I get the same two questions whenever someone asks me about my Apple Watch:
1.) “Do you like it?”
My answer is always: “Yes.”
2.) “Should I get one?”
My answer is always: “Probably not.”
I don’t think the Apple Watch is an essential gadget for most people. Yes, it’s nice to have, but it’s not something you need like you need a smartphone. I think the Apple Watch is more like the iPad, something that’s great to own if you have a few extra hundred bucks to burn.
The Apple Watch is something you’ll want, not something you’ll need.
To be clear, that doesn’t make the product a dud. I love my Apple Watch. I’ve had mine for over three months, and I’ve worn it almost every day since. Strapping on the Apple Watch each morning has become just as natural as bringing my iPhone with me everywhere I go.
Here’s what the last three months with the Apple Watch have been like for me.
Notifications are my favourite part of the Apple Watch
As I said in my initial review of the Apple Watch, the device should be viewed as just that: A watch. It’s not an iPhone replacement. It’s not a full-on computer strapped to your wrist.
The Apple Watch works best when you use it in short bursts to check things like the time, calendar events, and notifications. It’s the notifications that are my favourite feature of the Apple Watch. I have it set so I get the most important stuff delivered to my wrist: new text messages, notifications in Slack, rain alerts from Dark Sky, and sports scores from Yahoo Sports, to name a few.
I don’t use the Apple Watch to mirror every notification that hits my phone. I have dozens of apps on my iPhone, and my wrist would never stop buzzing if I did that. I found notifications on the Apple Watch work best if you limit them to the stuff that matters most. It’s been incredibly useful to just glance at my wrist when something important hits my phone.
The apps are still terrible
There may be thousands of apps on the Apple Watch already, but almost all of them are bad. With the exception of the apps from Apple that come preinstalled on the Apple Watch, all apps actually run on your iPhone. The Apple Watch pulls data from the phone apps over Bluetooth. That results in really slow performance. By the time many of the third-party apps would load, I realised I would have been better off just pulling out my phone instead.
Most third-party apps are also poorly designed for the small screen. Instead of taking advantage of quick actions, many apps feel like shrunken-down versions of what you see on the iPhone. It makes no sense on a wearable.
Instagram is a perfect example. Who wants to squint at tiny photos on their wrist?
Some big app makers like Facebook and Snapchat are taking a smarter approach to the Apple Watch. They’re not making apps until they can figure out a good use case for the smaller form factor.
However, apps could get better soon. A new version of the Apple Watch operating system is coming this fall. It will let developers write apps that you install directly to the Apple Watch instead of running them on the phone. That should solve the slowness issue. But developers will still need to experiment with new ways to keep Apple Watch apps lightweight and useful on a small screen.
Fitness tracking has become one of my favourite things
I didn’t write about this a lot in my first Apple Watch review, but I’ve really enjoyed the fitness tracking features these last few months. Like many fitness trackers, the Apple Watch can track how many steps you take, your heart rate, and give you an estimate of how many calories you burn each day.
All of that data goes to a new app called Activity on your iPhone. The app can be kind of clunky and confusing, but I do like Apple’s ring system much better than any other activity app I’ve used. After you set your goals, the three rings — which represent how often you stand, do vigorous exercise, and walk each day — close as you accomplish each one. You can glance at your rings in the Apple Watch version of the Activity app, but I put it directly on my watch face, which is even more useful.
I think fitness tracking will get even better in the fall when developers get access to all the fitness-tracking sensors in the Apple Watch. It will be interesting to see what established fitness technology companies like Jawbone and FitBit come up with.
Will it be a hit?
That depends on who you ask.
Tech pundits are already divided. According to them, the Apple Watch is either a monster hit so far because it appears to be outselling other smartwatches or it’s a total dud because it will never be as popular as the iPhone.
I land somewhere in the middle. I don’t think the Apple Watch is the next iPhone. The iPhone is a miracle, money-making machine. It will be a long time before someone makes something as revolutionary as that again. I think people lump too many expectations on new Apple products, assuming each one will turn entire industries upside down.
Instead, I think the Apple Watch will be successful in the sense that it will become a useful way for people to interact with their phones without having to stare at them constantly. The Apple Watch is mostly invisible, working in the background to help you out when you need it. It’s not a replacement for the phone or other computing device.
My biggest criticism with the Apple Watch is the same as it was before: I think it does too much, and you’re better off stripping out a lot of its features for now until developers and Apple itself comes up with better ways to do things on the device.
And if you do that, chances are pretty good you’ll like the Apple Watch as much as I do.
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