The Apple Watch: Grades Are in

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Apple-WatchMy four year old was going through my office drawers yesterday (what is it about the office that is so intriguing anyway?) and found an iPod Nano. He asked what it was. I explained that back in the “old days”, we used to use a separate little device to listen to music. I went on to explain that this device is no longer necessary because Apple invented the iPhone, which plays music, but also makes phone calls, takes pictures, and does many other things. Since he seemed very intrigued, I went on to explain that the iPhone might not be necessary much longer either because many of these functions are now available on my watch. My Apple Watch plays music, acts as a phone, tracks activity, and will probably take pictures in its next release.

I’ve had my Apple Watch since April and it has definitely been quite the topic of conversation, and not just with my kids. As some of my colleagues have mentioned, we gave out a bonus to everyone in the company so that we could each try some new technology. I saved mine for the watch. I got the low-end one thinking I’d either not like it or want a newer version soon (it’s the latter). Originally, I said I was only going to put it on for fitness and casual wear, but recently I couldn’t bear to take it off during a fancy wedding. I took it off last night for date night with my husband and felt very strange, even though it was right next to me in my purse. Yes, I’m a believer.

I really haven’t done too much with it yet, other than turned it on, put it on, and did a quick 10 minute set up. As usual, Apple made it so intuitive that I’ve just been learning it along the way. Here’s what I’ve learned so far…

What I love

  1. Phone Finder. With one swipe and a button press I can make my phone ding. This is much easier than finding another phone and calling it. This is by far my very favorite feature and a primary reason I wear the watch. My kids love it too. If you do not have the watch, you think I’m lame right now. I don’t care. My husband is really jealous and I might have to get him one for his birthday so he can find his freaking phone. They need to add a feature so he can find his wallet too.
  2. Activity Tracker. I loved my Fitbit, but found it limiting. The watch is better, at least for a lazy person like me. The three circles (move, stand, and exercise) are even more motivating than the 5 dots on my Fitbit. It really does get me to move around more and think about getting some exercise. It taps me when I need to stand up, sends me motivating, but pestering reminders to get moving, and awards me when I achieve something. An athlete or someone trying to accomplish a serious physical challenge might need something more, but it is perfect for my non-performance focused activities.
  3. Texting. The text functionally is really impressive. If someone sends a text that only requires a 1-word answer (Yes, No, Absolutely, Thanks, etc.) – the watch gives me those options and allows for a very fast, 2-tap reply. For other replies, the voice dictation is extremely accurate, much better than my phone.
  4. Calendar. I love seeing my next appointment on the face of the watch, which is my default view. I also like that it taps me when it is time for my next meeting. I find it less disruptive than a ding or a buzz.
  5. Weather. I don’t know why, but I look at the weather on my watch, though I never did on my phone. The watch face I use also shows the current temperature and by pressing on that temperature, there’s a really nice interface to see the hour by hour temperature and conditions.
  6. Reminders. It is really easy to add an Evernote note or set a timer to remind me to do something. It used to be that I’d go looking for my phone to remind myself of something and by the time I found it, I’d forgotten why I was looking for it. Apple Watch saves the day! Clearer head for me.

Note that, other than the first two, every one of my “loves” is something I could do from my phone. It is just more convenient, faster, or more intuitive to do it from my watch.

What I don’t love

  1. Perception. It is still not socially acceptable to raise your wrist and look at a phone call or text. It feels about 10x more offensive than looking at my phone. This will go away over time. For now I try to resist the temptation or explain why I’m looking.
  2. Alerts. I can’t quite get my settings right and there are still a few too many alerts. I’ve turned off Facebook, LinkedIn, and Slack – all which come to my phone, so by default came to my watch too. I still get calendar invites, texts, and VIP emails. It is still a little too much, but that’s all configurable.
  3. Exercise Tracker. I was really excited about the heart rate monitor. It isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t seem as accurate as wearing a chest strap. Some of the other functions (Stand, Exercise Tracker) seem a little off, so I don’t fully trust it. I would not recommend it for anyone trying to be a performance athlete or trying to hit some big diet or exercise goals. Hopefully by the time I actually want to really exercise the device will be a little more advanced.

Note that the only things I don’t like are probably going to get better over time – maybe even as part of or by the next release.

My conclusions:

  1. As a health tracker (the main reason I bought it) I’d give it a B+. This watch is not going to turn me into an athlete or get me into great shape. But, it is probably making me healthier, possibly, but not definitely, more than my Fitbit. At a minimum, my head is clearer because I make myself move around.
  2. As another communications device I’d give it an A. The texting and phone capabilities have been surprisingly good. This is probably the most pleasant surprise.
  3. As a way to live life in the “real world”, i.e. be present with my family and friends, I’d give it an A-. While it does ping me and sometimes distract me, I find that by not having my phone, I’m less likely to get sucked into distracting digital conversations. Instead I just look at it and say “I’ll respond to that later”. It is the same way I felt about getting email to my phone. It was nice to see it, but I had no problem waiting until I sat down at my computer to do my email all at once.
  4. As a fashion accessory I’d give it an A-. Unlike the more brand conscious NY Times Chief Fashion Critic, I have no problem with having the gadget on my wrist. I’m happy to be defined by this watch.

I’m two months in and I’m a believer. It is the next thing. I continue to wonder why I didn’t buy Apple Stock. Every time I look at one of my Apple portals and see how many computers, iPads, phones, and other devices are hooked in there I’m flabbergasted. Good for them, they deserve it.

 

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