The Apple Watch From A Watch Lovers Perspective
April 20, 2016
So there is this thing were @revenant333 and I watch the Apple Keynote and after the keynote is over we send each other a quick shopping list. When the Apple Watch was released the reactions were quite different - he had one on his list, I did not see the point in it. I like mechanical watches and I did not really see the point in having another display telling me what my phone already shows. My take on the Apple Watch was pretty straight forward - "buy one if you need it for work". Now I got an Apple Watch and I have to admit I was a bit wrong about the usefulness of it.
When something new is released I usually try to see the use cases in it before making up my mind if I want it. But for the Apple Watch it was a bit different. I already have a watch. A really nice one. I appreciate the work and precision that is needed to build a "real" watch. The same thing cannot be said for a small display at my wrist. It is just that - a display with basic input functionality. It is not a watch, no matter what you name it. I could not imagine trading a fine piece of craftsmanship for another display.
Fast forward a few months: I needed to get an Apple Watch for a project. While I still could not see me wearing it, I decided to give it a try for a few weeks. Without hands on experience I do not believe that you would be able to build an app that actually feels right, is usable and provides real value. So with a tear in my eye I put it on. I got the cheapest model - it feels surprisingly okays. I still prefer steel or leather, but even the plastic band is not as bad as I imagined.
The stupid display
Surprisingly I did not spend the next few hours playing with it. My day continued as usual and I just started using it. With the vibration I knew exactly when I had a upcoming meeting, when Jean wanted something or when a mail from someone on my VIP list came in. This is one of the biggest selling points for me. When I am in a meeting I usually have all devices silenced and most of the time my MacBook is closed. If I need to take notes I do it in the most primitive way - pen and paper. This works really well for me, no distractions, easily to focus on the actual meeting and nothing between me and the people I am talking to.
Usually I do not wear my watch at home. I am, most of the time, in front of my computer, so I got notifications, the current time and my appointments in the top right of my screen. But since I needed to figure out what works on the watch and what not I kept it on my wrist. I started putting my system in DND mode and started looking at the watch when a notification came in. I get way less notifications on my watch and if I get one, I know it is important enough to look at it.
Sometimes it is quite handy to be able to take a call with your watch. Especially when your phone is sitting on your desk and you are two rooms away making sure your cat does not vomit on the carpet. This could surely be solved in other ways, but quickly tapping the accept button to tell your fiancee you hate the cat is really comfortable.
Traveling with the Apple Watch
Standing at the airport, waiting for TSA to fondle me it is easy to take a quick look at an incoming message or an email to figure out if it is urgent enough to pull out the phone and answer or if it can wait. This is quite handy when you actually expect an important message you quickly have to react to coming in.
One of the things I tried while being in Budapest for DjangoCon.eu was navigating with the watch while walking from my AirBNB to the market to get something to eat. I have to admit that I had a really hard time getting into the right street - "turn left in 20m" is not helpful enough for me compared to actually seeing the street and directions on an actual map. But after getting used to it and starting to look closely at the street signs it got easier - not good, but acceptable and it is nicer to just look at your watch than walking through the streets looking at your phone.
One thing I found quite valuable is sports band while working with my MacBook on a plane. I would normally take off my watch to not scratch the MacBook or watch while resting my wrist on it. But with the plastic band I can keep the watch on and just use my MacBook without risking scratches. The pin keeping the band closed is in a position that is far enough away from the MacBook and therefore the only risk for scratches is minimised to an acceptable factor.
Apple Watch Sport vs Apple Watch
The primary reason why I got the Sport was the price. It is a development device and there is no difference but the case and band, so there was no point in spending more on it than necessary. But if I would consider wearing the watch even without doing development which one would I get? Most likely the Sport again.
The Sport feels well build, I really like the matte finish and the band is perfect for travel. Considering that, other than a real watch, you are not planning to pass it on to your son or son in law at one point, but replace it every 2 to 3 years the lower price tag is also nice.
One thing to keep in mind is that neither the Watch nor the Watch Sport actually look like something you would usually wear with a proper suit, at least when meeting with more conservative people. Thinking back a few years when I was primarily working with people from the finance sector the Watch would have caused some eyebrows to be raised. For your day to day life, also while wearing a suit, both look the same on your wrist. So if you prefer the Watch or the Watch Sport really comes down to personal preference and style.
From what I have heard the Sport could be a bit more forgiving when treated badly. I actually managed to pull off my belt while going through TSA and the belt buckle flipped against the watch and gave it a small nick. So I cannot really confirm that, but I was surprised how small and invisible it is if you do not know what to look for.
Apps, apps, apps
I have to admit the state of apps is really bad. I use the standard apps a lot, but most third party apps are just bad. And I mean really bad. You noticed that most companies most likely just shipped an app to be hip or to be on the good side with Apple.
I would start ranting about Twitters decision to display my timeline and their trending tweets, something I never used or cared about, but not showing me mentions or direct messages. But let us be honest - Twitter plainly sucks at building apps on literally every platform in existence.
Other apps could display relevant information like a driver and license plate who is about to pick you up or the ETA - but you see a map.
There are too many things that are not well thought out and this is exactly the reason why I started wearing and using the Watch before actually starting to develop for it. Most of my critique comes from apps that look like no developer ever actually bothered to wear or use an Apple Watch.
Input is surprisingly easy, even with slightly bigger fingers. When starting an app I sometimes missed my actual target in the beginning but I got a hang of it after a few hours.
I never was a big fan of too much tech being involved in my exercise and when practicing martial arts I cannot wear tech anyway. But going for a run or doing weight training, especially with the sport band, it is easy to get used to it and you get some basic information about your training that can provide value. One thing the watch allowed me to do is turn of my hourly alarm reminding me to get up to do some push ups and squats. The watch will take care of it, sometimes in an bit annoying way. I still did not figure out how I cannot reach my standing goal while walking for 6 hours through Budapest.
I have heard from quite a few people (some who I did never expect to buy into it) to actually move more with the watch on their wrist. Especially because Apple did an amazing job at gasification, it looks like once you got your first full circle you want to keep it up and make it a streak.
Will I continue to wear it?
I do not like to admit it but I got used to the Apple Watch. While still preferring my "real" watch when going out, I will likely go with the Apple Watch for my day to day activities. When out with friends I do not want to be reachable for anyone. I already got an activity and I do not need digital distractions. I know, uncool and old fashioned, but I do not see them often and when I do, I prefer to actually spend time with them than answering mentions on Twitter.
One thing I need is a new band. The coating of the sport band started to peel off, leaving transparent flakes on my wrist. I am not sure if I will go for another sport band of if I can find something made of leather, cloth or caoutchouc with the same closing mechanism which would make it safe to use with an MacBook.
One thing I would be interested in would be the Apple Watch in the format of an wrist band. That could be the sweet spot for me. A "real" watch on my left wrist, my stupid display showing notifications on my right. Well integrated, basic interaction capabilities. This would not feel as wrong was wearing two watches. I say basic interaction because let us be honest: no on draws a fish to ask someone to go out for sushi and the answers you can send to a message are most of the time too limited - just as Jean thought when I only answered her questions with pre-defined responses while listening to talks.
If you are a traditional watch lover you might have the same problem I do - the Apple Watch does not fit into your world view of what a watch is. And that is fine - we are talking about a new device category that would force us to abandon our beloved watches, one of the few pieces of jewellery, and for some men a symbol of status, we can wear in an socially accepted way. But that is something people thought too when the watch moved from the pocket to the wrist. Going against socially accepted ways is not always a bad thing. And in the long run it provides so much comfort, that classic watches will slowly diminish. Even classic manufactures started going for the digital trend. If you want to give it a try the entry price for the Sport is more than acceptable, especially considering the price of the watch you could currently be wearing on your wrist.