Do I have a verdict yet? Maybe. Do I have opinions about the Apple Watch? Yes. Do I answer my own questions? Of course not. That would be totally idiotic.
It’s been nearly one year since I received my Apple Watch as an unexpected birthday present. I didn’t specifically ask for one, other than making a passing comment that it looked like a cool device. But there it was, wrapped and waiting for me on July 26th, 2015.
Since then, I’ve been through numerous Apple Watch OS updates, have had to restore it from backup a few times. I continued to try to find the right uses for it and I believe that I have. Now I hear that Apple may release the next generation hardware for Apple Watch which includes a cellular modem, which I think is the right idea.
Some suggest that Apple Watch has not been the huge runaway hit that Apple had hoped. But according to the Wall Street Journal, “more Apple Watches have sold than did the first generation iPhone, so maybe that bodes well for the device. Analysts estimate that 12 million watches were sold in its first year. Not too shabby. At $500 per unit on average, that’s $6 billion dollars in revenue, or three times the annual revenue of Fitbit”.
The Apple Watch is nearly a replacement for my iPhone. That is to say, I find that while wearing the Watch, the need for me to consult my phone is greatly reduced – but not eliminated. It allows me to easily:
- Check the time (what??)
- Receive and read notifications from text messages, tweets, calendar invites, meeting reminders, emails, etc.
- Get updates about activity from certain installed apps:
- Show my id for my Fitness club
- Pay for my Starbuck’s or for any location that supports Apple Pay (including soda machines)
- Use Apple Maps to plot directions and remind me of turn by turn maneuvers.
- Track my daily activity steps, standing, heart rate – including integration with my heart-monitor chest strap.
- Use its built in Siri app to request songs, compose and reply to text and emails.
- Take phone calls.
- See what my iPhone is seeing through its camera before I take a photo.
- Check the weather with a really good Weather.com app which displays th
e temperature (allowing you to rotate the crown to look
forward) and even view radar maps.
- Upgrade to a new version of Watch OS. It was generally simple and effective, except one time when I had to revert back to a backup and re-upgrade.
- Not worry about damaging it. I’ve bounced the crystal off many hard surfaces and even dropped the Watch face down. Not a single scratch.
The Apple Watch is surprisingly useful. Some apps have better implementations than others. For example, Facebook simply tells me there’s an update but I cannot see the details. That makes me have to check my iPhone. Not useful. But other apps, like my LA Fitness App allow me to show my ID card/code, find locations, hours of operation – a lot! There’s even a Tide app that tells me the tidal times for when I visit the beach.
So in summary, I not only like my Watch, I find it tremendously useful. On days that I have left it at home accidentally, I actually missed having it.
How to Make the Apple Watch Better
As much as I like the device, there’s definitely things that could be improved. As noted, the need for my iPhone in tow is annoying. Using a nifty bulleted list, here are the things that I think could have been done/be done better:
- I need a keyboard – something simple to use when I just want to enter text but don’t want to dictate it for all to hear (e.g. “my rash is a lot better!”). Apple, please let third-parties implement their own keyboards and see what they come up with.
- Apps should not be noted “Apple Watch” ready unless they provide comparable functionality on the Watch. Too many times I have downloaded an app with purported Apple Watch functionality only to find it really doesn’t do much at all and refers me right back to my iPhone.
- Display of upcoming calendar events is confusing. You can use the iPhone Calendar app but if you use Outlook on your iOS device, you have to sync the iPhone Calendar to your Outlook calendar. You can display iOS Calendar or Outlook calendar from iOS. And both lag so for some reason; they show past appointments or no appointments. Getting this feature to work reliably is challenging.
- The fitness app needs better sync options with popular third-party fitness apps such as MyFitnessPal. Right now, the Health Kit is a bit confusing to use and easy to lose fitness information.
- There needs to be better watch faces available with more options for displaying the calendar and other facets. The most useful is the complicated one with a digital display of the time. But if you want to display analog clock hands, you’re very limited on anything else you can display. Maybe when third parties are allowed to develop watch faces we will see more creative and functional ones.
Cell Modem Support
While I’m happy to hear of efforts to make it easier for the Apple Watch to run untethered, I’m hoping I don’t have to buy an additional wireless account for my Watch. My iPad Pro is Wifi enabled because I don’t want to pay for another AT&T account for the iPad in addition to my iPhone.
How Apple will pull this off is anyone’s guess but if it means I can leave my iPhone on my desk or at home, then it’s a win for me.
If you’re considering buying an Apple Watch, I would definitely recommend it. However, I would wait until the Apple Watch 2 is released later this year.