My 42mm stainless steel Apple Watch with the sport armband finally arrived on Thursday.
Here are some of my first impressions on a scale of brilliant to pants and a summary as to whether I would recommend getting one.
- The camera remote allows you to monitor what your iPhone camera sees and then remotely activate the shutter (either immediately or on a 3 second delay). This helps you take some pretty epic selfies
- The haptic alerts where the Watch taps your wrist. This is a really lovely and unobtrusive way of letting you know that something’s up
- I don’t have to get my phone out every time it buzzes. A quick glance at my wrist to see what’s up. I found that this actually helps me stay in the moment – especially as the haptic alerts aren’t as intrusive as a buzzing phone, I can even chose to ignore them entirely – and then catch up on the notifications screen. Compare that to vibrating trousers and I think this is one of Apple Watch’s best features
- Quick responses to messages are super easy – I can pick from a few short stock responses and get on with whatever I’m doing. I’ve also used my Watch to dictate a response (while on my Brompton), which worked fantastically well. You do have to remember that you should only say what you want to appear in the message – Siri will take you at your word!
- The hockey puck charger and foldable UK power plug are some of the sexiest pieces of functional design I’ve ever seen
- It is a really lovely watch. The weight is marvellous, the size excellent, it feels great against my wrist, and rounded edges mean that my shirts and jumpers slip over it quite easily. The sport band, while a bit unwieldy and awkward to put on at first, feels great – whether on a long run (and I sweat profusely) or in the office, typing away on the computer.
- It tells the time!
- The battery is perfectly capable of lasting a day – yes, you have to charge it every night, but who doesn’t do that anyway with their Apple gear?
- The fitness tracking functionality called ‘Activity‘ is very good. It’s lovely and quite motivating to have a tap on the wrist tell me I’ve achieved a fitness goal or that I’m about to hit one. It’s a bit odd that everything seems to be based on calorie burn and that you can’t program other goals (or at least I haven’t figured how!) and that there isn’t a web-based dashboard to check. Everything is pushed to the Activity app on your iPhone, so you have to look at your stats and achievements there
- Tilt up the screen so the Watch turns on and say ‘Hey Siri‘ activates your personal assistant – and it has really improved over the years. You can also hold down the crown for a bit to activate Siri. The voice recognition is excellent and using this feature really just depends on how self-conscious you are about dictating commands to your wrist…
- Tilt to switch on the display doesn’t always work. I suspect this will improve over the next iterations of the product, perhaps as battery power improves or they go for something like e-ink we might even get a version that is on all the time
- Force touch is a genius idea to add a fourth layer of interaction (next to crown, button & tap), but it’s difficult to tell when it is available to you. I suspect that this will change as I get more familiar with the device, but at the moment I find myself pushing down on screens expecting more options and not getting any
- I don’t get the glances feature. I don’t find any of the information there particularly useful, or it just takes too long to load
- For a device that Apple calls their most personal device yet, I find it odd that there are so few options to personalise the look and feel. Sure, you can invest in different straps, but why can’t I construct my own watch face? The few preset templates allow for minimal tweaks but they’re mostly naff or kind of look the same
- I like that the workout function allows you to set targets like how many calories you want to burn, or how long you want to run for. Apple Watch doesn’t plot your run or ride on a map however – very frustrating, especially as all the information required is there and there are many free apps on the market that do just that
- The overall experience of using it. There are so many oddities where I expect something to work in a specific way and it doesn’t. It’s just not as intuitive as I’ve come to expect from Apple products (I suspect this has more to do with first generation syndrome)
- The inconsistency of messages – some come through to the Watch, others don’t. I’ve not been able to figure out what the rules are here
- The heart rate monitor takes a reading every 10 minutes, I guess this gives you an average over the day. You can however force Apple Watch to give you a reading by opening the heart rate tracker in glances but I found that this took too long. I tried it while out on a run and gave up. It’s no faster when at home on wifi either
- The third party apps are just poor and many feel rushed – it shouldn’t just be a case of Apple Watch companions: interacting with somebody’s wrist is all about context and function.
As an example of my biggest wtf moment came on my long run yesterday. You can start an activity on Strava through the companion app on the Watch. However, when you open the app again to see how you’re going, the Apple Watch companion sends a restart command to the iPhone app which then wipes your progress and starts afresh. Lucky, I wasn’t that far into my run – imagine you’ve just crossed the 10 mile mark and wanted to check if you’re on for that half-marathon PR! Now, this is probably more to do with a bug on the Strava app rather than with iPhone – still, I found it very frustrating!
- You need an iPhone 5 or better to run an Apple Watch and while you can use the Watch solo after setup, it is really not a smart watch
So. Should you get an Apple Watch?
It depends very much on what you want to use it for.
If you want a device that will track your fitness and encourage you to be more active – get a Fitbit or Vivofit.
If you want something to track your runs, rides or swims alongside a whole lot of other information associated with that activity, get a Garmin Forerunner 920 XT with heart rate monitor or a Suunto Ambit 3 with heart rate monitor.
If you have an iPhone and some spare cash lying around and are looking for a device that can do a little bit of everything as long as you’re patient and can handle some oddities, get an Apple Watch.
I’ll be honest: I was expecting more from the Apple Watch. Probably because all their other products are so darned spectacular, I was expecting something on a similar level. And while the Apple Watch is definitely more than just a prototype, I think that future versions will truly blow us away.
The best thing about the Apple Watch?
The most delightful interactions I’ve had with my Apple Watch were due to context. Turn by turn navigation while cycling. A tap on the wrist every completed mile on a run through the Surrey countryside. A motivating message telling me that I’d already hit my daily move goal after a morning run. A text message from a friend letting me know about the camping equipment I could borrow (just as I was browsing for stuff in a shop – OK that may be coincidence). A hearbeat from a friend in Ireland (although I have to admit, receiving a heartbeat on your wrist is WEIRD).
This is the key if you’re building an Apple Watch app: the wrist is the perfect place to deliver a key bit of information that fits what I’m doing right now.
Set up properly (and I’m still tweaking that) and with the right apps focused on passing me information and I think my Apple Watch will help me manage digital distraction better as well as stay active.
I think that’s pretty good for a first generation product!
Still… my suggestion would be to wait for the next versions – or until disillusioned Apple Fanboys sell their first gen watches on eBay.
Bits and bytes
- Facebook launched ‘instant articles’ this week in partnership with some of the world’s biggest news organisations like the New York Times and The Guardian. The agreement means that you’ll be able to read articles right there in Facebook, without navigating away to the publisher sites. Fortune and the Wall Street Journal take a look at who the winner is – at the moment the consensus seems to be that the potential ad revenue through Facebook’s reach will offset the fall in visitors to publishers
- Out for a run or ride in a new city? Check out Strava’s Local City Guides feature where they suggest outings for your to undertake on two feet or two wheels. Just download the route to your phone and off you go (you might want to keep an eye on those roaming charges though!)
- The success of Apple Watch (at least in terms of sales and hype) has universities banning all watches in exams
- The HuffPo has the best of the web’s reaction to Nigel Farage unresigning as Ukip leader
- 27 images that sum up how smartphones are runing our lives
- Superb work by the WWF and their endangered emoji campaign
Videos of the week
Excellent campaign for the Carmel Winery featuring food-o-graphy: specially crafted plates for the Instagram/foodie generation.
If websites started dating – fab clip by @emmablackery
Alert Pants – the pants that let you know when you’re obese. After all, recognising that you have a problem is the first step to fixing it!
Dangerously addictive game Twenty