New Impressions On The Apple Watch?

I’ve been using an Apple Watch now for nearly 6 months, and it’s time to update the experience. Overall, I’m still mixed on smartwatches in general, and my time with the Apple Watch hasn’t changed that opinion.

Always There

First, unlike the Pebble, I have managed to stick with the Apple Watch daily now for the entire time I’ve had it (considering what the stupid thing cost, I better). I went on several road trips this year, and dealing with the watch wasn’t an issue. Even getting it to stretch the battery wasn’t hard. One trip involved being in a hotel in Vancouver without power for nearly 2 days. You really begin to learn battery management in those situations.

I suspect part of why I I’ve been more consistent is that, because the battery is only good for 1-2 days, I charge it every night. It’s part of the routine, to put it on the bedside charger at the end of each day. With the Pebble, I would end up charging it in my home office every weekend or so, but because I’m not always in my home office on weekends, I would forget about it.

The rubber sport band on the Apple Watch has been very comfortable. It’s easy to put on and easy to adjust during the day. I can’t comment on how it feels compared to other bands. I keep thinking about getting a band for “dressier” occasions, but the price keeps holding me back.

Evolving Usage

When I first got my Apple Watch, I had it notifying me about all manner of things. This got too distracting, and over time, I had fewer notifications pushed to the watch. I’m at the point where the only notifications now are calls, calendar events and text messages.

The frustration was that text messages (which are important) kept getting buried in the background noise of e-mail that I get. None of the e-mail I get is “have to deal with it now” stuff for the most part. Text messages, though, are more important. I don’t even care that my e-mail isn’t available in glances. Again, the watch has become the focal point for things that are important and may need immediate attention.

The fitness tracking elements have been interesting. It’s a bit of game to see if I can get my 12 hours in a row of standing for a minute. I haven’t motivated myself enough to hit the other activity goals yet, but it’s there reminding me.

I Don’t Use Apps

I hardly use the apps on the thing. I do use the alarm, and occasionally the stopwatch and timer apps. But the plethora of other apps? They are just taking up space. For me, the screen on the watch is just too small to try to do anything sophisticated. Building meaningful complex apps on the phone is hard enough. Doing it on a screen a little bigger than a postage stamp approaches pointless for anything but simple tasks.

I also haven’t used the music features of the watch, but then, how I listen to music doesn’t suit the watch. Most of the time, I’m listening to music in the car, at my desk or when I’m reading. In the car, I use an iPod connected to the car audio system. At my desk, I have my computer. When I read (usually using the Kindle app), I listen to music through the iPad.

Could I Live Without It?

Has the Apple Watch become an essential and integral part of my daily life? I don’t think so. Sure, I wear it every day. I forgot to put it on one morning, and it did feel weird. But the first few days without a traditional watch felt strange at first too.

Sure, I’m used to wearing the Apple Watch. Having the time and temperature at a glance is handy, no question. The Apple Pay feature is pretty cool. But could I stop wearing it? Absolutely. I don’t have anything on my wrist that isn’t also in my pocket. Yes, it’s convenient to just raise your wrist to check the time or current weather. But getting my phone out isn’t exactly a hardship.

So, Should You Get One?

I can’t say, right now, that anyone should rush out a buy any kind of smartwatch, let alone the Apple Watch. If someone is truly set on trying a smartwatch, I would suggest a Pebble. They are far, far cheaper, work reasonably well and can accept standard watch straps. Yes, the Apple Watch is better integrated with the iPhone, and is more aesthetically pleasing. But the cheapest Pebble is about 1/5th the cost of the cheapest Apple Watch. Forking out nearly $500 for something you “might” want is a bit much in my mind.

If all you want is some basic fitness tracking, then Fitbit and those like it are an option. Granted, the basic Fitbit band costs about as much as the Pebble, but it is more durable and has some degree of water resistance (you do not want to get the basic Pebble wet). It depends on what you want.

We’ll see if I’m still wearing the Apple Watch in another 6 months. Will I get the next version? Highly unlikely. I’m not looking to build apps, and unless there is some radical improvement in how it works and integrates with my life, the current Apple Watch is adequate to the task. I will admit that is damning with faint praise, but “adequate to the task” is about as good as it gets right now.