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My First Week with Apple Watch

2015-05-05 14:10

I was pretty excited to get an Apple Watch. I ordered two, one for me and one for my wife. The most interesting thing aspect of the watch to me was the personal communications features. I love the concept of sending a few taps on the wrist to my close family with no more effort than raising my wrist. And they could get that message without it interrupting whatever they are doing. "Hi, I'm thinking of you."

So I ordered two watches on April 10 at around 4am. They are identical except in size: a 42mm for me and a 38mm for her. But they were backordered until May.

Last week one of them arrived early. Of course it was the one for my wife. She's very nice (and isn't an Apple addict like I am), so she let me use hers until mine arrives.

The watch is very nice. For a mass-manufactured product, it is very high quality. I got the steel version with the milanese loop, which is a kind of metal cloth or mesh. It's very comfortable. The 38mm watch is a bit small for me: it's slightly smaller than the mechanical watches I wear.

It took about a day to orient myself to the various "places" in the watch: the watch face; the notifications area; the "glances" which are like widgets; and the app launch screen. After a couple of days messing around, I spent most of my time on the watch looking at the watch face with its summary weather and calendar information, or reacting to notifications. When I first set up the watch, I turned off almost all notifications from apps. The only things I allow are texts, VIP emails, calendar notifications and Slack direct messages.

It's quite a good experience overall. I can't really say anything bad about it, apart from the occasional bug. It's quite excellent for a 1.0 product.

However, it hasn't yet had a big positive impact on my life. Since my wife is not wearing one yet, I don't have anybody to send discreet smiley faces to. That one aspect which I still think might be most revolutionary, I haven't really been able to try.

The other big feature I was looking forward to was to use it for running. I like to go trail running and occasionaly participate in organized races. Part of my enjoyment of running is keeping tabs on my progress with my phone: I've used Nike Running and RunKeeper and Strava. They all are great, but sometimes it's a drag having a phone strapped to my arm. Especially since they have gotten bigger and bigger. So I was looking forward to putting my phone in my back pocket and just using the watch display to track pace and distance.

I ran in a local 10K on Sunday and I used the default workout app that is included in the watch. I think this is the only fully "native" watch running app available. Nike and Strava and RunKeeper watch apps are all basically remote controls for the phone app.

The app worked, and it did track my heart rate as well as pace and distance. However, there were a few problems:

So it wasn't a clear win over just running with my phone.

After the race I started to miss my mechanical watch. I've worn a watch pretty much every day since I was 10, when I got a wind-up Timex for my birthday. I still have it. But for the past 20 years or so I've worn a Rolex. The first one, my Dad left to me. So it was (and is) special because it was his, and his most prized posession. Years later, my wife bought one for me. That one is special because she picked it out. Even more years later, my wife bought me another one for our 25th anniversary. That one is still new, and I was really missing it while I wore the Apple Watch. (I actually wore the Apple Watch on my right wrist and my regular watch on my left wrist for a whole day. It was awkward. I don't think I'll do that again.)

So I put the Apple Watch back on its charger on Sunday and strapped on my regular watch. It's not fair, comparing a fine handcrafted Swiss watch to a mass-produced, tiny computer. Apple is the best in the world at making high-quality tiny computers, but there is a tangible difference to a Rolex or similar watch. Also a real physical watch face looks beautiful all the time. The Apple watch face is a black piece of glass (well, sapphire crystal) 95% of the time. It's a like a very pretty TV that is turned off. It's not ugly, but it's not beautiful, and it's definitely not interesting.

Plus, when I want to know what time it is, I just look at it. I don't have to make an exaggerated wrist flip and hope it reveals the time in a second or two. It's right there all the time. The time.

I realize that I am not typical. I think that for people that don't wear a watch at all, and want to have a fitness tracker on all the time, the Apple Watch is great. But I do think that though Apple has been aiming to beat the Swiss at their great industry, they have not done it yet. People who like Rolex or IWC or Patek Philippe are not going to be satisfied with the Apple Watch, not even the gold one. It doesn't fulfill the mission of telling time well enough.

I've been two days without the Apple watch. I don't really miss it. I'll put it back on when we have two to try out.