I’ve noticed that conversations about the watch seem to follow the flow of media coverage and it seems to have picked up again recently. I’ve had the watch since release day and it’s a useful device. Enough people have asked about the Apple Watch lately that I felt like a lengthy explanation/review would be a good idea. The short review: the Apple Watch feels like it does what it was designed to do well, but I don’t think it lives up to the expectations people had prior to the release.
The Apple Watch is not the same type of device as an iPhone or an iPad, it is an accessory. It’s an incremental step of technology, not hugely transforming the way everybody predicted. I believe this is true for most all wearables, they just don’t solve a compelling problem for most people. The distinction I see with the Apple Watch is that the form is very comfortable. I wear the aluminum, 38mm sport watch with a milanese loop band. I like the silver watch and the 42mm just felt too big for my wrist. The sport bands are nice, but the woven steel of the milanese loop feels great and looks dressier. I’ve not had any issue with battery life (use about 50% a day), scratching, or other concerns many had prior to launch. Design aside, the Apple Watch is about function and for me there are three main functions.
Primarily I use it as a watch. The shift to having a timepiece back on my wrist has been nice. I’d worn a Fitbit Flex for a few years and regularly would glance at it for the time it would not tell. I use the alarms, timer, stopwatch and a standard analog style clock face. All of this could be done by a cheap watch.
Secondly it is a fitness tracker (replacing the Fitbit). It does this well and I appreciate the nudges to get up and move around after an hour or so at my desk. I like that it integrates my step count seamlessly into MyFitnessPal and is easy to check. Again this is functionality that can be achieved by a much cheaper device.
The functionality that changes the most about my daily routine is that the watch is a secondary display for the iPhone. It extends that functionality to my wrist effectively. I would guess that I have eliminated 60-70% of the times I used to pull my phone out (and I’ve almost stopped placing it on tables). I have notifications on my phone that I’ll pay attention to if nothing is going on, but most of the time I ignore them. Prior to wearing the Apple Watch checking a notification would require pulling out my phone to see if it was an alert that needed addressing or if it could wait. The watch lets me reply to more than half of the text messages I get using the defined responses. It also speeds my call screening. I used to get my phone out to see if a call was something I needed to take during social events, casual meetings and family dinners – now I glance at my wrist and send almost all of them to voicemail.
Apple did a decent job with their apps on the watch. The time keeping tools are my most used apps; Apple Pay is smooth; maps are nice. Apple Watch is far from perfect though. Until Apple opens up the watch for developers (which is coming in the next software release) 3rd party apps leave a lot to be desired. I only use a handful of apps on my watch because the functionality just isn’t there. Most of my usage is constrained to Apple’s built-in apps. The exceptions are: MLB, Evernote, Wunderlist and MacID.
Will the Apple Watch be as big as the iPhone or the iPad? Probably not. Is it a handy device? Yes. Could I live without it? I could, but it is convenient to have. I couldn’t live without my iPhone, iPad or MacBookPro. Most people don’t have a need for wearables because they don’t solve a huge problem. This was somewhat the case with the original iPhone, but it had a much more compelling use case out of the gate. My gut tells me that the Apple Watch is a bridge device to a much more connected wearable future several years down the road. For now, I like knowing what time it is and getting my phone out less.