One year of Apple Watch


Apple Watch utilizing the Photo Watch face • Flowinho


As the early adopter I am, and because every new piece of technology fascinates me tremendously I immediately bought an Apple Watch Sport as soon as it was released. One year has passed since then, and here’s how I experienced my life with Apple Watch, grouped into some of it’s features and a small hardware review in the end.

This is a personal description of my experiences wearing Apple Watch. The positive and negative aspects I mention might work for you — or don’t fit your needs and opinion at all. It’s much more a lessons learned than a review.


Interactive notifications

This is probably my most used feature. Ever since Apple introduced interactive notifications in iOS8 i loved them. And with Apple Watch they bloom to their full extend. While they have proven quite useful on iOS devices, being able to quickly interact with notifications feels just good and enhances my everyday life with little bursts of oh I did that already.

A good example of interactive notifications is the podcast app Pocket Casts. Whenever a new episode is ready, the notification pops up on my wrist and enables to start its download. This way I can preload new episodes on my way to work — without using my phone. Of course this is not an exclusive Apple Watch feature, but using interactive notifications on your wrist enhances their usefulness. Other examples of great apps using interactive notifications are Evernote, Omnifocus, Waterminder and the iOS Reminders app — there are even games that are based on interactive notifications like Lifeline and they play well on Apple Watch, too.


Phone calls

Who isn’t dreaming of making a phone call with his watch?

This feature is as sci-fi as the Apple Watch can get. But to me, this dream stays sci-fi. To have a proper phone call using your Apple Watch, be sure to follow these rules:

  • Eliminate all background noise and stop the air around you from moving.
  • Be sure to shout, because otherwise your call partner won’t necessarily be hearing you.
  • Don’t ever wear clothes with long arms as they will cover your watch and ruin the quality of your phone call.
  • Train your biceps. This is necessary to hold your arm and place the watch next to your mouth for an extended period of time.
  • Be sure to listen closely as the audio quality of the speaker is disappointing.

To be fair: you could also use a Bluetooth headset, connect it to the Apple Watch and make your phone call using that setup but let’s be honest, not a lot of people are wearing this kinda stuff all day long.


Fitness tracking

I have mixed feelings about this. Although I’m not a very sporty person i like to track my workouts using some kind of digital device. This is where the Apple Watch has some serious downsides for me:

  • Workouts need to be started manually While this seems rather logical, there is one problem connected to it: watchOS tries to guess the time you are doing a workout. This convenience-feature is intended to help the users track their workouts even if they forget to start the workout app. The problem? It’s connected to your pulse, essentially turning every heated discussion with your loved one into a workout session.

  • Workout sessions cannot be edited or deleted on the watch In some cases I’d like to edit my workout sessions. Be it because I interrupted my workout for a specific reasons or simply because the automatic workout feature just tagged that discussion with my boss as a workout. But I can’t do that on the watch. To edit my workouts, I need to grab my phone, open Health, search for Workout, open the Workout section and search a list of all of my workouts. Finding that particular workout I want to delete is a story of its own. This is nowhere near user-friendly and annoys me a lot.


Custom watch faces

Watch faces • Flowinho


This is the feature I am most disappointed of. Really disappointed. After one year, i still haven’t found a watch face that pleases me completely. It’s like all of them are missing one particular thing. And to be able to explain it, we need to take a small detour and explain how Complications work.

Complications

Complications are those little widget-y displays that reside inside your watch face and are able to update themselves to present real-time information.

What few people now: there exist three different types / sizes of Complications for every app. Let’s take a simple weather app and look a possible complication implementations. All of the following complication size names are made up by me and are not the official names.

  • Tiny Complications These complications usually sit in an edge of the watch. They typically display either a symbol or numeric data. In case of our weather app, that would be the minimal information of the current degrees at the users location, e.g. 9°.

  • Large Complications Two liners that cover half of the display. This is the most prominent Complication type. For our app we could display the current temperature + the day high in Line 1, and the Precipitation chance in Line 2.

  • Flat Complications One liners that are located right beneath the clock face. They typically clamp as much information into them as possible, eg. 9° • 1.7 m/s • 12%

The layout problem inside watch faces

The root of the problem with watch faces is not just the absence of complications for most apps but mainly the fact that you cannot alter the watch face layout.

You just can’t.

For example, the modular watch face offers the most utility and overview of them. It currently includes up to 5 complications. The thing is: the complication size cannot be changed, effectively leaving you with an ugly hole inside your layout if you decide to not use a specific complication.

Since the layout cannot be changed, the variety of watch faces offering different watch faces is greatly reduced, as some watch faces utilize the same layout, but with different amounts of eye candy. If you strip away stuff like timelapse pictures or Mickey Mouse you’ll get the following base layouts:

Schematic drawing of different watch faces • Flowinho


And that’s just not enough to fit my needs, especially since i cant even change the layout.

So yes, i’am disappointed into one of the core functions of Apple Watch: the watch face.


Third party apps

When people ask why i like my Apple Watch i often reply: “Because the third party apps are awesome.”

This is not a lie — but I just use two of them.

Or let’s put it that way: out of my over 30 installed apps on Apple Watch i use only two: WeatherPro and Omnifocus. Why?

Most apps simply don’t make any sense or a pain to use.

Or both. Ever since the Apple Watch hype train began, i imagine those managers in their offices yelling in front of the developers: “we need an apple watch app — no matter what it does, we need it for marketing reasons”.

Allright, i get that.

But here are some examples of apps i have on my Watch that don’t add practical value to my daily life:

  • I can control VLC on AppleTV with it.
  • I can read my note drafts.
  • I can browse reddit.
  • I can shop Amazon.
  • I can browse Mindmaps.
  • I can switch pencils in my iPad drawing app.
  • And my favorite: I can navigate the Back and Forward Buttons of my iOS Browser.

If you haven’t noticed it yet: all of these actions are either faster, more convenient or more practical on any other device. Sadly, many current Apple Watch apps are in this state.

And there is another problem: it just takes too long to open an app in comparison to the features they offer.

The HomeScreen is so tiny to navigate, plus you can’t see all apps at first glance. You have to search the HomeScreen for your app — all while covering about 20% of the screen with your finger. If it weren’t for complications, which serve as a shortcut into their correspondig app, i’d propably not use Apps at all.


Hardware

The battery

Despite rumors, i’d say the battery is amazing. I wear my Watch all day long, including at night, and i only charge it in the morning in the time between getting up and leaving for work. Even if i don’t charge it, it usually lasts for two to three days.

The watch bands

My original Apple Watch Sport Bands is very poor quality. 2–3 weeks after buying the Watch, the band started to gather skin particles, dirt, pollen and other stuff on it’s surface, with no chance to remove it. Wearing it during a workout is effectively gathering oceans of sweat under the band and the watch.

My watch band after 2 weeks • Flowinho


Apples Woven Nylon band in black • Flowinho



Conclusion

I like my Apple Watch. I have those moments where i think: damn, this is quite useful! Mainly because of Omnifocus sitting right in the centre of my modular watch face. But these are just moments. It’s not like that Watch radically changed my life. It’s a gimmick. A luxury item that has this “omfg an apple watch” feeling.

But that’s it.

So to quote myself from the beginning of the article: i bought this pice of technology because i’m an tech enthusiast and want to see where technology and software might go.

The watch looks nice, and surely is a nice plaything. But to be honest: it never added the level of productivity or connectivity to my life that i expected.


This is one of my first posts. In fact, it’s one of my first reviews. So if you miss any information, if my english is not correct, if you think navigating your browser using your watch is useful or whatever feedback you have for me: Please give me feedback. I try to be as honest as possible and will try to answer to answer every one of you. Thank you for reading this.

Disclaimer

Apple Watch, iOS, Complications and all other mentioned products of Apple are property of Apple Inc. This is a personal review, and while it describes my experiences with the Apple Product, it most likely does not represent the majority of users.



Creative Commons License


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
You can freely modify and redistribute this work as long as attribution to the author remains: Florian Schuttkowski



Flowinho
Code monkey, technology and UI enthusiast. Father. If you want to know more about me, feel free to visit my about page.