Apple Watch

I received an Apple Watch for my birthday. I keep getting asked about what I think of it, so I figured I should share my thoughts here.

This is not a review. There are several expert reviews that are extremely thorough and very informative. I suggest you check them out if you are looking for an actual review of the Apple Watch. My picks: Nilay Patel on The Verge and Darrell Etherington on TechCrunch.

I got a 42 mm space grey Apple Watch Sport with black sport band. My initial worry that the 42 mm would be too big was unfounded. It is just right for my small wrist. I went for the space grey watch to avoid the silver cases.

First impressions

The unboxing experience was exquisite, as you would expect from an Apple product. Despite my initial high expectations, Apple still managed to delight me with several small but well thought details.

There was an envelope that had the same shape as the watch case. The envelope contained the instruction manual, also shaped like the watch case, and a small strap. Yes, each watch comes with a pair of straps, large and small, for different wrist sizes.

Apple Watch

The large strap was adequate, but the end of the strap would protrude more on my small wrist, even though the clasp is designed to snugly hide the end of the strap. It wouldn’t be particularly bothersome, but I swapped in the small strap and decided to reconsider after testing it for a while. More than two weeks later, I haven’t seen the need to change back to the large strap.

When you pick up the Apple Watch, the first thing that you’ll notice is the quality of the design. I have to admit that I’m not a watch person and know next to nothing about timepieces. But from a consumer and designer perspective, the watch certainly impressed me when I first held it in my hands. I have looked at other smartwatches in the market and nothing comes close in terms of the finish.

I went through all the watch faces and decided to settle for the modular face. Why buy a smartwatch and use a traditional watch face?

Two weeks in

Here are some observations after two weeks of using the watch.

Watch face: I’m still using the modular watch face. I really don’t see a need for a more traditional watch face. I prefer the information spread that the modular face provides.

Battery life: Battery life information can be relegated to a glance instead of occupying a space on the watch face. It’s not turned on for any watch face by default. I put it in to help me gauge the average battery life. When I remove the watch to charge it just before I sleep, the battery is usually around 40-45%. On days of heavier usage, I ended up with 35-40% battery. I believe that concerns about the watch’s battery life are unfounded. You’ll only run out of battery if you forget to charge it, or if you are fiddling with the watch all day.

The watch charges very quickly. It took less than an hour to go from 35% to 100%. So even if you really forgot to charge the watch before you sleep, you can still get it fully charged in the morning.

Water resistance: I leave it on when I wash the dishes, and even when I washed my shoes. I would have removed my old watch before doing such tasks.

Performance There were reports of the watch being sluggish. However, it has been very responsive so far. Perhaps those issues have been rectified.

Fitness rings: From what I’ve read so far, most people who has the Apple Watch are being pushed to be active just to complete the rings. It has become so natural for me to stand up and stretch every hour. If I become too engrossed with my work, the watch would tap my wrist to remind me to stand.

Notifications: Decoupling notifications from the phone has greatly reduced distractions. I simply raise my wrist when a notification comes in. If it’s nothing urgent, I go back to what I was doing. Had I pulled out my phone to check the notification, I would have fiddled around checking other apps.

Notifications are kind of redundant when I’m working on my MacBook Pro. I considered disabling notifications on the Mac, but those come in and disappear so they are pretty unobtrusive. It would be an improvement if notifications that come in on the Mac while I’m working on it would not be pushed to the watch.

Siri: The watch is making me use Siri more. Nothing feels better than knowing that I can set reminders just by raising my hand and saying, “Hey Siri.” Now, if I can rename Siri to Zordon…

Taking calls: My initial reaction to being able to take calls on the Apple Watch was, what’s the point? Then, I found myself changing clothes when a call came in. Instead of stopping what I was doing to look for the phone to take the call, I was able to tap on the watch and continue getting dressed. It might not seem much but it’s this kind of small details that remove friction in our lives.

Football: The Forza app is vital for a football fanatic like me. Okay, maybe not vital, since you can easily ask Siri to tell you the football scores. Forza’s Apple Watch app shows live score updates. On my wrist. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that.

Remote: Controlling iTunes from the watch. Enough said.

Daily essentials

Conclusions

The Apple Watch is definitely not essential, but it certainly enhances the whole experience of using the iPhone. Not everyone will appreciate it. I’m a tech geek who lives off my iPhone and MacBook Pro, and to a lesser extent, my iPad. Thus, the addition of the Apple Watch to this ecosystem brought welcomed benefits.

Of course, I expected there to be shortcomings since this is the first generation. Still, I was impressed by how it exceeded my expectations. Some improvements I would like to see are greater integration with the Mac.

Right now, I can only control iTunes on the Mac. There are a few apps that extend their Mac services, but there is a lot more progress to be made. WatchOS 2 and Mac OS X El Capitan should push things along in the right direction.

I will report back with more observations on the utility and impact of the Apple Watch.