Full disclosure: I don’t like watches.
The last time I wore a watch was just over twenty years ago. As a young nerd, I would synchronize my Casio calculator watch with my high school’s clock. I could tell you down to the second when the bell would ring. For me, a watch was always simply about functionality. I first started using a cell phone regularly in early 1999 and it was my sole timepiece. The cellphone became the 21st century pocket watch. I’ve never been a “watch guy”. I have many friends who would drop thousands on a magnificent Swiss watch and while I admire the attention to detail and the work that goes into creating something like that, I simply could not fathom parting with a great deal of money for something that provided a single function that was available to me in so many other places. They were utilitarian devices for me.
If I were to go for a watch, I would naturally prefer something that fits in with the aesthetic that Apple provides as I find their hardware visually pleasing but also because I would want something I make such an investment in to be able to do more than just tell time. When the Apple Watch was announced in the fall of 2014, I knew I would buy my first watch in over two decades and in the spring of 2015 I ordered one. Specifically I ordered the 42mm space black stainless steel link bracelet model.
I’ve had my watch for nearly three weeks now and I’ve found how it fits into my daily schedule. An average day starts for me between 5 AM and 6 AM. I’ll awake and remove the phone from the charger and place it on my wrist before I go to the gym. I purchased the Mophie Dock for Apple Watch and this is where I charge it at night. The band that I use when going to the gym is my black sport band.
I’m able to use the watch to check into my gym through my gym’s watch app.
As the Apple Watch is supposed to be worn all day, it should be ideal for tracking your heart rate. There’s good news and bad news in this regard. The heart rate monitor is accurate but like the Mio Link that I used before it, the green laser that measures capillary dilation seems to have accuracy issues when you get really sweaty. In the last year, I’ve been on a massive weight loss regimen (down nearly 120 lbs in one year) and tracking my calorie intake and calories burned is absolutely vital to me. When using the Mio, the device would quit communicating. I cannot afford to have that data be incomplete. If I’m two-thirds of the way through a workout I don’t want to stop the workout, wipe down my arm, reattach the device, and restart the data collection. It simply must be correct at all times. When I hit my ideal weight, I will be more liberal about the accuracy of this number. Until then I am not going to stop using my Polar heart rate monitor. For the average person, this is probably fine. That being said right now as best I can tell the data collected by cardio in the activity monitor is separate from the data collected by my fitness app using my other heart rate monitor even though they share their data back to the Health dashboard. I will likely do data collection with both the watch and the strap / fitness app and then compare the results to verify accuracy.
After my post-workout shower, I get dressed for work. Most days I wear the space black stainless steel bracelet.
I find the look of the space black link bracelet to be more visually appealing though it’s worth noting that the sport band feels far more natural to me. This is because I’ve never worn a “real” watch band though it’s starting to feel natural to me the longer I wear it.
Removing the links are really easy once you realize you won’t break the band. My wrists have shrank considerably since I started losing weight. I had to remove several links and on the sport band I use the smaller of the lower bands. Swapping the bands is a little awkward at first but then comes really easy once you get the hang of it.
The watch faces are configurable too. I’ve never been one for over customization of my iPhone but I do find myself changing different watch faces depending on the band and my mood and will even sometimes adjust the color of the watch face depending on what I’m wearing. I usually favor Utility with the steel link band and Modular with the sport band.
On my way to work, I may stop and get coffee. The Starbucks app works fine on the phone though the watch is new enough that cashiers aren’t sure what to make of it. The first time I used it the cashier in the drive through thought I was going to hand her money from my fist rather than present a barcode to be scanned. It feels a little awkward to present the wrist for payment but it’s really no worse than holding up your phone. Now that Apple Pay will support loyalty cards let’s hope more of them move to contactless payments as I would rather hold my wrist against an NFC terminal instead of getting scanned. Using the watch at places like Subway or Walgreens is novel and you will still get attention for doing it but I’m hoping it becomes common place soon.
I work all day on a Mac that’s associated with every service that I use on my phone. Any and all texts, emails, and relevant notifications will appear on my screen when I’m working. The real benefit is if I’m in a client meeting or some other situation where it would be rude or socially awkward to stare at my phone. The trick, of course, is to make your alerts selective. I will get an alert from Dark Sky if rain is imminent or in Slack if a team member says something I need to know. With email, I use the Spark mail app and it will only alert me if an email is directly addressed to me. Things that are from vendors or notifications are there but don’t grab my attention. This small detail is very important and quickly endeared the app to me.
Glances are a quick way to see the most relevant information you’d need to know in much the same way widgets in Notification Center in iOS are. I have Dark Sky, Fantastical, Todoist, Spark, and Deliveries as my primary glances. This breaks down to …
- What’s going on outside?
- What meetings are next?
- What do I need to get done today?
- Do I have any relevant email?
- Am I expecting any deliveries?
Widgets in Notification Center were one of the best things introduced in iOS in recent years and it feels like I’m the only one who uses them in that day-at-a-glance sort of way on my iPhone. Recently I muted all audio notifications on the watch and enabled the prominent haptic. This way when I get a notification, I’ll know but those around me won’t.
What I want from the watch is to be aware of only the things I need to be aware of so that my phone is relegated to my pocket whenever possible. So far the watch has worked great for that.
If I’m driving somewhere and I need navigation, just using the Maps app on your phone will make your watch prompt you with haptic feedback when you need to make an exit or a turn. It takes no extra setup or configuration, it just happens.
Once home, I’ll usually swap the steel link band for the sport band. If I’m cooking or cleaning I don’t want to risk harming the nicer, more expensive band. As I make dinner, I’ll use Siri to set a timer for cooking. If I get a text message, I’ll use Siri to compose a reply. If I get a phone call from my wife on her drive home, I’ll take it on the watch if I’m able.
By the time the day ends near 11 PM, I’m at around 40% on the battery which is pretty good considering it’s constantly communicating with the phone via Bluetooth LE all day long.
When Windows Phone originally launched, Microsoft was already addressing the notion that the phone was basically a big distraction. You need to see what’s relevant at a glance and then get back on with your day. The problem there is that when the phone is already in your hand there’s little stopping you from dropping down the rabbit hole of doing time-wasting activities on your phone. How many times have you picked up your phone with the intention of checking something and then an hour later you were reading an article or checking Twitter or Facebook or Instagram? Fiddling with one’s phone incessantly is an epidemic and is without a doubt one of my worst habits. Calling the watch a notification device seems reductive but it is allowing me to get information I need without temptation to be less productive.
Recently I traveled to Boston for a few days and used it a little bit outside of my normal use cases. Going to the ticket counter to drop off my bags I stuck my wrist under the scanner instead of my phone, did the same with TSA, and again to board the flight. It worked fine in all instances. I used it to summon an Uber with my destination prefilled in Worfklow. This did not work as advertised though a recent iOS update says it addressed it. Certain iPhone apps I depend on when traveling didn’t have great Apple Watch counterparts. The Delta app would repeatedly stick on the loading screen and my TripIt Pro app would only present useful information if I was travelng that day. It’s possible I didn’t spend the proper amount of time with it but when my other apps are instantly intuitive and this one isn’t, I simply move on to the counterpart on the phone … for now anyway. My hotel is an SPG property but not one that allows keyless unlocking with your iOS device so I haven’t tried that functionality yet.
When the watch gets native apps in the fall, I expect it’ll be a little snappier. Right now the delay in spinning up an app can be painful at times particularly if it’s something like Dark Sky or Deliveries where it has to poll the phone to get useful info. The just-announced iOS 9 promises more contextual awareness for Siri and while that’s great on the phone the implications for the Watch are very exciting too.