Five Weeks with the Apple Watch

HDM 5 weeks with Apple Watch

There are plenty of Watch pieces out there already, so I’ve broken this one down into bullet points by category. I figure that could help if you’re a prospective buyer and are interested in hands-on info on a particular set of features.

Look and Feel

I own a 42mm Space Gray Sport with the black Sports band.

  • I really like the 42mm screen size, text is very easy to read at the default size
  • I love how the Sports band tucks into itself; contrary to many reviews, I find it very easy to put on and take off
  • I’m wondering what other strap I might want to try later on that would match the Space Gray nicely (might wait on 3rd party straps for this)
  • The Space Gray looks much more premium to my eye than the silver Sports model, and the finish doesn’t show any fingerprints

HDM Apple Watch Look and Feel

Alarms

  • not nearly as loud as the iPhone, but reliably loud enough to wake me and make me reach for the nightstand
  • vibrating alarms are so awesome for naps and snoozing
  • the Watch knows when phone alarm is ringing and I can stop iPhone alarms (and timers) from the watch

HDM Apple Watch silent alarms

Music

  • does control audio apps like Spotify on iPhone, but can only pause and fwd/rwd
  • choosing music from the Watch is really awesome, the Digital Crown mimics a click wheel and the touchscreen is quite accurate
  • you can swipe backwards to go from Now Playing to the Artists screen, just like on iOS
  • I frequently use Siri to bring up specific songs or artists while walking, and it works really well

Battery

Battery life was one of my concerns for this first-gen device, but it really hasn’t been an issue for me in these past five weeks of ownership. I usually take the Watch off the charger at around 7:30am.

  • Day 1 was 20% upon arrival at home at 7pm after a heavy day
  • Day 2 was 30% when I got home at 12:30am with medium usage
  • Day 3 was 7% when I got home at 1:00am (tracked a 3-hour walk with Exercise app that day)
  • Day 4 was light use and so I got home at 8:30pm with 63% battery left (I took the Watch off the charger at 9:30am)
  • Day 5 was medium use with a 30-min workout, ended day with 24% at 1:00am

After my first week with the Watch, I stopped tracking battery life entirely as it became a non-issue. I keep brightness at the lowest setting, Haptics on maximum strength, and I keep notifications to just a handful of core apps.

HDM Apple watch water resistance

Fitness

The gamification of fitness via the Activity rings has been surprisingly satisfying. I’m realizing that I do enough walking to burn 500-700 calories per day, and I’m still adjusting my Move goal (calories burned) so that it’s achievable, but still motivational.

  • the Watch hasn’t once felt uncomfortable or too large while walking or exercising
  • the Activity app tracks Exercise without my having to explicitly load the Workout app; my heart rate just needs to be high enough to count as exercise to the Watch (still finding out what the BPM threshold is)
  • it’s really satisfying to see the Exercise ring revolve twice over, just from walking to and from work

HDM Apple Watch checking time

Checking the Time

  • there is a split-second delay before the screen turns up, but it’s fast enough that it never feels like lag
  • as others have reported, bringing your wrist up to check the time has to be an exaggerated motion (and not a slight wrist tilt, like with a real watch)

Sleeping with the Watch

I tried this once I realized I usually get 1.5 days of battery life with the Watch, but it turned out to be a mistake. I’d turn and the Watch would wake up, blasting either me or my girlfriend with light. I’d still like to be able to sleep while wearing future versions of the Watch, but the Do-Not-Disturb function should keep the screen from waking up automatically.

Watch Faces

  • I’m sticking to Simple, Color, and Chronograph faces for now; totally loving the animated second hand
  • handy to have quick access to traditional watch features like alarms, chronographs, and timers
  • matching the Watch face to your clothes, [as espoused by Matt Gemmell], is fun
  • I really don’t care for Mickey
  • I’d love to see more clean digital Watch faces that aren’t faux analog designs

Complications & Glance

Complications are the little tidbits of info displayed on the watchface; Glances are the widgets located one swipe below the watchface. Complications are currently Apple-only, while Glances are a mix of first-party and third-party apps.

  • Glances improved a little after the first patch, but they can still be a little slow
  • Third-party Glances also lack the interactivity of Apple’s own Glances, and I’m looking forward to them acting a little more like tappable widgets with limited functionality (e.g. tap to switch streetcar direction or complete task)

Taptic Feedback

  • I’ve been using the “prominent tap” setting, which sends a strong tap out to “announce” a notification, and then issues the actual tap for the notification itself
  • Taptic feedback feel is brief and more decisive than the buzzing of my iPhone 5S, so I’m feeling fewer “ghost” taps like I would with “ghost” notifications from my iPhone in a pocket
  • I wish iMessage taps could be configured on a per-contact basis, at least for people in the Favourites list
  • Taptic feedback for walking directions is very timely, but I can’t tell between left and right turns by feel
  • I have a strong feeling we’ll see taptic feedback in the next iPhone Home button

Notifications

  • the Watch knows when the iPhone is locked or unlocked and displays notifications accordingly; won’t bug you when phone is on, but will buzz when phone is asleep…perfect!
  • I can get double buzzed while using iPad or Mac, since iMessages sometimes arrive at iPad before they hit the iPhone (and thus the Watch)
  • Watch can act on notifications even if the apps aren’t installed on Watch, so long as those notifications are interactive on the iPhone as well (e.g. complete Due tasks, even if app isn’t installed on watch)
  • I love how notifications don’t wake the Watch screen by default; I just feel a tap and it’s left up to me to wake the watch up to see it at my convenience
  • the Watch has made Calendar and Reminders notifications very useful for me again; they were just too easy to miss on the iPhone

HDM Apple Watch Digital Crown

Digital Crown

  • this little thing was hyped as a revolutionary way to interact with a touchscreen, and yet Blackberry and HTC devices had plenty of clicking dials for navigation in the past…however, none felt quite as premium as this Crown
  • I definitely appreciate the Crown for its ability to scroll and make granular changes to elements like timers or alarms
  • I’ve taken to wearing my Watch with the Crown facing away from my hand; I find it much easier to press that way (I use my thumb to click and scroll)

Siri

In some ways, I think Siri can be the most powerful and convenient input method for Apple Watch users. For one thing, the microphone on the Watch just seems more reliable, and dictated text comes out a lot faster and smoother than on my iPhone 5S (even when held up to my face). Siri can only become a good input method if it’s fast and natural to use, and over the past couple of days, that’s exactly how it felt. I’ve been able to quietly dictate quick texts to the phone without shouting or bringing the watch right up to my mouth, even while in public.

I’m planning an entire other post on this, so I won’t get into too many details here. Suffice it to say that Siri on the iPhone and iPad felt like training wheels, and Siri on the Watch feels like the service’s real debut.

Five Weeks In

This isn’t a full review, but I don’t necessarily think that one is needed on this little site of mine. What I hope I’ve provided are some granular looks at very specific features and use cases with the Watch.

I’m surprised at how quickly I’ve become accustomed to this new device. There is no new workflow to adjust to or to think about, like with the purchase of a new Mac, iPad, or iPhone. The Watch took about a day for me to get used to the controls, and then it just worked as advertised. It has definitely reduced the number of fiddly phone checks over the course of the day, and it has alerted me to several important calls I would have easily missed. The Watch reaches out during tiny day-to-day moments in my life and offers a gentle, decisive tap in the right direction. I welcome the help.