One of the issues with gadgets is that they often fail to live up to expectations. Just think about the number of gadgets you’ve purchased that have promised to revolutionise the way you do things, whether it’s cutting vegetables, cleaning your car or helping you be fitter. There are drawers (or in the business world, cupboards) across the world, full of unloved, unused gadgets.
From reading reviews online about fitness trackers, this appears to be a fate many end up facing. Customers use them to begin with, but eventually they become something that is just another complication to think about, that doesn’t necessarily add enough value to people’s lives. Mobile phones generally don’t suffer this fate, until they are upgraded. Pretty much everyone needs and wants a mobile phone.
That then puts a lot of pressure on Apple Watch. It’s not something that anyone needs, a large number of people won’t want one or see the point in one. With this riding on it, can Apple Watch avoid the fate of the drawer?
With apps, the only ones that users are likely to keep on using, or keep on their phones, are the ones that add value to their life. It’s important that anything we use, helps us to do something that would otherwise take more time.
Time is really the thing that Apple Watch is about – it is a watch, after all. As I found in the last review, the Apple Watch helps me spend less time with my phone.
There’s a common argument about the Watch, or other wearables being a little pointless as they always need a phone nearby, or connected in some way. It’s a bit of a pointless argument in my mind. There are very few situations, other than going running where I’d be without my phone.
I’d still want to be able to take photos, something that no wearable will ever truly Excel at (it can’t match the reach of the hand holding a phone or camera). I’d still want to be able to edit documents, respond to email, look at tasks or any number of things that a bigger screen is needed for. I haven’t stopped using or needing a computer because my phone does pretty much all the things my computer does, if not more. I haven’t stopped using or needing my iPad because I now have a larger phone. Each device plays a very specific role in my daily working and personal life.
It’s in the small things that make Apple Watch come into its own. Sticking with the theme of ‘the role it plays’, this isn’t confined to our mobile devices. It’s true of any tool out there. You’d want a people carrier, large 4X4 or van for taking large numbers of items somewhere, just as you’d want a large screen, powerful computer for doing time intensive or process intensive tasks. A family car is great because of the number of people who can use it or share it, just like a tablet. A sports car or smaller car is more intimate, getting you to places and ideal for city living (small car) or fun, (sports car) – this is a phone.
The Watch? It’s a bicycle. It’s useful for shorter journeys, sometimes getting you there faster than a car. For longer journeys though, the car will be more comfortable and easier. You get more exercise from the bike, it’s just better suited for certain situations. It’s highly personal, but you don’t use it all the time. It’s not as useful or practical as a car, but it lets you do small things quicker.
(Sorry Steve for borrowing your ‘Trucks are PCs’ metaphor)
Evernote from Apple Watch to iPhone app, to iPad app, to desktop app to website
When you’re walking down the road, exercising, sitting in a meeting, or any other scenario that you may not have a phone to hand, is when you realise how useful the Watch is for quickly checking an alert. It’s at those times that you realise, I only had to look at my wrist, rather than pull out my phone. That may sound like a really trivial point, but you come to appreciate it. This is the good thing about any wearable, though granted, it’s not enough of a reason for the majority of people to go out and buy one.
The Watch, and I’ve checked with other people in the office who have it, has made me more active. Not only can I see my daily activity when I look at the time, but I also get alerts about how I’m doing that day. I have a need to fill the rings, and dread not getting an alert at the end of the week to say that I’ve met all of my goals.
I’m able to tell you, that over the past month, I’ve taken an average of 11,768 steps, which works out to an average walk or run everyday of 6.3 miles. On average, I’ve climbed 18 flights of stairs a day and my heart beat has reached a maximum of 201, on a particularly intensive run. Compared with previous data, collected just from my phone, there’s been a 40.6 percent increase in my daily activity.
Whilst the change in weather will play a role in this, I know for a fact that I’m standing more, moving more and more motivated to exercise than before the Watch. As many studies have shown, this means that I should be healthier, more focused at work and able to deal with different tasks or stress better.
Other good stuff? There are simple things like controlling a presentation with my wrist. It’s a novelty, sure, but it’s also useful. It means I don’t have to hold anything in my hand and can freely use my arms to help make points. (One point on this: you need to set the Watch to open the last used app. I’ve seen someone present where they weren’t aware of this and had to keep on double tapping on the digital crown to re-open Keynote.)
The Watch faces, whilst not universally loved, are something that I hugely appreciate. I’m glad that Apple doesn’t let third party Watch faces on there yet. I don’t want a million different choices, when the ones already created are mostly so customisable. I find myself choosing the watch face to match what I’m doing. For example, at work, I like the Utility and Modular face. Both provide the ability to have enough information about my day, such as calendar appointments, activity, date, time and weather (or loads of other options). Utility offers this with an analogue Watch Face (the detail of which can be customised), whilst Modular is all digital.
Complications on the watch face on Apple Watch
Siri is also more useful on my wrist, mainly for situations where I’m alone or away from my phone. Asking quick questions and getting quick responses is great, though there’s still room for improvement.
Maps, as previously discussed, is also very useful on the wrist, with the ability to get directions to places with taps on your wrist. Being based in London means that public transport directions and information is really important to me. Whilst I can use CityMapper (more of which later), having the ability to get the information from Siri would be a huge benefit – if rumours about iOS 9 are true, this will soon improve.
The novelty of Digital Touch hasn’t fully worn off yet, though at the moment the main people I can communicate with are my colleagues. Whilst it’s useful in meetings, if you need to tap someone to move to the next point, or get their attention, I’d really need family members or my partner to have it before it really came into its own. This is what Digital Touch is meant for though, the highly personal communication, that you can only do with your (up to) 12 favourite, or most important contacts.
Since the update, third party apps do run slightly better on Apple Watch, but it’s still not great. Many times when I’ve tried to access an app, I’ve ended up giving up and going to my phone. It’s much like the early days of apps on mobile, developers are still understanding how to best build apps and the services to run. It’s something that will change, when Apple eventually allows developers to run apps natively from the Watch.
This screen was on for over 20 seconds
I understand that loading an app on the Watch requires the phone to push through the assets to it. It doesn’t lead to the best user experience, but I accept this as an early adopter of the Watch.
If I look at CityMapper, it loads faster than others, but not consistently. Where CityMapper comes into its own is when I’ve started the journey from my phone, and the app allows me to send it to my Watch. I then get alerts about when to change to a different mode of transport, or alerts about when to change direction. It shows the potential of what is possible, and is vastly more convenient than getting my phone out of my pocket.
Some people I know of have sent their Watch back, because they couldn’t see where it fits into their lives. I can understand this, as there are some days where I barely use the Watch. But this is also something that I understand is one of the benefits, I barely need to use the Watch but it fulfils many of the purposes I’d otherwise get my phone out for.
One of my other complaints that I hope will change with time, and that I believe needs to change, is for the Watch to become more useful. This means Apple opening up the complications on the Watch face. I’d like to be able to select from the iPhone app which apps are able to provide information. This should include choosing whether the pre-installed stock information is available to you as an option, or World time for that matter. For me, it would be more useful to have Wunderlist or other apps showing me tiny bits of information, without having to open glances or open an app.
Here at Mubaloo, a number of employees have decided to order Apple Watch because they’ve seen other people using it. Wearables like it will continue to improve over time, become more powerful and help us in ways that we can’t quite fathom just yet. That’s partly where the excitement comes from, the art of the possible with these devices. If you compare wearables to apps, it takes a while for the true use case to be found, but once you discover it, it’s hard to live without it.
I’ve found the Watch to be useful for motivating me to be more active, for viewing information quickly, by just glancing at the watch for a second. What I’ve found is that I don’t think about the Watch as much, I just put it on and get on with my day. When I didn’t wear it for a day, because another colleague was using it, I found that I not only felt like something was missing, but that I was more reliant on my other devices.
That, really is what a device should be about. It should be about something you miss if you don’t have it. It should be about helping you in ways you didn’t expect. It should be about helping you be more present.
It’s not a device that is going to end up in a drawer, which is where various other devices have found themselves for me. It will for others, if they don’t think about the times they’d need it first. It will of course get better with time, but as a first generation device, it continues to delight.
The main thing I’ve learnt is that using the Apple Watch is that it’s a bit like drying your hands with a Dyson Air Blade. It speeds things up by a matter of seconds, which may not seem like a big deal at first, but over time, it adds up.