Monkey’s Apple Watch – T+3 Weeks

It’s been about three weeks since I received the gift of an Apple Watch, sport edition, black, 42 mm (larger face) and the Monkey wanted to provide a quick update on my experiences thus far.

The Good

It’s turned into a normal part of my life.  Each night I turn off the Activate on Wrist Raise so that it doesn’t display the bright watch face when I toss and turn during sleep.  I also use the Watch as an alarm.  The haptic “tickle” and reasonably non-jarring alarm noise makes it a more pleasant experience to wake to.

During the day, it keeps me posted on incoming notifications for text messages, calendar alerts for my next meeting, and various app alerts.  Speaking of app alerts, I’ve installed a number of sports apps such as ESPN and it’s doing a nice job (albeit overkill) in reporting news alerts.  I think the NFL season gets going (go Colts!) it might be more useful.  Reading an alert about a player missing practice is not especially useful.

I’ve used an app call TipTipTip a number of times for work related restaurant bills.  Very easy to use.  We’re capped at 18% tips for corporate expense reports and we have to show the actual amount of the tip rather than just the total, so this app makes that much more convenient than trying to load the iPhone calculator application.

At work, I’m able to easily see who is calling my phone so that I can accept or reject the call without removing my phone from my pocket.  Same goes for text messages.  As mentioned, the calendar feature is nice because in between meetings it’s a quick glance to see where I’m headed to for my next meeting.

Even the little fitness app that comes with Apple Watch is doing a good job of reminding me that I’ve been sitting too long.  I appreciate that, and I’ll stand up in a meeting and pace around a little bit in order to get that comforting “You did it!” message about standing up for a minute.  If nothing else, it makes me feel like I’m doing something good with respect to my fitness.

The Watch face is made of Ion-X glass, which is similar to Gorilla Glass, and it basically scratch resistant.  And this is good because I’ve bumped my Watch up against all sorts of things as part of normal wear and to-date there are no scratches.  It’s very resilient.

In general, the Watch has pushed me back to actually wearing a watch all day (and night!)  It is definitely useful, has not crashed on me nor locked up.  It manages the apps so I don’t have to terminate them.

Finally, while I used the Mickey Mouse watch face from Day 1, I’ve switched to something more like a regular watch face.  I liked the animated Mickey but sometimes it was hard to read the time at a glance.  I’m going to try out some of the more artistic faces (like the sine-wave of the sun throughout the day (circadian) or maybe the animated butterfly) shortly.

The Not-So-Good

As with most things, the Apple Watch has some downsides.

Battery Life. The battery lasts about 36 to 40 hours without recharging.  I end up charging it each morning and for 20 minutes before I go to bed. I noticed that when I switch off Activate on Wrist Raise and the Phone goes into Do Not Disturb mode at night, the battery does not drain much.  Starting with 100% at 7:45am, I’ll be at 40% by the time I’m ready to recharge for bed at night.  I once went without doing the recharge and still had 30% the next morning.  There are watch bands sold for the Watch that include a built-in battery to extend the life of the Watch battery.  There’s also a “low-power” mode you can switch on during times that you want to slow the battery drain even further, but it deactivates most of the features.  On the plus side, it charges VERY quickly.

Limited Use Untethered. The Watch requires your iPhone to be nearby otherwise you are shown a little red iPhone icon on the Watch face telling you that it’s switched into limited functionality mode.  It still has information cached on the Phone so it’s not like it’s dead, but walking away from my desk after having left my phone behind severely impacts the usefulness of the Watch.  It’s rumored that Watch OS 2 will remove the need for the two to be in proximity, and instead will use any Wifi connection to connect the two.  That would be a welcome change.

Lack of Keyboard. While dictating to Siri is nice, there are times when I really want a tiny keyboard to pop-up.  And that may sound ludicrous on the small Watch face, only being able to select a pre-canned response (“You Bet!”) or dictating using Siri is too limiting.  Sometimes I want something in between a short canned response and dictating into the Watch face, and it’s not possible to set up every variation of what I might want to respond.  So Apple, please add a simple keyboard!  There’s already a small numeric keypad that pops up for you to unlock your Watch, so it’s not a huge step to add a keyboard.

Siri. Meh, eh – not great.  When it works, it works very well.  When it doesn’t, it has this Monkey dictating and repeating (and shouting – my apologies to patrons at Starbucks).  Plus, as I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I am not always in a place where it makes sense to lift the Phone to my face and speak out loud what I want to send or search for.  Yes yes, I realize I could just pull the iPhone out of my pocket, but the goal of the Watch, in my opinion, is to severely limited my needing to do that.  Also, it’s just natural to bring the Watch up to my face to dictate to it, but that’s not necessary.  It’s pretty good without having your lips touch the Watch face.  However, it’s hard to break that “Dick Tracy” style of dictation.  “Hey Siri” is hit or miss.  It gets old repeating that phrase to get Siri to “listen”.  The alternative is to hold down the Watch crown.

Apple Pay. This is really a good and not so good.  When it works, it’s perfect and magical.  NFC only functions in really close proximity to the Watch, so you have to basically “touch” the Watch to the credit card reader.  Worked flawlessly a few times, and a few times it just did not function.  At a CVS, it confused the reader to the point where the cashier had to cancel the whole transaction and then asked me politely to use a credit card.  A lot of this could be the fault of the reader and not the Phone.  But it’s still hit or miss.

Slowness in Apps. Since the Watch requires you to tether to an iPhone, there’s a lot of communication that goes on when you launch an app on the Watch.  So loading say “Gas Prices” while bring up a spinner for upwards of 20 seconds before the display updates.  And clicking on the Glance for Weather will take about the same amount of time to refresh with current information.  In computer time, 20 seconds is a l-o-n-g time.  It’s not miserable, and once the apps get going, it’s acceptable.  But Apple should put some time into speeding up this interaction.

Lack of Apps. Now, it’s a new product so this Monkey realizes it will be a while before we see developers creating some real killer apps, but in general there’s not a ton of useful stuff out there.  I did find a “Tide” app that shows me when the tides are low and high (Florida requires residents to visit the beach every two weeks).  There’s ESPN and some others out there but there’s no NFL app.  I won’t cite many examples but searching through the Watch app store doesn’t yield a lot in terms of sizzle.  I’m not interested (I don’t think) in playing games with my wrist twisted up to my face.  All that being said, I remember when the first iPhone came out and it took a while to get some truly amazing apps out there.

Conclusion. Despite the number of apparent “cons” above, I still like the Watch.  It has the promise of being something pretty spectacular, which for me would be the replacement of my iPhone.  Apple went to a lot of trouble to do some very good engineering on the device and it shows.  As mentioned, no app has frozen or crashed – nor has the Watch locked up.

It’s too expensive.  For the functionality it provides, I’d say about $199 is about right.  The base price of $499 is excessive.

It has, as I mentioned in earlier posts, turned into a tool that I use as part of my life.  Do I absolutely need it?  No, but it is very nice as I’ve said repeatedly to be able to leave my phone in my pocket.  Much like with the first iPhone, back then there was a lot of excitement because it was unique and solid.  But it also was only on AT&T, was fairly slow, didn’t have a great camera, made poor phone calls and had many other areas that were lacking.   However, it formed a basis for a very useful (dare I say indispensable?) device that lead us to a very good iPhone 6.  I think the Watch will be the same thing.  Processors will get speedier, battery life will improve, and eventually the Watch will be nearly a replacement for the iPhone.

The Monkey will continue to post updates in between movie reviews and may even get back into headline monologue joke writing.  If you have an Apple Watch or if you have any comments or thoughts, please do post them.

Look for another Watch update down the road.



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