The Watch

There’s a lot of trash talking about Apple’s Watch, because it’s been around for a year. Casey likes it. But other early-adopters who crave new hotness are disappointed. How you feel about the watch naturally depends on what your expectations are, and it certainly depends on your lifestyle. The typical criticisms are that the apps are slow, a lot of features don’t work as advertised and it doesn’t even do a good job of telling the time, because if you glance at it, you don’t see the time.

A few people who have bought a watch, later decided that they want a simpler life. This change of mind is not really the watch’s fault. If you buy a car and later decide that you prefer a bicycle, it’s hard luck. You might lose money on the resale of your unwanted car. Everything is a value trade-off.

I’m not an early adopter but was very lucky to receive one for my 40th Birthday a while ago. Thank you.

The Watch is not cheap, and is almost certainly a luxury, unlike a Macbook or an iPhone. This distinction probably feeds into the perception that the Watch is a bit disappointing. Then again, it costs about what an iPod used to cost – and it’s similarly “luxurious” to an iPod. Although my brother uses an iPod for his work, I don’t think many people can truthfully say they really “needed” an iPod, except for fun.

The Watch is best thought of as a really fancy wrist-mounted remote control for your phone. It can also remote control your Mac. But it’s not a mobile computer in it’s own right. This “limitation” is actually a good thing – the watch is a careful bargain struck between power and responsibility. You might think you want Microsoft Word on your wrist, but you don’t. The limits of the watch are its strength. It’s unobtrusive.

The Watch doesn’t provide entertainment. No games. But that doesn’t mean it sucks.

A really common criticism is that you can take your phone out, and do everything you want to do with that instead. This comment completely misses the point that, if you have something in your hands, it’s easier to look at a little screen that’s attached to your wrist, because it TAKES ITSELF OUT AND PUTS ITSELF AWAY. This point is so fundamental that Jony Ive explained it here and here.

What’s to like?

First of all, it looks great and the screen is wonderful. The watch faces are pretty nice. Battery life is pretty good. Perhaps I’m not using it enough to get disappointed, but it hasn’t been below 50% on any day that I’ve worn it. The notifications are subtle and graceful. The connection with the phone, unlocking and so on is really smooth. Glances are great. The fitness and activity tracking is really good – although I was surprised that the workout function didn’t track my progress on a map. The digital crown is good.

The flat button is little use. Swipes and the crown are enough for navigation.

Dictating a reply to a text message works really well! Although, text messages can fail on send.

If I’m not wrong, you can dictate into a headset mic and the transcript appears on the watch. Amazing!

You can ask the phone for directions, put it away and use the watch to see your route and turns, without doing anything else! Amazing.

You can control an iTunes library playback on your Mac with the watch. Possibly on Windows too? Both an amazing trick and useful at your 40th birthday party.

Tapping a complication takes you right into the information you want.

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I haven’t loaded many applications on to the watch – I don’t feel like I need them. 3rd party glances seem good. Mirrored notifications are great –  I can see that I have a What’sapp message, and the content. Simple third party apps like ”Things” typically update in a second or two – similar to my phone.

My experience with the Apple Watch is almost uniformly wonderful. I have a few appointments every day but some are very important. I have a few people I want to keep in close contact with, and I also have a large enough team that someone usually wants to talk to me on a given day. But, I’m on the run a lot, travelling and out and about, not sitting all day in my home office. I don’t use Twitter or Facebook. Social media might be really frustrating on the watch – I don’t know. I don’t really want to input very much into the watch in a voluntary way. I’m happy that I provide the watch with all kinds of passive input – heart rate, location and so on, which helps it to understand my life and help me.

Perhaps that has something to do with it. As a result, I became more active, got fitter and lost weight for the first time in my life. How? Because the watch helped me calibrate my activity and allowed me to adjust behaviour, in order to increase it.

I can’t recommend that you buy an Apple Watch any more than I can recommend you buy a yacht or go on a skiing holiday. But if you’re an iPhone owner, and you’re going to buy a smart watch, or you’re even thinking about a fitness tracker, you can’t go wrong. Later iterations of the watch will be even better, more powerful and so on, but I don’t care. The Watch is beautifully executed and it’s only serious failure is missing unrealistic expectations.

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