What better way to launch a new Apple-centric blog than to review their most hotly anticipated product for five years?
But I’m not going to do that, despite the title of this post. If, by some miracle, you’ve reached this webpage, you’ll already have bored yourself rigid with the myriad of reviews out there for Apple’s diminutive wrist-bound computer.
So, consider this an opinion piece. A few thoughts on daily life with the Apple Watch. I was one of the many oiks who nabbed one on launch day, so I’ve had it long enough to offer an opinion, in my book. This is not a buy-it-and-instantly-review-it type of device, after all.
I’m fairly confident that, at the time of writing, I’m the only person in Northamptonshire with one of these devices. Having decided that I would perform my first ever Apple pre-order with this product, I somehow managed to sneak into the front of the queue, with my vey own Space Grey aluminium Apple Watch Sport arriving promptly on launch day.
I’ve been a watch wearer for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never owned a smartwatch. I toyed with the idea of purchasing a Pebble, and – when I flirted briefly with Android for a couple of months – a Moto 360, but I could never justify the cost, nor was I sufficiently turned on by the idea of wearable technology to be an ‘early believer’.
First things first… I can’t recommend the Apple Watch to anyone who hasn’t got pockets deep enough to justify a non-essential purchase. And that’s the problem – this simply isn’t a device which anyone needs at the moment. I don’t need it. If you’re thinking about buying one, it’s not because you need it. As with so many Apple devices, it’s because you want it. But we’ll get onto the ‘want’ thing a little later – there’s a problem on that front, too.
A laptop can be justified. And a smartphone is arguably an essential tool in today’s digital communication-driven world. But a wristwatch which displays your emails, text messages and can run apps? Nah. Sorry, mate.
However, I have gradually fallen for this device. Not in a head-over-heels, let’s-jump-into-the-nearest-bed-now kind of way, more a relationship formed by mutual respect and an understanding that neither of us really know what the other one wants. But that’s ok. We’re trying. And boy is it a fun journey.
Two words I simply haven’t given thought to after the initial few day’s use. The Apple Watch allows ‘complications’ for the watch face (a traditional term from ye olde times, we’re told), one of which can be a battery indicator. I kept it on initially, just to keep an eye, such was the intense speculation about this diminutive device’s going distance. I needn’t have worried. On ‘normal’ days, it rarely falls below 50% by 11PM. On heavier-use days when I perform some exercise and refer to the watch a little more often, the worst I’ve seen is 23% at midnight.
So. Don’t worry about the battery – Apple have nailed it.
That said, packing a charger for your watch when staying away from home is a bit weird.
What does it do?
Without fail, that is the first question asked by anyone who spots my wrist-hugging friend. And I always stumble with the answer. ‘It tells the time’ is the obvious ice-breaker retort, but that wears thin after a while. So, you show them Mickey Mouse tapping away the seconds.But that fails to impress, too.
The one thing I always end up highlighting is that it keeps me away from my phone. Notifications on the wrist are what smartwatches are currently all about, no question. My iPhone has never been so quiet, nor has the battery lasted so long.
You’ll forget it exists
Perhaps the most striking thing about the Apple Watch is the way in which it immerses itself into your life without any trumpet blowing or requests for red carpet treatment. Sure, for the first couple of days you’ll be tapping away, installing apps, removing apps, customising your glances and flicking between watch faces, but after a while, you forget its even attached to you. Reviewing notifications on your wrist becomes so intrinsic you wonder how you coped before.
Changeable watch faces: a surprising revelation
One of the most common tasks I perform on the Watch is that of changing the watch face. During working hours, I’ll use the ‘Modular’ face, which clearly highlights my next meeting. Come home time, I’ll switch to Mickey or something more traditional, but whatever it is, it won’t tell me what my next meeting is. That’s nice.
Apps have a long way to go
The only apps I use regularly on my Watch are Dark Sky (for semi-accurate weather predictions) and of the fitness variety (see next). Unfortunately, Apple Watch suffers from the very location it inhabits; raising your arm for any length of time is often inconvenient and, after a very short period, painful. It’s quite clear that glancing is where this device scores highly, but I’m yet to find an app which takes full advantage of that. They’re all trying to do a little bit too much.
It won’t make you fit
I don’t believe Apple Watch’s plethora of fitness features will make you fitter or less fat, but the way in which they have gamified the simple task of physically moving is fun. Integration with the likes of Strava and Runkeeper still needs work, but is convenient.
Looking at your watch is still rude
Apple appear to have made a big play on the fact that reviewing notifications on a wristwatch presents less of a social minefield than grasping your phone out of your pocket every five minutes, but I think they’re wrong. The universal sign for ‘I really don’t give a shit about anything you’re saying and would rather be somewhere else’ is to look at one’s watch. Therefore… go figure.
It needs your iPhone. Get over it
By far the most vitriolic response I’ve received from non-Watch wearers comes as soon as I explain that the Watch needs an iPhone in order to be of any use. ‘What? That’s ridiculous. They saw you coming.’
A little bit like non-dog owners who can’t fathom why those of us with four legged friends allow them to lick our lips (whilst terming the frankly disgusting habit ‘kissing’), non-Watch wearers should perhaps be forgiven for considering the device’s iPhone dependability to be a deal dealbreaker. The fact remains, however, that technology simply isn’t advanced enough yet to allow the Apple Watch to be an all-encompassing device with all day battery life. It just ain’t possible and, while I’m at it, my phone is always with me and I genuinely haven’t found myself cursing its inability to live without its cellular cousin.
No one needs one. Few people want one. Explaining the way in which the Apple Watch effortlessly and almost transparently works its way into your every day life is next to impossible. But it’s a great device. Pointless, but great.
Apple have a long way to go with this one, I fear. Of all the people with which I’ve discussed the Watch, only one or two have demonstrated a desire for one themselves. That’s a problem. So few people want it.
The forthcoming watchOS 2 this autumn is seen by many as the ‘real’ launch of this product, and I’m inclined to agree. That said, native apps and additional watch faces won’t convince the non-believers. Wait for version 2.0 of the hardware – perhaps, by then, we’ll all have worked out what a smartwatch is for.