Apple Watch

August 9, 2015

I bought an Apple Watch, tested it for a few weeks, and then sold it. Here are some impressions I wrote after .

Part 1 – Shopping experience, aesthetics and hardware

I bought the 42mm black sport one from the Apple store in Shibuya, Tokyo. You can just buy them in the store now, but certain combinations of watches and straps had to be ordered.

The staff clerks at Apple Stores use some kind of iPhone outfitted with a credit card reader. What’s funny is that their thing still runs on iOS6. Modernizing software that’s proven is often not a priority; eapecially if its tied to an expensive hardware investment.

The amount of money that Apple charges for bands is a lot. Personally I don’t want to spend more than 50-100 euros on a small leather strap. There seems to be a third party market for straps but looking at Amazon they all get terrible reviews. So I’m stuck with a sports band whereas I would prefer a leather or steel one; I just don’t want to fork over hundreds of euros for this privilege.

The watch is a bit too heavy for me – it’s very noticeable on the wrist. I am used to wearing light digital Casio watches.

As a fashion object it looks good although you mostly see it in its “off” state so it doesn’t really look like a watch, more like a sports tracker. I would rather have it always on, but I guess that would consume too much battery life. To actually see the watch and read the time you have to flick your wrist up. Like many others have noted this doesn’t always allow you to glance casually at the time e.g. in a meeting. This one’s pretty high on my list of annoyances.

Part 2 – Software

Initial setup is very well done and everything worked perfectly. I had no technical issues at all.

The watch faces look super nice. I like the utility one and the chronograph one, but I am growing fond of the modular one. I don’t feel the need to have extra watch faces. They look very slick and refined especially if you compare them to the watch faces on something like a Pebble Time which looks like a kids toy. Maybe Android Watch has thousands of faces but if they are all bad there is no use to them. I was checking analog watches by Braun a few weeks earlier and the design of the simple and utility watchfaces really reminds me of those watchface designs.

Part 2 – Software – A. Data sync

Another annoyance was that if your iPhone app’s data is not synced up, the data on the watch won’t be as well. For example, I use my calendar a lot (I am talking about 10+ events every day to organize my day), and when I wanted to check my calendar on my watch it showed old data. When I opened up calendar on my phone it updated, showed the new data, and then my watch updated the data. The fact that I can’t go from My Mac to my watch and have to use the calendar iOS app kind of defeats the point of the calendar app. I imagine these syncing issues will get better in the future.

The same thing happened with my banking app. The KBC banking app is supposed to show my bank account balance but it just shows a black screen. After logging into the iPhone app you get to see your balance. What is the point of this app then?

The same issue occurs the other way around: if you change data on the watch, it might stay on the phone. If I dismiss notifications on the watch, why are they still on my phone? With notificiation center on the Mac, an iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch you can now see the same notification four times. Wasn’t this thing supposed to help notification overload?

The software is not very focussed, I have the feeling the watch wants to do too much; I wonder if watchOS2 won’t make things more complicated than it already is. I guess Apple wants as much of a software ecosystem on the watch as on iOS.

Third party apps do little and are relatively pointless at this moment. The most useful was Line, a messaging app I use a lot. I imagine the Apple Watch is a lot more useful if you regularly call with an actual phone line and use messages/iMessage frequently.

Part 2 – Software – B. Maps/navigation function

I was excited about the navigation function when I first heard it. The way I imagined it would work is that it would guide you to your destination by what Apple described as a kind of tap on the wrist that then indicates how you should walk. The reality is anxiety about whether the thing is synced up and a mistrust that you are getting to the right location because Apple Maps in itself is problematic in Japan

Part 3 – Software – C. Information architecture

The navigation model is confusing, the difference between a glance and an app seems unnecessary. In my mental model, every app should be a glance with an option to dig deeper.

I am not the only one who feels this way. Luke W. wrote an extensive blog post about this.

I feel I have to do too many steps to get to an action: for example I was cooking and using Siri to set a timer for 10 minutes for my pasta, if I glance up on my watch I expect the timer to be there but it’s not, you have to go to the timer app. Later I found out this was a setting (to show the clock or the last app); but I think having users make this choice is a bad thing. It should be context sensitive. If you set a timer for 10 minutes, obviously you want to see that timer.

There’s 2 buttons, one is activated by tapping the digital crown, and then there’s a 2nd button underneath the crown. One thing that bothers me is that the 2nd button is tied to your contacts – to message and call them. A function I never use (because I don’t have a phone subscription here in Japan).

Clicking the digital crown takes you to the home screen full of apps. Clicking it twice takes you back to your clock. But then you really have to do a detailed movement on a tiny screen to get to your clock for instance.

I thought the digital crown would serve as a zoomable interface. It doesn’t: the function of the digital crown depends on the app you are in. In the “time” app it’s a way to get back to your home screen. But in the stopwatch app it’s tied to setting the time. In mail it’s tied to scrolling.

It works but it’s quite the learning experience. Especially because the watch is a bit slow when opening apps sometimes it all doesn’t feel as smooth as it should be.