’s a Swiss Army knife on my wrist. Sorry, Old Watch.
- Killer app. There may be one. There isn’t today. In any case, this is a general computing device.
- I agree with Walt Mossberg’s view on a killer app: “Any new device like this becomes attractive when it looks good, works well, and does multiple useful things of different value to different users.”
Not an issue. But also the biggest issue.
- Not an issue. As long as I recharge daily, I don’t run out of power. Sometimes 1.5 days.
- I charge at my desk, during the day. That allows me to sleep with watch on, so that I can use the alarm (silently) and easily check the time.
- But, to be clear, battery life drives the single biggest hassle and habit disruption: the need to charge the watch daily. That means a) at least one additional charger; b) one more distraction; c) one more “cognitive burden”; c) 1.5 hours per year dealing with plugging it in; d) 1.5 hours spent per year in putting on the watch.
- I haven’t noticed any impact to my iPhone battery life, positive or negative.
New Habits, Resulting from Wearing the Watch
Surprisingly few new habits needed, but daily charging is a drag.
Habit = 1) things I now do because of the watch, even if I’m not using it that moment or that day; 2) things I do by being able to glance at the watch face.
- Tapping the watch face to avoid waiting a second or two
- Ignoring the stand reminder
- Daily taking off / putting on
- New charger at my desk. Using another USB port
- Monitor watch battery ~1x per day
- Quickly check the weather. Using the phone, or Amazon Echo, less
- Leaving my phone more often, knowing I can still take a call
- Quickly check the time
- Standing (once in a while)
Overall, I’m surprised how few new habits I’ve had to build into my day. And the time saved by having fast access to time, date, weather, and calendar outweighs (or comes close) to the time spent removing/donning the watch for charging.
What I Miss Most about My “Old Watch”
Rugged looks, classy face. Always on.
- Its design: Rugged looks, classy face. I’m not too embarrassed to say: it’s a fashion accessory. In terms of utility, the display is always on. And I don’t have to spend time taking it off and putting it on.
Would I Buy an Apple Watch Again?
Maybe. I need phone independence and/or Siri to integrate with more apps.
- From a professional perspective, I’ll need to buy future models to stay current. Especially if/when they gain cellular connectivity.
- From a personal perspective, maybe. It’s too early to tell.
- I initially thought the title of this piece was going to be “Capability is Addictive”. That’s because – and I don’t claim to represent any consumer in this view – each major step forward in general computing has been a boon. Computer, cell phone, smartphone, tablet – once I had these devices, I couldn’t go back. Capability is addictive. And I really, really thought I would be saying that about Apple Watch: “Capability is addictive”… but I’m not. I like it, for the reasons I mentioned earlier. And when I first used the watch, the novelty of having those capabilities on my wrist led me to believe I’d find them addictive. But they haven’t been. I can’t go back to a feature phone, but I *can* go without the watch. Why? Because I have my iPhone. That makes sense; that’s why the Apple Watch is, at this point, an accessory.
- Will it ever be “addictive”? I won’t pretend to predict this. My own view changed in a week or two; how would I dare predict it over a longer span? When many things get better — the laggy display, the dependence on the phone, the need to remove it daily, charge, and put it on again. And the cost of several hundred dollars every so often. And, more intangibly, the fact that there’s more pleasure in taking out my phone (whether that’s good or not) and certainly more pleasure from my analog watch face — when these get better, then I’ll see.
- If I do decide to keep buying Apple Watch for personal use, I’ll probably settle into a two year upgrade cycle, eventually.
Where is Apple Watch Going Next?
The slides further down sum up my high level view. Basically, it’s likely Apple will advance along these primary directions:
- Information display: Always-on / ambient mode. 3rd party watch faces
- Voice interaction: Siri can surface key information from apps. Andy Ihnatko:
This is an opportunity for Siri […] imagine […] all this data is there […] “Hey Siri, How’s my health doing?” and it will simply say […] “Over the past 3 days, you achieved your walking goals, however you haven’t been getting up enough, and you should be getting more sleep.”
- Cellular connectivity: Providing independence from the phone
- Context awareness: GPS and indoor location, IOT connectivity
- Intelligence: Simple prompts across a range of areas. Andy Ihnatko again:
Every time you do this, it is the watch’s job to figure out why you did that and display that one piece of information that you probably most intensely want so that you can put it down again. I love that this is valuable to me despite the fact that I rarely have to interact with it or tell it what I want.