It’s been one year since I strapped the Apple Watch on my wrist, and the truth is, I haven’t taken it off since.
But don’t get me wrong, Apple’s first wearable still has a long way to go.
Below are the reasons I’m still using the Apple Watch, as well as the things that need to improve for everyone else to join me.
5 reasons I am still wearing the Apple Watch
By far my favourite Apple Watch feature is the watch face. Despite all the neat designs, animations, time lapses, and the ability to use photos as a background, I always returned to the “modular” option.
It’s the ability to customize this watch face with complications that make the feature meaningful to me. It has become my daily dashboard, providing me with the time, temperature, battery life, another time zone, and a look at my activity, all with one quick glance down at my wrist.
I’ve always viewed the smartwatch as a triage device to help me in the war against notifications (emails, text messages, calls, etc.). I use my Apple Watch to quickly glance down at a notification to see what’s up and then decide whether its important enough for me to head over to my phone to dive deeper.
I constantly find myself feeling a buzz on my wrist, looking down, getting the gist of what a notification is telling me, and then moving on to continue what I was doing in that moment. This is dramatically different from how I use my phone, where I’m often checking notifications and then spending way too much time bouncing back and forth between apps, only to find out what was trying to get my attention, really wasn’t that important.
Fitness and Motivation
I didn’t think I was going to use the Apple Watch’s fitness features, but the device has made me a convert. I’ve actually found myself once in a while getting off the couch and trying to hit my activity goal.
As someone that does hot yoga often, I found the heart rate monitoring useful in calculating all that effort sweating things out in downward dog. And unlocking achievements and even getting a message saying you achieved your stand up goal (although I’m still not sure this feature is entirely accurate) often brightens my day.
Having tried a number smartwatches on the market, the one thing I will give Apple is that they have ensured the device feels good on your wrist. It fits snuggly, doesn’t get in the way, and I dig its aesthetic.
I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to try out a lot of bands and my favourite is the Sport version, mainly because it’s the best “all-day” band, and can move easily between working out and going to dinner. I have a couple of Sports band colour variations that I change up often when I get bored. One of the things I don’t think Apple is getting enough credit for is the work the company did with these watch bands.
Apple Watch’s bands are still the easiest to swap out (literally one push of a button) and the way each band clasps to ensure that the band doesn’t get caught on things such as the magnetic end on the Milanese Loop, or the way the Sports band tucks under, is much appreciated.
Finally, I would say one of the major reasons I wear my Apple Watch is pure habit. I’ve worn a smartwatch since the first Pebble came out, so I’ve trained myself to “need” something on my wrist.
Every day, I wake up, shower, get changed, put on my watch and grab my phone before heading out to tackle the day. Having a watch on my left wrist has become so normal that I freak out a bit if I’ve left the house and glance down to find it’s not there.
5 things that need to improve about the Apple Watch
Improved fitness and health features
If the Apple Watch, or any wearable for that matter, is going to really succeed within the mainstream, it needs to move from a “nice to have” to a “must have” device. Our smartphone is now a must have device. Despite all of the reasons I listed above as to why I still wear Apple Watch, when push comes to shove, the device is still not a necessity for me.
What sets any wearable apart from the phone, tablet or computer is the onboard sensors that have proximity to your body 24-7. I hope to see with the Apple Watch continue focus on the use of these sensors that monitor and provide insights regarding our health. Once your Watch starts to connect the dots on how your activity, emotions and stress impact your overall health, the device becomes a critical tool for you and your healthcare practitioner.
I’m not a fan of most of the apps on Apple Watch. I never go to the complicated app screen located within the watch’s UI and I rarely use the Glances. The Apple Watch’s current app ecosystem is unfortunately lacklustre despite Apple updated the operating system to allow apps that natively run off the watch. I hope to see not just platform updates announced later this year, but also a stronger emphasis on growing an improved software ecosystem.
This includes educating developers on the unique opportunities, user experiences and interactions possible on the new form factor. Most of the apps I am seeing today feel like we are jamming smartphone functionality on a tiny screen, and then attaching it to our wrists.
Developers need to be given the tools and the guidance to start thinking “wearable first,” leveraging the sensors, haptic feedback, complications, and other unique nuances of the smartwatch in order to come up with killer software that will help prove the value of the watch. We also need to stop thinking the Apple Watch, or any wearable for that matter, should operate on its own, replacing our existing devices. Instead, the smartwatch needs to be viewed as a way to enrich the experiences on our smartphone, tablet and web applications, or Internet of Things (IoT) in connected environments.
Digital Touch 2.0
When Digital Touch was unveiled back at the launch of the Apple Watch I was excited. I am a huge fan of haptic feedback and am bullish on its potential to become a new form of communication. I’ve written in the past on how haptics can act as a “body morse code.” Eventually, I see a feature where we are able to learn what different vibrations mean like we did with SMS language (LOL, WTF) and emojis.
But the fact is I rarely use the Apple Watch’s current Digital Touch functionality. I’d love to see Apple rally behind the use of Digital Touch as a new messaging app, perhaps going so far as creating a starting lexicon of vibrational messages.
I mentioned earlier that I use my Apple Watch as a triage device, but the truth is right now getting the watch’s notification settings just right, requires a lot of work on my part. What I really want is a wrist assistant.
A smart AI that knows where I am, what I am doing, and has learned what I think is a priority, delivering only the information I need, when I need it. I don’t expect this to happen anytime soon, so in the meantime, just giving me more granular ability to configure notification settings beyond just toggling them on and off, would suffice.
I don’t have as much of a pet peeve with the battery life when it comes to the Apple Watch as most do. The device lasts until I get home and for me, this is way better than most portable electronics I use and carry with me. Putting my Watch on the charger every night is not much to ask since I’m always plugging in my smartphone and tablet anyways.
Battery life makes my wish list not because I want a Watch that lasts seven days, but because without improvements in battery, we won’t be able to see more advanced apps improve the value of the device. It doesn’t matter how killer an app might be on the Apple Watch, if it sucks the battery dry so the Watch only lasts half the time the wearable becomes useless.