Six weeks with the Apple watch, some reflections
The steel Apple Watch has been on my wrist, other than during the night when it's charging, for six weeks. I am now feeling completely at ease with it. With just a couple of minor reservations, I am extremely happy and, to some extent, I am already addicted. I even like the black sports band. It is very comfortable, looks good and is easy to fit. I did order a Milanese Loop which was promised for "June delivery" but no sign of it yet. If I have any doubts I will return it and, perhaps, buy a couple of sports bands in different colours.
Let's get the quibbles out of the way first. The Apple Watch is crap at doing what a traditional wrist watch does best: Telling the time. For a company that has patented the concept of Glances, Apple has not delivered on glancing at the time. I had underestimated the number of times a day I look down at my wrist to see the time—until I donned the Apple Watch and found myself staring at a blank screen. To get the time you must raise your wrist (not always effective), flick your wrist (ditto) or tap on the screen (reliable). Apart from the frustrating delay, there is no longer the option to discreetly check the time when with friends or in a meeting.
It's a computer, not a watch
I tell myself, though, that the Apple Watch is no more a watch than the iPhone is a phone. Both are small computers conveniently labelled as something with which we are familiar. And we have to understand that there is no way Apple could have introduced an always-on time display with a power-hungry retina screen. It's a dilemma that will be solved only when battery technology moves into the twenty-first century.
This brings me to the other reservation, the size of the 42mm watch. I have a small wrist and the 42mm is bordering on oversize for me. Several people have commented on this when I've shown them the watch. On the other hand, I have checked the 38mm version and I think the screen is too small. On balance, I'll put up with the size in the interests of efficiency.
These two reservations apart, I am totally sold on the Apple Watch. I love the reminders of texts, emails and app-specific actions. The discreet buzz on the wrist is friendly and unobtrusive. I make relatively little use of Glances now the first flush of novelty is over. But I do appreciate the reminders and I know that if I really need more information I can delve into Glances. One of the best aspects of Apple Watch notifications (particularly of texts and emails) is the way in which they avoid the need to pull out the phone as often. Before the AW, the buzz of an incoming message meant that I would soon be unpocketing the iPhone and checking.
Now I can simply glance at the message on the watch and decide whether or not it is important enough to warrant using the phone. I can submit limited replies to text messages direct from the phone. There are stock phrases, some customisable, and the ability to add emoticons.
Two aspects of the device are outstanding. One is the ability to receive and conduct phone calls. It's quicker than getting the iPhone out of the pocket and, if the environment is noisy or inappropriate, I can easily hand over to the phone after the initial acceptance of the call. But in reality it is perfectly possible to conduct a conversation by holding the wrist to the face in a parody of an old-fashioned telephone receiver.
The second surprise is how much I now rely on the fitness tracking of the Apple Watch. The device works seamlessly with the iPhone. It can count steps on its own but it is happier when you also have an iPhone in our pocket. The software knows not to duplicate data and, so far, I have experienced no glitches.
Having ditched my old analogue pedometer, I now rely exclusively on the phone and watch to monitor my activities. If I leave the phone on the desk and move around, the watch takes over duties and no steps are lost. I kept the pedometer going in tandem for a couple of weeks but I concluded that it was pointless duplication. Problem was, at first I didn't trust the phone or the watch to take over. Now I do. But I am still copying the statistics into a spreadsheet, just as I have been doing with the pedometer for the past five years. In time, though, I will have the confidence that Apple will store all my historical data.
The Activity application records steps and distance, standing times (I am nudged every hour to stand up and walk around) and calories burnt. All this monitoring is accompanied by messages of encouragement and achievement badges. Tacky, you might think. But I am sold on the incentives provided by the watch. I now compete with myself and I am not happy unless I manage my target of 10,000 steps a day. Since the Apple Watch arrived my daily walking average has gone up by at least 30 percent. This can only be good and is sufficient incentive to invest in an Apple Watch.
A third surprise is battery life. I had fully expected to charge the device every night but I have been pleased to find at least 65% remaining power when I come to put the Watch on its little charging pod. I had been led to believe that the device would be lucky to last a day but, clearly, this is not the case. Perhaps I am making less use of the facilities than the average user. But, overall. the battery life is encouraging.
I have just one regret. I miss my IWC Pilot's Chronograph which is now sitting neglected in a drawer. It is a dumb ass in comparison with the Apple Watch, although it does tell me the time with more aplomb and at a single glance.
Yet in reality it is a piece of jewellery rather than a tool and I really do wonder when I will next use it. At the moment I cannot imagine being without the Apple Watch, just as previously I wouldn't go far without the pedometer in my pocket.
To make matters worse for the IWC and its ilk, the Apple Watch is smart, dressy and perfectly acceptable in all situations. There really is no need for an old-fashioned wrist watch. I am not saying that at some stage I will not again feel the urge to strap on the IWC. But even if I do, I suspect the Apple device will be on the other wrist or, even, in a pocket.
After six weeks, the Apple Watch has found a permanent place on my wrist. I have come to rely on it and, without a doubt, that is what Apple intended. Let's not forget that this is Apple Watch 1 and should be compared with the original iPhone rather than with the latest iPhone 6. I predict a great future for Apple on the wrist.
For more on the Apple Watch and it's benefits, read Jim Dalrymple's review:
"Apple Watch and HealthKit changed my life. It can change yours too."