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A year with Apple Watch

Last year, I wrote about what it was like living with Apple Watch after 2 weeks. 12 months on, is it any use?

Exactly 11 months and 2 weeks ago, I posted this blog post with my first impressions after 2 weeks living with Apple Watch.

In that post, I said that what made the Apple Watch worth it was the cumulative effect of dozens of daily conveniences. I also said you probably shouldn’t buy one yet - but instead wait until they’d ironed out the creases.

Almost 1 year to the day has passed since my device was delivered; has my opinion changed?

A quick recap

When the device was introduced, Apple said this wearable was valuable for 3 reasons:

  1. it was the most accurate timepiece ever made
  2. it allowed you to communicate with others in much more personal ways
  3. it enabled you to lead a healthier life

Well, 1 year on, not all of those lived up to their promise.

The most accurate timepiece ever made

I don’t know if Apple Watch is the most accurate watch ever made, but I do know that it’s accurate enough for me never to have to worry. It even managed to deal with the clocks going forward and back without screwing up - which is more than can be said for the iPhone.

The problem with Apple Watch isn’t its ability to know the time, it’s the ability for it to tell me.

The display on Apple Watch turns on in a number of ways:

  • raising your wrist
  • double tapping your wrist
  • pressing one of the devices physical buttons

By far the most used of those three is the wrist-raise, because it’s the most natural. In theory it sounds great. Theory is not practice, friends.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve raised my arm only to see the screen fail to awaken; I must look like I’m having some kind of involuntary shoulder spasm when trying to activate it.

So sure, it’s probably the most accurate timepiece ever - when you can get it to turn on.

A device to communicate in more personal ways

Apple made a big deal out of this device’s communications abilities. You can make calls from your wrist. You can send texts from it. Hell, you can even send your heartbeat from it if you want to.

The promise Apple dangled in front of our noses was more of a prayer.

Let’s start with Digital Touch - Apple Watch’s ability to send sketches and heartbeats to others. I still don’t know the point of this feature is. In case it wasn’t obvious on announcement day - this is a total gimmick with no practical application in the real world. I literally haven’t used it aside from to try it out in the first few weeks. In fact, the whole side button that triggers it is entirely redundant to me, aside from it’s ability to activate Apple Pay. It may as well not be there.

Apple Watch’s call making abilities are equally over-rated. Whilst the idea of being Dick Tracey might have sounded cool, in practice, it’s an experience fraught with problems.

Firstly, the microphone and speaker in Apple Watch are so underpowered that you basically need to hold it to your mouth and ear the whole time you’re on a call - which not only defeats the object, but also makes your arm ache.

Perhaps worse is just the sheer embarrassment of looking like an asshat as you talk into your wrist in the street. Real life isn’t The Apprentice, Apple - people don’t use a loud speaker on their phones unless they’re washing dishes.

Perhaps text messaging (and instant messaging more broadly) is where Apple Watch has value then? Kind of.

There’s no keyboard on Apple Watch - obviously. That means everything is entered by voice. This introduces multiple friction points.

  1. Dictation relies on off-device processing to turn your words into text. That means you need a fast internet connection; something that’s rarely a given.
  2. Assuming your internet connection works, the accuracy of the text-to-speech service is flakey at best.

For quick replies - single word responses or emoji - the Apple Watch is fine, but normally you need more than that, and it’s normally quicker and more reliable to use your iPhone.

Worse, depending on what service your message comes through on depends on whether you can or can’t reply from the Watch anyway. If there’s not an app for that, you’re out of luck.

Apple Watch isn’t the most personal device for communication I have - that’s my iPhone; because it’s faster, more reliable and more versatile.

A device to help you lead a healthier life

I’ve never thought about my health as much as I have since wearing Apple Watch. Apple Watch lives up to its promise in this area; for me at least.

The way the device keeps track of your daily activity and encourages you to go further is great. I have an office based job - so the hourly reminder to get off my ass and walk round the office a bit is helpful.

I don’t know if I feel healthier, but I’m definitely more aware of my slothful tendencies than I was before and that can’t be a bad thing.

There are loads of things you could improve about the health capabilities of Apple Watch, and I won’t go into them here, but what is there is good enough for now and it is making a difference.

A bad purchase? Some good stuff

You might be thinking, not unreasonably, that I hate my Apple Watch. I don’t. There’s a lot to like about it; just not the things Apple chose as the device’s stand-out features.

A look for every occasion

Apple’s watch bands are a delight. Super simple to swap out and the burgeoning third party supplier market makes it possible to keep your look fresh.

Notifications

It’s still not perfect, but the way Apple Watch builds on and improves the handling of notifications from your iPhone is great. I said this was the best part of Apple Watch, and it still is.

Siri

It’s sometimes slower than I would like it to be, but having Siri on your wrist is actually super useful. Even if its just to check the weather or to set a timer, its really convienient; especially when you can’t find your iPhone.

Find my iPhone

Have you ever lost your phone in your room and searched for ages to find it? Not a problem for me any more thanks to Apple Watch. I press a button on the Settings glance and my iPhone ‘pings’ really loudly, even if its in silent mode. Genius.

Wrap up

A year is a long time in the technology space. Apple Watch hasn’t really changed much in that time; but my originally sceptical view has solidified.

I wasn’t new to wearing a smartwatch; I’d worn them before Apple Watch, and I suspect I’ll continue to wear them for many years to come. That probably means a number of more years of frustration with devices like Apple Watch.

I said last time that you probably don’t want this one. My opinion hasn’t changed. There’s a long way to go before this device is ready for prime time.