I’ve never really had any use for watches. There are clocks almost everywhere. Also, ever since I got my first car, I figured a dashboard clock was pretty much like a watch I took everywhere, except that I rode inside. Yeah, the poster boy for watch fanatics I’m not.
As much as I like tech gadgets, smartwatches haven’t had that much appeal to me because…see previous paragraph. They’re expensive, seem a bit clunky, and never really provided a compelling use case that made it worth not only shelling out the cash, but putting up with wearing them all day.
But recently, I’ve been trying to solve a problem with the way I film my workshop videos, and I realized that combining an Apple Watch with an iPhone and an iPad might be the answer. I don’t have all the gear here yet to try that solution out, so you’ll have to wait a bit for the details. In the meantime, however, the Apple Watch itself arrived at my door, and so I figured I’d wear it for a day and just see what that’s like.
What follows are my impressions, journaled over a 24-hour period. I bought the $399 42mm black aluminum Apple Watch Series 2.
When you read my notes, please keep in mind that I haven’t been following the Apple Watch as closely as some other tech gear. As such, my comments are much more in line with those of a new user encountering the device. With that, let’s get started.
(Don’t want to read my 24-hour diary? Hey, I forgive you. Scroll down to “Impressions after 24 hours” to see what I liked and didn’t like.)
* * *
Well, my Apple Watch just arrived. It came in a surprisingly long white box. I took out the parts, and plugged in the too-short USB cable. I’m letting it charge. I’m already annoyed at the cable. It’s able to reach the floor, but just barely. Oh, and hey. Inductive charging. Way to catch up with your competitors, Apple! Way to catch up to 2009.
* * *
The watch is now charged. Tried on the sport wrist band, which fits. Barely. First impression: I hate — hate, hate, hate — this wrist band. It’s a royal pain to put on. There’s a good chance I’ll damage the watch by dropping it, merely attempting to put the band on. If I keep the watch, I’ll need to get a band that’s not so sucktacular.
* * *
Pairing the watch was easy. You answer some questions. I had to scroll waaaay down the list of countries to select United States. I’m provincial, but I think the US should be first in the list, followed by all the other countries. After all, the watch was designed here. Okay, maybe it’s only fair that China should come first, since it was made there.
In any case, pairing involved an image showing up on the watch screen, which the iPhone camera read. Quick. Painless.
* * *
I set the watch up initially with a passcode. This was a mistake. Yes, having a security code is good, but on the watch, it renders the watch completely, frustratingly abominable. The watch settings app on the iPhone allows that to be turned off, but I had to fight with the watch to enter the passcode three or four times to simply get to that point.
* * *
Another mistake was allowing all apps to be synchronized to the watch. The watch launcher interface is already terrible, but with what looks like the group output of an art class gone mad, the launcher is poor design brought to life.
* * *
Turns out you can delete third party apps. I deleted most of them from within the iPhone Watch app. Did I mention there’s an iPhone Watch app? Rather than having to do all your setup on the tiny watch screen, you can set up and customize the watch on the somewhat less tiny iPhone screen.
The launcher is undoubtedly terrible, but I found the “dock,” basically a scrolling list of launched or preferred apps. This will help a lot, although, for some reason, I can’t remove the Music app from the dock. Apple keeps foisting its preferences on users to the detriment of productivity.
* * *
The Apple Watch is known for iMessage integration, but I haven’t found any native Hangouts app integration. That’s a bummer. I use Hangouts for work all the time. Also, there doesn’t appear to be a Spotify app although Engadget claims one seems to be in the works.
* * *
I tried the Filmic Pro app with the phone. This is one of the two big killer apps that make up my business case for buying the watch. In my first attempt, the video on the phone was vertical, not horizontal. I couldn’t imagine this was what they intended, so dug around online.
The company recommends launching the Watch app first, then Filmic on the iPhone. I also turned off rotation lock on my iPhone. That’s annoying, but if it does what I need, I’ll live with it. Yep, that solved it. There is a pretty-near real-time view of what’s being seen in the phone’s camera viewfinder. This could be a win.
* * *
The default watch face is ugly. I haven’t done much to optimize or customize watch faces because I was far more concerned about how the Filmic interface would look, but the watch face needs to be tweaked. Definitely.
Also haven’t yet found any battery indication. I know that can be added as a complication (the details on the watch face), but I haven’t set that up yet, either.
* * *
Sadly, the native iPhone camera app is only partially implemented for the watch. You can use the camera app on the watch to frame and take a photo. However, video is not supported, so you can’t preview video on the watch. This is Watch OS 3 on a Series 2 watch. So why isn’t video supported, Apple?
Ah, well. If I want live video framing (and I do, I really, really do), it’s the $10 Filmic app to the rescue.
* * *
Quitting active watch apps is a pain. The native Camera app is now in the dock. I’m sure there’s a way to make it go away, but a simple swipe or force touch isn’t doing it.
* * *
The Hue app, which has never been very good, is really bad on the Apple Watch. First, you have to go into the iPhone app, create widgets (no more than four, apparently), and then send those to the Apple Watch. I just wanted to turn a light off. I’ll stick with Alexa. I uninstalled the Hue app from the watch.
* * *
Google appears to be absent from the Apple Watch. Not only is there no Hangouts app, there’s also no Gmail app, so if I want to do anything with mail, I have to it with Apple Mail. [I later found out that notifications work fine, but there’s no individual app for the Google products. So it’s not as bad as I first thought. For example, you can’t initiate a Hangouts message, but you can reply.]
* * *
You (of course) can’t hide the Apple apps from the launcher. Because, in Apple’s eyes, everyone absolutely needs to see every app. No. Not so much. You also can’t delete all the third party apps from the watch at once. You have to uninstall each, one-by-one. That’s why it would have definitely been smarter to have skipped installing them all at setup.
* * *
You only get a set selection of watch faces, and that’s it. No third party watch faces. The old Samsung Gear Live from 2014 had customizable watch faces. On the plus side, you can put a picture of your own on the watch face, or Mickey or Minnie Mouse. I wish Mickey was able to make everything all right, but he can’t.
* * *
Up until now, I’ve kept this thing off my wrist. I’ve been kind of avoiding the inevitable. It’s now that time. So here I go, with that horrid band. I’ve put it on my wrist. Let’s see how long I can stand it. T-Minus 8:52PM. Mark.
* * *
It’s 60 seconds later, 8:53PM. Not sure how much longer I can stand this thing on my wrist.
I’m going to try to distract myself with a video game for a while. I should point out that I’m not what most people would call a normal human. I’m a blogger. I don’t wear shoes all that often either. Boy, this watch band is annoying. We’ll see.
Perlow calls me an “edge case,” and he’s probably right. I’m probably the only person who bought an Apple Watch but doesn’t really intend to use it to tell time.
* * *
I’ve made it over an hour, to 9:55pm, by playing my video game (Dishonored 2). The watch has a breathing exercise, which was kind of pleasant. And when I looked at the watch, it told me to stand up. That wasn’t a bad idea, since I’d been playing for an hour.
The band is really uncomfortable. I’m going to try sleeping with it tonight to see if/how sleep tracking works, but I have a feeling I’ll need to take it off in order to sleep. We’ll see. Going back to the game and I’ll see if I can keep this on for a while longer.
* * *
Installed AutoSleep and HeartWatch, made by the same vendor. We’ll see how they work tonight. There appears to be one area of stupidity already on these. AutoSleep seems to assume you go to bed before midnight. That’s not my schedule. I sent them an email. [See my further note on this below.]
* * *
While Gmail isn’t installed as a phone app, I am getting Gmail notifications, which is nice. I like how a quick beep/tap on my wrist suggested I glance at my watch. That’s very cool. Also, just got another tap on my wrist suggesting I stand up again. Could be useful. Or feel like a nag. We’ll see.
* * *
Discovering new product capabilities is fun. Yes, I know, I could read/view/find some manual. But this was neat. I just naturally swiped down from the top of the screen to look at the last email message that came in. And there were my notifications, just like on the phone. So, thinking there might be a pattern, I swiped up on the phone. Yep. Up came phone settings, battery life, do not disturb mode, and so on.
* * *
I tapped the icon on the control panel that looks like a vibrating phone. It played a loud tone on my phone. It’s a find my iPhone feature on the watch.
* * *
It’s 11pm. After about two hours of wearing it, I’ve found myself tolerating the band on my wrist with less annoyance. I’ve also learned more about how to put it on and take it off. It no longer seems like such a struggle with the band and my lack of coordination.
Muscle memory sets up pretty quickly, so my level of profanity has gone down. I still don’t think I’ll ever like the feel of a watch on my wrist, but it’s less hateful.
* * *
The launcher with all the little round circles is idiotic. Couldn’t find the calendar app before the screen went off. But “Hey Siri, calendar” worked perfectly. So that was nice.
* * *
Gotta give the AutoSleep folks kudos. It’s a three buck app. Less than two hours after I sent an email asking about sleep times, I got an answer. Turns out, the no later than midnight thing isn’t about bed time. It’s about when you consider the next day to start, and you can customize it to some degree. Nice.
* * *
It’s almost 2am and I’m going to bed. The watch has 79 percent battery and I’m going to wear it to bed. We’ll see how that works out. I’ve swiped up from the bottom and put the watch into theater mode, so hopefully it won’t wake me up. Good night.
* * *
Good morning. I’m up and had enough coffee that I can write in here with some degree of lucidity. To my great surprise, wearing the watch didn’t bother me much through the night, although the feeling of it on my wrist this morning is definitely making me twitchy.
I can’t tell you exactly how much battery life was left on the watch as soon as I woke up, because, well, I can’t tell anything as soon as I wake up. But after coffee, and about an hour regaining some level of morning consciousness, the phone is at 65 percent battery. That means it lost 14 percent over an eight-hour period of sleeping. That’s not bad at all.
Here’s one thing that was funny. I was laying in bed, trying to convince myself to get up after Alexa’s alarm sounded. I turned off theater mode and a minute or two later felt a tap-tap on my wrist. Startled, I looked down, and saw the message “Get up.” It was the movement reminder of the phone. But the nag worked, I crawled out of bed.
The sleep tracker turned out to be pretty impressive. It said I got 6 hours and 36 minutes of sleep, which is pretty near what I expected. It did note the times I got up in the middle of the night to pee or check on why the pup was barking.
I found it very interesting to see that my heart rate throughout the night was healthy, which was nice. Of the 6+ hours of sleep, only about two were considered deep sleep. I don’t know if that’s normal. I found it a bit curious, so I’ll be keeping an eye on it over time. My sleep data, otherwise, didn’t appear to be anything I didn’t expect.
* * *
I took the watch out for a spin when I went out for lunch. I absolutely cannot recommend using it on wrist for directions. When leaving for my destination, I asked for directions, and got, as a response, “I’ll tap when ready.” To be fair, cellular reception in my area is spotty, so it’s possible that Siri couldn’t connect.
The real issue became apparent while driving back from my destination, where I was able to get a connection via Siri. Even though the watch was providing directions, it was nearly impossible to see the watch face after Siri tapped a notification. The sun’s glare was such that it was just unreadable. The text was also relatively small, compared to that of the phone itself. It is far, far safer to use the phone mounted on a dashboard than try to glance down at your wrist and barely be able to make out what the notification is about.
What surprised me was that directions weren’t spoken. It would have made sense to get a tap, and then have the watch provide spoken instructions, but that’s not how it works. In my opinion, the watch is probably even more of a safety hazard while driving than looking at your phone is.
* * *
I decided to wrap up my first 24 hours with the Apple Watch with a walk on the treadmill. I’m a gripper, meaning I like to hold both handlebars as I walk. My first observation was that unless I let my left arm drop and swing naturally, the watch didn’t record any activity. It also gives a short countdown when starting a workout, so it missed my first six steps.
One thing that was nice was the constant ability to check my heart rate. I’ve never had that before. I’ve done quick heart rate checks after a workout, but I’ve never been able to take a quick look while exercising. One thing I found interesting was that my heart rate actually went down slightly as I progressed through my time.
Impressions after 24 hours
It’s almost exactly 24 hours since I put on the watch for the first time. My feelings about it are decidedly mixed. I’m definitely not so impressed with it that I’ll keep the watch if my project needs aren’t met, but my experience of wearing the watch was not nearly as bad as I expected.
Separate from my personal discomfort with wearing a watch band, here’s a recap of what I didn’t like:
- Passcode security was an epic pain. I’m not sure how secure this thing is without the passcode, but it’s unusable with a passcode.
- The app launcher (and navigating between apps in general) is abysmal. There’s no sense of order at all. Honestly, if I had to look at the app navigation experience and didn’t know this was an Apple product, I never would have guessed.
- Maps navigation with the Apple Watch is a hazard. It should be disabled while driving. The screen is barely visible while driving on a sunny day, the screen is too small to glance at safely, and a full-sized phone on a dashboard mount is a much better solution.
What I liked:
- Notifications were surprisingly nice. Getting an email at lunch and simply taking a quick glance at the watch was pleasant. Not pleasant enough to justify the annoyance of wearing the thing, compared with just having my phone with me, but cool nonetheless.
- Sleep tracking was very interesting and seemed to work reasonably well.
- Heart beat tracking during exercise worked well, although treadmill gripping with both hands nerfs the tracking ability.
For me the big issue, since I haven’t yet gotten all the bits I’ve ordered, is that I don’t yet know whether my special, custom solution needs can be solved by the watch. That’s the key element of this purchase. Assuming everything arrives, I’ll be testing that over the next week.
Battery life was better than I expected, but in active day-to-day usage it might be an issue.
I was disappointed that the while-driving experience was so terrible as to be unsafe. That’s something where I’d much more strongly recommend Apple’s in-dash CarPlay, or just mounting your phone on your dash, which is what I do.
The jury is still out on whether I will keep the Apple Watch. If I were a watch guy, it might be something I’d gravitate to. Otherwise, for day-to-day use, the Apple Watch is a bit of a yawner. For health tracking, it’s interesting.
For me, it’ll come down to whether it helps me do my project. If it does, it could be awesome. If not, I’m sad to say, the Watch hasn’t yet sold me on being compelling enough to keep.
What about you? Do you have an Apple Watch? If so, how long have you been using it? What are your impressions?
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