A month with the Apple Watch

A month ago I got my Apple Watch. I got the 42mm with White Sports Band at the only store selling it in Berlin at the time, The Corner. The following post will kind of put together my thoughts on it after having used it quite heavily over the past 5 weeks. This is not a review, I will not go into detail with each and every feature the Apple Watch has. Also, WWDC is right around the corner so this might include some stuff I think will be the future of the Watch, which Apple could announce just there.

It’s a Watch

First and foremost: This thing is a Watch. Apple doesn’t call this a smartwatch and neither should anyone else. They call it Apple Watch for a reason, and that’s because it’s just an amazing Watch. It’s not trying to solve any problems with Watches, because, well, there isn’t anything wrong with them. The quality of this thing, even more so the other models, is unprecedented. It is beautifully crafted and deserves to be worn all day, every day. Apple has always been good with built quality, but I just can’t get over the fact how precisely made the Apple Watch actually is. This is actually a devices which tries to build onto and enhance the features of the already hundreds of years old wristwatch instead of sticking a smartphone onto your wrist.

Forget about it

After having used the Apple Watch for almost 5 weeks I have one very strong realisation: In order to love it, you have to forget about it. As I started saying in the last paragraph, this is not an iPhone strapped to your arm. There is a key difference between the phone and the Watch: The phone is a piece of hardware which you choose to use. You ask for information, you open an app, you find a photo or you call your mom. The Watch works different, because it “works” for YOU. It’s like a personal assistant, Siri if you wish, on steroids. When something important comes up, a notification, a calendar alert, a reminder, or a call from your mom it asks for your attention by tapping you on the wrist. It’s able to unlock doors for you or start the car in advance. It’s like that person you’ve got with you everywhere you go, reminding and notifying you about important stuff in a very decent way by not notifying other people around you. When you are at a nice restaurant with your friends and your phone lies on the table it will light up as soon as you get that unimportant e-mail newsletter while the Watch will only tap you slightly, not lighting up and letting you choose if you would like to look at it. This way, nobodies attention will be drawn away from that awesome conversation you are having about that concert you went to last week. Basically, you just kind of need to forget about that you are wearing an Apple Watch because it will be there when you need to pay attention to it.

What’s it really all about

Using the Watch for the past few weeks there have been many people asking me this once specific question over and over: But, what is it all good for? First off, it’s the personal assistant I just told you about. But over time there have really been three major situations that I strongly remember that showed me what this is good for. Just a couple of days after I got the Watch I went grocery shopping. Usually I would go through the store, my iPhone in one hand to look for stuff on my grocery list, my cart or bag in the other. With the Watch I can finally shop without having to hold my phone the whole time. I just use that friendly thing on my wrist to display my shopping list and tap away some items once in a while. It’s very convenient. Another awesome use case actually happened right when I came back from the store. I had two bags, each hand carrying one, when my mom called right after I could unlock my door. My Watch began tapping me on my wrist to notify me about the call and I just tapped the green button with my nose to answer the call. After that I was happily talking away with my mom handsfree while putting groceries away and walking around without me ever having to pull out my phone. The last scenario I encountered was a family party. People were dancing and drinking, and I just connected my phone to the speakers for music playback. Afterwards I was actually still able to be notified on my wrist about everything going on on my phone while also being able to change the song and even the volume when needed. Everybody was pretty impressed, including myself.

Is all this necessary? Is the Apple Watch worth between 400€ and 1.200€? In the end it’s nothing you truly need or you couldn’t live without, but it makes life a lot more convenient in a lot of small and different aspects.

Software

Turning on the Watch by raising your wrist works flawlessly. Just about a week ago Apple released Watch OS 1.0.1 witch improvements, bug fixes and an even better algorithm for detecting your movement and turning on the display. Once the display is turned on your are greeted with your chosen watch face. All of them are customisable to varying degrees. Right now I am using the Utility Face. I have this one set up with three different “complications”, which are three different areas on the watch face I can choose to put information from different apps on. Mine show a timer, my current activity and the weather. Now, if I’d wish to set a timer, I just tap that complication, set the timer, and go. I can actually get into each app by just tapping it’s complication, which makes the watch face a certain kind of app launcher as well. Other then the watch face there are three different ways to launch apps or interact with the device. This is where things get interesting and also a little bit tricky. I think that this is where that learning curve and confusion is coming from many reviews have talked about. From the watch face I can either swipe up to get to “Glances”, which are basically cards of your favourite apps that show their most important info. I can also swipe down to get to my most recent notifications and launch an app by tapping on one. For me this could already be everything the Watch does. This is where the line crosses over between the Watch being your personal assistant or you using your Watch like an iPhone. Everything you do until this point will be directly connected to notifications or quick glances at your Watch, but you can also go a level deeper. Pressing the “Digital Crown” on the side from the watch face brings you to the actual screen of installed apps. From here you can launch any app you have installed and get deeper into the content of Instagram or Facebook if you wish. It’s in my opinion not what the Watch is made for and probably the reason for why there are so many useless Watch Apps out there right now. They have not been thought through but have rather been developed just because it’s possible to do so. These apps are also kind of necessary since an app can’t have a glance or customised notification without having a real Apple Watch app first. These apps and their glances are also quite slow right now, though that will be fixed by truly native Watch apps coming later this year. Also Apple is rumoured to let developers make their own watch face complications also launching later this year. I think these things, native Watch apps, faster glances and 3rd party complications can make apps truly amazing on the Watch because it will enable people to use this device as the assistant it was designed for instead of using it like a phone.

In the end the Apple Watch has one thing that stands out the most: Potential. There are so many great ideas and innovations in this product. The Digital Crown for instance is a remarkable input device and I have been using it since the very beginning without even noticing it. Battery life, against what everybody feared, has been stunning. I always get up at around 8am in the morning and get to bed around midnight with at least 50% of charge left on my Watch. Does one has to have it? No. Is it too early to buy one yet? Maybe. Will this be the next big thing? Certainly! Apple launched a great product which will go a long and successful way into the future.

This is version 1.0, the beginning, and this means there is lot’s of room for something to improve. Remember the first iPhone?