Monday, March 14, 2016

Apple Watch Impressions

Just before its release, I posted how I couldn't imagine liking an Apple Watch.  My conclusion was that it did not have all of the features I wanted in a watch.  Well, I got one for Christmas as a surprise and I think that approach was not nuanced enough.


Here is the thing--the Apple Watch is not for watch guys.  It's not really much of a watch.  The Apple Watch works best for folks that aren't convinced you need a watch in today's Smartphone Age.  If you want it to be a watch, which is what I wanted, you will be disappointed.  If you look at it as a piece of wearable technology or an accessory to your iPhone, it's pretty delightful.  

In many ways, the Apple Watch eliminates the need for a watch in the same way a flashlight app eliminates the need for a flashlight.  I talked about why I didn't think the flashlight app made sense here and I still believe that is the case.  The problem is that the flashlight app is inherently inferior to a good flashlight AND you need to risk your smartphone when using such an app.  Those problems do not exist when comparing an Apple Watch to a real watch.  The Apple Watch keeps perfect time, better than any mechanical.  And so at the most essential function the Apple Watch is better, unlike the flashlight app.  

But no one buys a nice watch because it tells good time.  People buy them because they look nice and to marvel at the craftsmanship.  I get that.  I bought a Sinn 556i for this very reason, and I am still happy with that watch even though I have the Apple Watch.

The thing that sells me on the Apple Watch as a device is simple--it does much more than even the most sophisticated Swiss watch can.  And while none of these extras are capable of justifying the Apple Watch purchase alone, when you combine them all AND you throw the watch feature on top, it is a justifiable purchase for iPhone owners.  

First, I love the activities monitor.  This tells you how many steps you have taken, how many calories you have burn, how much you have stood up during the day, and how much exercise you have done.  This little feature, like the +/- gauge on my car's fuel consumption, has spurred me to be a little bit more cognizant of my actions.  I am part of the video game generation and we all are, to some degree, completists.  If I am two minutes short on exercise for a day I will go and do that, even if it is 7:30 at night.  I want to see that circle made whole.  Again, it's not a big deal, but it is something I like.

I also love the ability to check emails, texts, and social media without having to access your phone.  When I get home from work I try to put my phone away until dinner is over and the kids are in bed.  But with the Apple Watch I can do this and not worry about missing a message.  The advertising campaign's notion that the Apple Watch helps you untether from your phone is, at least is one sense, somewhat true.

I have also found utility in a bunch of different small features.  We have a 10 month old in the house.  He crawls and loves to take our phones.  And so often my phone is not where I put it and the phone finder feature is tremendously useful.  Similarly, the Maps integration is quite nice.  I can drive with eyes on the road and not worry about missing a turn, as the Apple Watch pulses as you come up to a change in direction.  Finally, I really like the nightstand feature.  It is a simple thing, but when a baby is sleeping (or not) it's helpful to be able to roll over and get a quick time check.

The Apple Watch is not for everyone.  It's not for watch guys.  It's not for Android people.  But if you have an iPhone, it's not a bad accessory.  Just don't think of it as primarily a watch and you'll be happy, even if you do look like Dick Tracy talking into your wrist.  Finally, I do think the voice recognition software, used primarily for sending texts and emails, is much, much better than the disastrous voice recognition on the iPhone.  Instead of sending me to an Indian restaurant, I get what I am looking for (which is, coincidentally, sometimes an Indian restaurant).


  1. "When I get home from work I try to put my phone away until dinner is over and the kids are in bed. But with the Apple Watch I can do this and not worry about missing a message."

    I have been torn on the idea of smart watches and this, for me, is actually an argument against. I am someone who has a hard time putting my phone down even though I know objectively that all the notifications annoy me and stress me out. So, when I do make myself put my phone down, I want a complete break from it. I understand that the watch may make it easier to put your phone down more often, but it seems to me like another thing demanding my attention even when my phone is away from me or on silent.

    Thanks for your impressions. I have said before that I should be the target audience for smart watches - I love cool gadgets and software and mobile technology. But I just can't wrap my head around them yet, and I'm continuing to avoid owning one until some compelling functionality jumps out at me.

  2. Thanks for this, Tony. I'm not really a watch guy, but I bought that same Sinn for its durability and versatiity. I wanted something I'd be happy using for the next 30 yrs. Which is why I don't think I'll get an Apple Watch, not anytime soon at least: they'll be obsolete a couple years after you buy one.

    I guess the question is whether the various added functions are worth the price for a couple years. So far, for me, they aren't.

  3. Thanks for the review. I'm interested in the Watch primarily for one of the reasons you mentioned: I want to keep my face out of my phone while I'm at home, but I don't want to miss important calls or notifications.
    Out of curiosity, what knife is that pictured beside the watch?