I purchased the Apple Watch back in June while I was on the US for vacation, and since then I’ve grown accustomed to it, and decided to do a six-months in review. There already are plenty handling the core product, but few on how it is to use for a long time.
The Watch looks very good for being a smartwatch. I opted for the 38mm version, as I have quite slender wrists. The rectangular screen is large enough to view everything the watch can offer, I think a circular one would be a worse trade-off, more pleasing to the eye yes, but it couldn’t be nearly as information-dense.
My main complaint with the looks is the thickness, it is thicker than my iPhone, almost as thick as an iPad 1! Yes it is amazingly small for what it does, but I would have liked it to be about half the depth. This is not technically possible yet. But if the Apple Watch 2 is the same improvement in thickness as the iPad 1 over the iPad 2 together with the usual incremental improvements all Apple products see. It might be enough to persuade me to upgrade.
The selection of Watch Faces is quite disappointing. I assume Apple will eventually release the ability for developers to make their own Watch Faces, but that is not the reality we live in today. While the faces that are present are very polished, they are few. I’m missing a chronograph-like face without the stopwatch functionality for example, or combining a photo with multiple complications (the small widgets on the watch face).
When it comes to actual use, the watch does three things: Telling time, Notifications and Fitness. Yes there are also apps, but I will cover that later.
When it comes to telling time, I feel this is the greatest failing of the Apple Watch. It simply is not very good at it, it keeps time properly yes, but because the display is not always on, you can’t glance at it to see the current time. Instead you have to flick your wrist to turn on the display, which works but is sometimes not possible, for example when holding objects with your hands or lying down. This also leads to the watch turning on and off constantly if you are doing anything with your hands. While doing the dishes, writing or reaching for things the flash of the screen will distract you (more noticeable if you have a Watch Face that has a non-black background). I wish the display could just be always-on.
The notification system is great. Really it is. It shows the important notifications and events. You can flag on a per-app basis which one’s you want to appear on the Watch. This saves you the effort of having to pick up your phone constantly.
The important thing to note here is that this feature is contextual, it does not require the user to fiddle with the Watch. This makes all the difference for useability.
The Fitness features on the Watch are excellent. Together with notifications it’s the one thing that does not require much of me as a user. The watch will passively keep track of my pulse and give me reports on the amount of calories I use up. When working out I just start the workout on the watch, and it handles everything for me.
I think the watch is perfect if you for example want to loose weight. It keeps you motivated to “chase the rings”, and gives friendly reminders to stand up and move around if you sit at work all day (like I do). And best of all it does this without much interaction. The watch reduces what I keep track of, it does not increase my workload like some other fitness approaches do. And that I why I love this feature.
When it comes to the apps, they are all quite useless. The only one I use with any frequency is the weather app, which is directly accessible from the watch face if you have the complication on the screen. The rest of the apps are nice-to-haves which uses are far-and-few between. This includes things like a world clock, looking at your favorited photos from the phone, a timer or reading your last received emails. Much like the stopwatch function on a cronograph. This is something that you will appreciate in the rare event that you actually need it but not something you use every day.
There might be a future for apps on the watch. But not in it’s current form, I hope Apple iterates in the next version of their operating system and makes some bold changes to how you use the apps. They should be easier to access and more contextual to what you want to do. How this should be implemented I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that it is necessary for them to work at all.
Overall, I’d say the Watch is a solid product for fitness use. But for all other aspects it’s a failure. It simply does not deliver enough value, especially for the cost. It also lacks in useability. For example: it is extremely cludgy to set a custom image as a background. You must first sync it to the watch, which is done by flagging it as a favorite in the Photos app on the Phone. Then pray that it will transfer. It hopefully will, but it does so later rather than sooner. After that you must find the image on the watch and from there set it as the background. It would be much simpler if you could just set it by using the “Watch” app on the iPhone.
There are many more failings like the above, with time this will improve. But today it’s just not very good.
I no longer carry the watch daily. It’s something I put on for the occasional workout, or on some days when I give it another go. But it’s too flaky for me to rely on and not dressy enough to carry to social events without looking like a geek. I’ll stick to my regular watch for the forseeable future.
Edited on 4th of October for grammar.