July 23, 2015, posted by iq

Three Weeks with a Computer on my Wrist

UPDATED: 11/3/15  Tweetbot has released a native Apple Watch App. More information can be found here.

How many times a day do our smartphones interrupt our conversations and moments with colleagues, clients, family, and friends?  Each time the device vibrates on our desk, conference room table, kitchen table or in our pocket, it triggers a series of actions. We retrieve the smartphone, unlock the smartphone, open the app that caused the vibration, read the notification, act on the notification and finally put the phone back down.  Then we re-engage with the people around us.

The Apple Watch eliminates many of the extraneous actions and distractions, allowing us to be more present with the people we’re with. It’s hardware that helps filter important versus unimportant.

Unlike smartphones with vibration motors so loud they serve as ringtones, no one knows when an alert is received on Apple Watch.  The Taptic Engine is quiet and alerts only the user; no one else is the wiser. When it’s convenient, you take a quick look and if the message warrants attention you can engage from the watch, or if necessary move to the iPhone to complete the activity.

If your phone constantly vibrates or if your friends, family or colleagues mention how often you’re on your device, the Apple Watch is for you. This device has changed how I interact with people. It has made me more present and less distracted and based on that alone, this device is fantastic.

And now for a more traditional review of the 42mm Sport, Space Gray with the black Sport band.

Look & Feel –

When picking up an Apple Watch the weight was noticeable. It is not heavy but it has an unexpected mass; it doesn’t feel cheap. You know you’re wearing it but the weight is unobtrusive. The Sport band is soft with a slight firmness.  After three weeks of use, 12 sweaty workouts, and 3 very sweaty lawn mowing sessions the band shows no signs of deterioration or discoloration.

One of the features Apple paraded was their reinvention of the watch crown as the Digital Crown; “A modern twist on a traditional feature.” It functions smoothly and with just a hint of resistance. But until Watch OS2 comes out, the Digital Crown just doesn’t have a whole lot of functionality that you can’t also do by swiping up and down on the screen.

After watching this it sure seems as though Apple sandbagged about the water resistance. There are brave users like Tim Cook who shower with their Watch on but so far my wariness of ruining it has limited my water exposure to washing my hands.

The battery life has also been a pleasant surprise. My day starts at 8 a.m., I try to workout three to four times a week, have a yard to maintain and am a night owl. Even with this elevated usage, I have yet to see the battery dip below 30 percent.  And since my iPhone isn’t waking up and vibrating with all of the notifications it’s sending to the Watch I’ve noticed improved battery life there as well.

I tested the watch’s heart rate monitor against the built-in heart rate monitor on two different stationary bikes and an elliptical.  The rate came within one or two heartbeats per minute, finally allowing me to believe those machines have been telling the truth all these years.

Taking calls on your watch sounded completely silly at first. In our open office it would be rude to make a call but in the car and at home it’s a great and easy way to communicate without actively holding a device. For example, I can keep cooking dinner or fold laundry while talking to my mom. (Hi, Mom!)

Apple Watch notifications for messages, emails, twitter and calendar reminders make the Watch so useful. As was addressed in the opening, the simple glance and dismiss functionality allows you to be more present with people and in-the-moment. It would be a nice future feature to select different rhythms and intensities to differentiate between notifications or contacts.

Replying to mail won’t be here until Watch OS2 but using Siri to send to messages or start a phone call is fast and simple, and might be my favorite way to communicate right now. The default replies can be edited for your style.

Twitter notifications like mentions, favorites, and retweets are sent to Apple Watch and Twitter’s app allows tweeting from the Watch but with some limitations. Personally, I’m holding out for the best Twitter app, Tweetbot, to make a Watch app. (Tick tock, Tweetbot!)

The built-in exercises the Watch will track are limited to Outdoor Run, Outdoor Walk, Outdoor Cycle, Indoor Run, Indoor Walk, Indoor Cycle, Elliptical, Rower, Stair Stepper and Other. Most of my workouts are in the “Other” category, which is fine but as processors and accelerometers improve I’m hopeful Watch will be able to track exercises like pull ups, sit ups, weight lifting, and other fitness activities.

Overall there are many positive features, but there are a few cons as well. At times Siri isn’t the easiest digital personal to wake up via voice and occasionally the home screen is unresponsive. This is probably to prevent Watch from being accidentally woken up and to preserve battery life. Perhaps the sensitivity will get dialed in over time. The Digital Crown and Force Touch functionality are largely wasted because third-party apps don’t have access to them but that will change with Watch OS2.

This product is useful right out of the box but the future of the device is most exciting. Coming in Watch OS2, more customizable watch faces to enhance the home screen with information that is important to you. Time Travel on the home screen; not only to see what’s coming up next but what your predicted battery life will be at that future moment. The SDK and native apps from third-party developers will eliminate the current lag time.

All in all, the Apple Watch is a delightful way to navigate your life and work while leaving your phone in your pocket.

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