Apple Watch – One Month Review

After a month with the Apple Watch, I was meaning to do a review of the experience so far, and my brother made a timely request for what I’d found, to help form a view on if he should look into getting one too.

1. Activity tracking – for me, its a more constant reminder to be active that any other method I was using, which tended to be passive, rather than prompting. So the ‘gamification’ of exercise has been novel and useful. I was doing activity before and not always carrying the phone, so I now get a better idea of phone-absent activity, although its probably not significant in terms of a percentage of exercise, just feels more complete.

2. Heart rate monitor – I guess its useful, but I found no useful way of illustrating whats going on. The Health app graphs are useless, giving only a very broad overview, and the raw data is meaningless. Where is matters that the sensor is there is that for activity to count towards your exercise goal, you have to elevate your heart rate. Not sure if its above a generic number, or what it considers to be average for you. Using the Workout app to track a specific exercise session significantly impacts battery life, as the HRM is on all the time to get better resolution (as opposed to sampling at 10 minute intervals). For regular gym sessions this won’t affect battery life during a normal day, but for my walking, I’d only get about 6 hours before needing a recharge.

3. Battery life – usually have around 40% remaining on a normal day. Less on those days with significant tracked walking, but 30-60 mins top up is usually all it needs to being it back to good. Downside is need to carry charging cable around if I’m out all day. I’ve also noticed a drop in battery life on the phone as a result of maintaining the connection to the watch, and the interactions you then ask it to make during the day. I now quite often get times when the phone power is down to critical before the end of the day, so need to do an occasional top-up when convenient.

4. Notifications, text messages – very useful for this, saves getting phone out quite so often. Voice or stock replies are generally easier than typing on phone which is a boon. Useful for hands free, such as driving, or setting reminders/timers whilst busy on some other activity.

5. Voice – works very well but you have to have a good mobile data connection (or wifi). 2G it doesn’t work, poor signal 3G often doesn’t, and the lag in determining if its worked creates frustration and resistance to use. Seems strange that the watch doesn’t have the option to read back like the phone does, so forces you to squint at small text, which detracts from the handsfree benefit.

6. All Apple apps are slickly implemented with nice nuances. Third party apps are sluggish, and often miss the point. Early days, Apple have had more time to finesse, and have had the benefit of native API’s which are only coming to third-party with watchOS 2.

7. Hardware – very impressed with the hardware, I’ve found no problems with comfort or ergonomics, with the exception of the mic/speaker being on the wrong side (covered by sleeve), but wearing with the buttons on the sleeve side doesn’t detract from usability. I’m a lefty, but it applied regardless of which hand you wear the watch. Where Apple feature it on a person wrist, they always have the buttons nearest the hand, which places the microphone under a sleeve (except they never feature sleeves, in order to highlight the watch). Only glitchy aspects are obviously software defects, so should improve. There haven’t been many of these, but an occasional restart has been required to resolve odd connectivity issues.

It seems like a useful accessory to the phone, rather than a new category of device. It signals the fact that at some point, we will probably have a phone built into the watch, and no need for a smartphone, probably a tablet instead (particularly when you consider the trend for larger smartphones). It’s always baffled me why the cellular iPad doesn’t allow calls, even if only when paired with a headset (holding the iPad to the head would create too much negative PR). Likewise, it seems odd that the watch can’t be paired with an iPad. Surely that has to change in the future, and its mostly a software limitation.

I’ve no idea when there will be a v2 of the hardware, but I suspect they will hold off till at least next year, and then perhaps only do minor tweaks. Most of the improvements need to come in terms of software.

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