For my birthday, a major milestone this time around (I’m not telling!),my family gave me an Apple Watch. I had not specifically asked for one, but when suggestions about a new watch were made, I tossed out the idea half joking. Frankly, I don’t really wear a watch. I own (or did own until it was recently stolen) a $19 Target Massimo watch that worked pretty well. I have an iPhone that I use for checking the time. And often while working on my computer I take off my watch and put it on the desk.
Nonetheless, I made the comment and now I have an Apple Watch. A black sport iPhone with a rubber watchband. In real life, this Monkey heads up an IT department with software developers and technicians. I have over 28 years of development and IT experience. I made the switch from being a Windows home/specialist/afficianado to being an Apple home about five years ago (iPad, Mac, Mac Mini, Apple TV and now Apple Watch). I have good experience setting up and using Apple products. But the Apple Watch was a very new experience for me that required some counterintuitive thinking.
And so, every so often, I’m going to document my experience with the Watch. I’m writing this first entry on my iPad so I’ll go back and provide better formatting (and delete this sentence) later.
Details on the Watch
First of all, the Apple Watch is not a stand alone device. It requires (for most of its functionality) tethering to an iPhone. Untetherered, it will show the time (imagine that!), act as a timer or alarm clock, play any music that you’ve uploaded to the 1 GB of space that it allows for tunes, and run certain self contained apps. Thus the Apple Watch seems to be designed as an extension of your iPhone. It attempts to keep you from having to pull out your phone repeatedly to do common tasks. Secondly, it appears to be an extension of your iPhone. You can “see” through your camera lense from the phone, and can trigger the camera to take a picture. It can control the music playback of iTunes on your phone. It can read and dismiss / delete messages, emails, etc. that are on your phone. You can speak into your Watch as a remote for your phone during a call.
Charging the Apple Watch means tethering it to its charging pod, which adheres well to the bottom of the watch using a magnetic induction connection. The other side is a standard USB cable that can connect to a computer or plug into the wall. The watch appears to charge fully in a few hours. A full charge easily lasts the whole day and through the night for me.
The Watch is water resistant but not water-proof. You cannot submerge it but you can get it wet.
There is no keyboard nor keyboard touch screen app. All you can do is dictate via Siri. And Siri does work pretty well. You can command the phone to do various things using Siri and can wake it up using “Hey Siri”
There are ways to hand off between the Watch and your iPhone (and back). When a call comes in, your Watch will notify you and you can either pick it up, or hand it off to your phone. And while you can initiate driving directions from your Watch, if you start the process on your iPhone, it will hand off automatically to your Watch. In general, for shared apps, you can start on your iPhone or Watch and then switch to the other device pretty seamlessly.
Setting up the Apple Watch means tethering it to the phone, which is a simple matter of launching the Apple Watch app on your phone (part of the iOS 8 operating system) and telling the Watch to tether. Worked the first time. Once tethered, the Watch will automatically download Apple Watch versions of the apps already on your iPhone and make them available on your Watch. So the first thing you have to do is remove the ones you’re not interested in using on your watch. As always there are a few apps (like Stocks, Weather, etc.) that you cannot remove. Removing the other apps is as easy as holding your finger down on the app on the Watch until all the apps shake with an “x” symbol on them and then attempting to touch the “x” for those apps you want to delete.
Next, you use the same iPhone Apple Watch app to access a special App Store and download apps that work with the Apple Watch. There’s apps for weather, mapping, tip calculation and major suppliers like Weather Channel, ESPN, Bleacher Report, Delta Airlines, etc. Also, doing an Internet search for “best Apple Watch apps” sent me to some pretty interesting apps. But it’s clear that developers have just started to understand how to use the Watch effectively. I predict some pretty amazing apps are still in the works.
You can configure the watch face to be analog or digital, or the fun Mickey Mouse classic face (which is what I selected for now).
There is a lot of setup you can do if you want to. You can add World Clock locations and configuration of the watch face to show different information (the date, the weather, another time zone time, re-arrange the apps on the main screen, etc.) I spent a good part of a day getting it how I liked it – and I’m still tweaking it.
The Watch can be set to notify you of a number of things, including each time a text message comes in, emails, and even fitness alerts. I did program my age, height, weight so that the heart monitor could be used to calculate calorie burn (note: apparently the Watch can connect to a Low-Energy Bluetooth chest strap heart monitor. I have one and will attempt that in the near future). The notifications are configured on your iPhone using the Apple Watch app. Haptic feedback and tones may be configured to advise you when a notification occurs. A swipe down from the top of the Watch face displays the list of notifications. Each can be dismissed or they can all be dismissed by pressing a little harder on the display (force tap) and an option to dismiss all will be provided. Configuring the notifications is something that I’m still working on to suit my needs. Driving directions via the iPhone Maps app will use haptic feedback to indicate when you are about to turn left or right. Pretty cool.
You can also configure the Apple Watch to provide a glance into certain information or applications. This includes any particular app, but also standard ones like World Clock, Heart Rate, Weather, Stocks. Each of these are displayed by first swiping up from the bottom of the Watch face, and then left to right on the watch face to reveal each “glance”. Some glances have multiple screens and it’s tricky to swipe in a way that moves to the next glance without actually moving to the next screen of that glance. For example, The Weather Channel is a nice glance app. It has three screens that show temperature, precipitation and even a small static radar screen. You can swipe between these screens or with a more firm swipe can move on to the next glance. Configure your glances in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone. This feature appears to be very useful.
Lift to View
To conserve energy, the face of the Watch will darken after a few seconds. It has a feature that turns on the Watch display if you tilt your wrist toward your face or if you generally flick your wrist. This works very well, except if you wear your watch to bed. In doing so, you’ll notice the Watch will light up the room every so often as you turn over in bed. Head to the “gear” app on the Watch and you can temporarily turn this feature off. I turned it off during the day to see if it would conserve battery because just normal movement can cause the display to turn on for a second. Instead you have to touch the display in order to turn it on. I found the loss of that “tilt wrist to view” was not worth the minimal battery savings and turned the feature back on. It will be turned off at night.
I went ahead and configured two credit cards to use with Apple Pay. It’s easy to do, though not all credit cards are supported at this point. Once you have them setup with a confirmation code, all you have to do is double-push the large flat button on the side and it’s ready to be used. Pretty neat. Haven’t used it yet.
Thoughts After Day 1
So far, I like it. I’m slowly getting used to using it more and more – and it’s proving to be useful. For most of the day I didn’t have to pick up my phone at all. I just kept it nearby. The LE Bluetooth has a range of about 33 feet which is enough to work across the house. The notifications are nice and I’m able to read and delete email without accessing my phone. I’ve tested the text messaging feature and it works.
I charged the phone this morning to 100% after wearing it to bed last night. I put it on around 9:30am and have been wearing it all day. I turned off the wrist-flick feature for a short while but then turned it back on because it became a pain to touch the watch face when I wanted to read it. So now, at 10:00pm it has 66% remaining. So maybe the best way is to charge it just before hitting the sack, wearing it to bed, charging right in the morning and then putting it on the whole day. Not sure it will make it more than one full day without a charge.
One part that can be annoying is size of the display and thus the size of the buttons and elements that you must interact with. Sometimes you have to touch the word “< Back” to get back to the prevous screen and it takes a few attempts. It could just be something I have to get used to, but it’s noticeable.
I configured my fitness app and I like that the Watch routinely tells me that I’ve been sitting too long and should walk around. I have it tracking my walking, and will use the My Fitness Pal app to try to record my calorie intake.
Soon I’m going to use it with my aforementioned chest-heart-monitor strap (Garmin) and see how useful it is while biking. I can tell you that balancing my phone on the front of my bike so that I can change music is not fun. Hopefully the Watch makes this easier, too. So maybe the Watch is mainly a remote for my iPhone. A $400 remote that tells time.
Finally, I’ve just started looking at a nicer watch band than the black rubber one that it came with to see if that’s an option.
Do you have an Apple Watch? If so, how do you like it? Do you have any questions? Any comments? I look forward to hearing from you guys about this new technology.
Update – Morning of Day 2
Quick update – turned off my “lift wrist to view” and after charging it to 100%, which took about 20 mins to go from 60% charged, I woke up to %87 charged. So it easily lasts through the night. Also, with “do not disturb” on – it didn’t alert me to emails and texts, which was/is good. Now off to use it in real life. More updates shortly.