What I learned using the Apple Watch for three days

It’s still the early days of the Apple Watch. Besides a select group of journalists and celebrities, most people didn’t get to start using one until last Friday.

I started using one on loan from Apple. It’s the steel model with a sports band that costs $US599. I’ll have a full, detailed review in a few days. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve noticed about the Apple Watch after using it over the weekend:

There’s a learning curve.

The Apple Watch isn’t a mini iPhone strapped to your wrist. It’s a brand new type of gadget that has its own control scheme. It took me a good day to learn what all the various swipes, taps, buttons, and dials do. But now that I’m used to it, I don’t even think about how to operate the Apple Watch. The controls may sounds complicated at first, but they become second nature sooner than you’d expect.

It’s mostly off.

My Apple Watch’s display is dark about 99% of the time. It’s always working in the background tracking my movement, monitoring my heart rate, and pulling in notifications from my phone, but the display doesn’t activate unless I lift my wrist or tap on the screen. Otherwise, it’s just a nice-looking piece of jewellery.

The Apple Watch isn’t an iPhone replacement. It’s a supplement to the iPhone.

Notifications are useful, not annoying.

I’ve tested a few smartwatches over the years. Most were a pain to wear because they dumped all the notifications from my phone to my wrist. The Apple Watch app on iPhone gives me better control over which notifications I see. The first thing I did was switch off notifications for most apps except for the ones I use the most.

I also like how subtle the vibrations are when I get a new notification. It’s not annoying at all, more like someone lightly tapping my wrist. Plus, the watch doesn’t light up with each new notification. I have to lift your wrist to view it instead. (Or ignore the notification and check it later.) That’s much better than many other smartwatches that have strong vibrators and light up with every notification.

My favourite function so far is texting.

I love getting text messages on my Apple Watch. It saves me time from pulling out my phone and unlocking my device just to read what someone sent me. Instead, I can get a quick glance at the message on my watch and decide whether or not I need to respond. And even if I do, I can usually just respond with a canned response or emoji already stored in the Apple Watch. It saves a lot of time.

Apple watch animated emojiBusiness InsiderThe Apple Watch lets you send animated emojis through the Messages app.

But I mostly use it as a watch.

Getting notifications on my wrist is great, but I find that I mostly use the Apple Watch like I’d use a normal watch: To check the time and date. Everything else it can do is just gravy.

Third-party apps are pretty bad.

There are over 3,000 iPhone apps that are also compatible with the Apple Watch. But most of them stink. Too many like Twitter, Instagram, and news apps like Digg or The Wall Street Journal try too hard to shrink down the smartphone app experience on a tiny screen. It doesn’t work. I don’t need to squint at tiny Instagram photos on my wrist.

I think it will take some time for developers to figure out how to get the most out of the Apple Watch. That said, I do like Apple’s preinstalled apps like the fitness tracker, Messages, and music controller.

Uber app for apple watchScreenshotUber on the Apple Watch.

The Uber app is the only third-party Apple Watch app that I think nails it so far. You just open the app, tap the watch, and boom: Your car is on the way. More developers should look to Uber’s simplicity for inspiration.

The sport band is the best band.

The sport band may be the cheapest one you can get for the Apple Watch, but it’s also the best. I’ve tried all the bands, but I always end up going back to the sport. It’s light, comfortable, and goes well with anything I wear from gym clothes to a button down shirt and jeans. My second favourite band is the leather loop.

Battery life is better than I thought it’d be.

Before the Apple Watch launched, I had a lot of concerns about battery life. Until March, Apple’s official line was that you’d have to charge the watch nightly, which made me think the company was having trouble getting it to last much longer than a full day. Meanwhile, other watches from Samsung could last up to three days. The Pebble could last up to seven.

But I haven’t had any problems with battery life over the last three days. In fact, I used the Apple Watch all day Saturday and went to bed at 1 a.m. with about a 40% charge left. Not bad at all. I still have to charge the watch every night, but I’m never nervous about running out of juice at the end of the day.

So far, so good.

I’ve never been a watch person, and I’ve been highly sceptical of the concept of a smartwatch for years. But until now, most smartwatches attempted to shrink a smartphone down and put it on your wrist. The Apple Watch is simpler and more inviting. I’m starting to get it.

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