The Apple Watch from a Non-Watch Wearers Perspective

I’ve never really worn a watch before. I’ve been given a couple of nice watches as presents and have certainly tried wearing them but have just never got on with them. I’ve always found them uncomfortable and actually kind of pointless – there’s nearly always a clock around (in the car, in the office, at home) and I’ve always got my phone in my pocket. So when the Apple Watch was first announced back in September I was quite sceptical as to it’s real utility and whether it would really be a hit, particularly given the number of people like me who don’t wear a watch.

Over the last couple of months though Apple’s relentless marketing and video guides had persuaded me of the utility of the Watch but I was still a bit unsure about how non-watch wearers would take to the device. For wearables to be successful they have to be accepted by the general public (this is somewhere Google Glass went wrong) and I was not convinced the smartwatch would be.

However, given that I’m a bit of technology nerd and well engrained in the Apple ecosystem I thought I would give the Apple Watch a go and so at 8am on launch day I ordered the 38mm Space Grey Sport with Black Band – I think it’s the best looking of the cheaper Sport model. I was given a delivery date range of 12th – 26th May but it was actually delivered just a few days ago on 1st May.

Now that I’ve had a couple of full days of use the first thing I’ve noticed is the comfort. The watch itself is remarkably small and light and the plastic sport band is super smooth and comfy. I genuinely hardly notice I’m wearing it and in fact on one occasion had a mild panic when I thought it had fallen off underneath my jumper – it hadn’t moved an inch. For someone who doesn’t normally wear a watch this comfort is a big thing.

It’s all about Glances

One thing I have realised in just the few days I’ve been using the Watch is that it’s really all about glances. Its absolutely not designed to be used for even minutes at a time but is for just seconds at a time. Swiping up on the screen when in watch mode (I’ll come to this later) brings up something new and that is the Glances screen. This show snippets such as the top news story from BBC News, a snapshot of current weather in your current location only, an overview of activity etc. I’ve found myself uses these Glances far more than any other function and certainly more than the apps themselves.

Speaking of Apps, there’s still a lot of work to do. Most of them are far too complicated and much easier and better to use on the phone making the Watch version pretty useless. The Twitter app is a great example of this. It loads about five tweets at a time and you have to press ‘More’ when you’ve read all five. The tweets themselves are kind of difficult to read with links, regular text, @s, and #s all blending into one lump of unreadable text. Images are also very difficult to see with no zoom functionality. I have come across some good Apps though. Amazon and Uber spring to mind as being very simple and easy to use on the Watch. I’m sure that as developers get used to the platform and get more and more feedback from users this will improve though.

Too Many Interactions

Most people pick up an Apple device and generally know how to use it with minimal instruction. The learning curve on the Apple Watch though is different and the reason, I think, is that there are far too many ways different types of interaction with the device – the only thing carried over from iOS is swipe down for notifications, everything else is different. On the side of the Watch is a small rectangular button which looks exactly like the lock button on iPhones but it does something completely different, it brings up your list of favourite friends. Instead the ‘Digital Crown’ acts more like the lock button, but also a bit like the home button, but not exactly. Swiping up on the screen brings Glances, but only from the watch app. Lightly tapping the screen does one thing and pressing the screen does something completely different, again, depending which app your in. There’s just far too many different ways of interacting with the device and if you’re not a techy like me I can see that it would just be confusing.

The best thing I’ve found with the Apple Watch so far though is the activity and workout tracker. Throughout the day the Watch is constantly monitoring movement, whether you’re standing or sitting, and how much light exercise you’ve done. If you’ve been sitting down for too long then it reminds you to stand up and so on. This is a surprisingly good feature and something most people will enjoy using. For those more in to fitness there’s a dedicated workout app which more closely monitors you via GPS (if running, walking or cycling outdoors) and the heart rate sensor. I, again, found this to be a really good feature and has to be one of the things the Apple Watch does best.

The downside of this great feature though is that it absolutely rinses the battery life. During a 40 minute workout I lost over 25% of the battery life. If you’re using the gym in the evening after a days work this could prove to be a real problem. It shows how much battery the sophisticated sensors on the back of the device are using as during normal use I could have easily got more than a days life out of the battery.

Just an expensive notification centre?

So overall then I have to say I’m generally pleased with my purchase, particularly when taking in to account the fact that it’s a first generation product in a completely new category. There’s a few issues to be worked out – mostly software related which should be reasonably easy to fix in the coming months and years. If this wasn’t a first gen product though I would be saying it’s just a very expensive notification centre so let’s hope these issues do get sorted before Apple Watch v2.0 is released.

Update (21/06/15): I have recently returned my Apple Watch for a refund. Although it is a very nice piece of hardware I struggled to find a good use for it. While I can see how some will find it very useful – probably those that rush between back-to-back meetings all day, those really in to fitness, and importantly those that actually want/need to wear a watch, I just couldn’t find a use for it to justify the £300 price tag. I’m sure though that as app developers work the watch out properly I will come back to it. I imagine this wont be before Apple Watch v3.0 though

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