So I recived my apple watch, yesterday. I was one of the lucky few who were chosen as part of the random group of registered developers to receive the watch within a week of release. Their hope is that I will be able to test my watch apps on an actual Apple Watch as opposed to the insufficent simulator which comes with XCode, Apple's environment for Mac and iOS development. So what are my initial thoughts?
tl;dr - Initial Thoughts
I like it. I really do. I am impressed by this little device. My initial thought at release was I don't wear a watch, why would I want a watch? and I still think that.
The cynical side sees my large iPhone 6+, which I like and can see Apple thinking: Give them a humongous phone then they'll need our stupid watch. However I think there is something less malicous and more clever in Apple's long term thinking here.
#Why Would Anyone need a Smart-Whatever? This is question folks seem to consistantly ask whenever one of these new smart devices come out. Using the device, I have found one huge advantage it provides: The Apple Watch is a robust wearable device which provides quick and easy access to notifications and other information without the bulk of large screen based device.
##What is a watch really for?
The watch does a great job of letting you know briefly what is going on right now and what else you need to know. Apple sees the watch for what it really is - a device to tell you improtant information quickly. It just happens that for most of history whether for religous, agricultural, or navigational purposes, time was the most improtant thing for people to know and hence the primary purposes for a watch. With wearable technology, Apple is figuring out what more we can do with a watch in the 21st century. Cell phones have been replacing that functionality. However the tech community sees an advantage in a traditional wearable technology.
Now that I have started using the watch, I see the advantage of a wearable device for notification and quick glances of information. It has been stated that phones and tablets are consumer devices in that they are about consuming media (i.e. email, movies, music, photos, article, etc...) rather than production devices like the personal computer. Watches and other wearables are even less production devices but really can't be classified as consumer devices - they are notification and glance devices.
Apple has done a decent job with their first version. Along with haptic feedback which gives you a nice tap on the wrist when you are notified, the watch provides a great interface for you to see quick and simple information without excessive touch gestures. Perhaps Apple sees the future with devices which are dedicated to notifications and glances - devices with no interface.
One of the things I have noticed is how Siri is a major part of the watch's interface. More so than the digital crown or force touch, Siri can be a great way to control the watch. And with devices like Amazon Echo and Ubi, voice recongition is the most prominent technology which has been leading the trend towards NO INTERFACE.
No Interface means giving the user more natural ways for them to communicate and consume information such as speech, gestures (ex. MS Gestures, XBox Kinnect), haptic feedback, and ubiquitous access without the use of a traditional video screen. To me, Siri seems to be leading the way. Not only can you use Siri to control the watch but apps like Evernote use speech to text for taking notes. Couple Siri's voice recognition with the Taptic Engine's haptic feedback, Apple sees how small devices can fit in our world rather than limit us.
Other Positive Impressions
I am really impressed with this display. The resolution is amazing. While there isn't a lot of graphic intensive apps on the watch; the text clarity always impresses me when I see any new device with a great resolution.
Force Touch is nice and gives you a great way to access a context menu. Think of it as a smart right-click for your watch.
No there's no camera on the watch. However, the camera app is pretty impressive. It not only allows you to control the camera on your iPhone but also provides an extra display so you can see exactly what your iPhone sees in real time.
The Other Apps
Besides Evernote's impressive note taking and the Camera's video screen and controls, the other apps of note are:
- the Mail app provides a decent way to audit your email (i.e. archive, flag, etc..) but unfortunately does not allow you to reply (it ends up using Handoff which seems to be a UI crutch of the watch)
- Mint tries be the Activity tracker for your money... I would have expected more
- I am happy to say my app TicTalkToc works... yay!
#Version 1 My main concern with this device is the fact that this is the first version of the device. I am afraid this first version could go the way of the 1st Generation iPad. Where the iPad2 (which Apple still sells) runs the latest version of the operating system (iOS 8.3 and 8.4 beta as of the writting of this post), the iPad1 only runs upto 5.1.1 which came out in 3 years ago (a lifetime in the mobile world). That means many apps don't run on the iPad1. I could see that happening with the Apple Watch 1st Gen.
Now that the watch is in wild, Apple is getting real feedback on how people actually use the device, and the strange quirks and issues they need to work out (i.e. reading heart rates through tatoos, Taptic Engine wear, etc...). Not only that but wearable technology is likely to grow in the coming years. That will mean more demand which means more research, cheaper prices, better hardware is likely. Wearables will definitely grow in their use and we could see major improvements in future watches from a variety of manufactures.
There were seven issues I ran into:
- Setup took longer than expected.
- Speed of Apps
- Controlling Glances and Notifications
- Getting the charger to work seemed quirky.
- Getting use to turning my wrist.
- Faulty contact/digital touch interface.
Setup and App Syncing
When you are setting up your Apple Watch, your iPhone will need to transfer some of the data to your watch, most likely your iPhone apps which work on the watch. This took a while for me probably because I had a decent amount of apps. Also I had some weird quirks where it kept asking for my iCloud login info; I think I fixed that, so this could be a problem just with me.
I found some apps took longer than expected. This can be especially annoying when you look away while the app is loading and come back to the watch only to find the clock display is up which means you have to go back to the home to launch or reactivate the app. Luckily most of the time, the app should be up by then. The control of glances and notifications brings up another issue.
Glances and Notifications - Negatives
Like I said this is the first version product and glances and notifications sometimes don't seem to work quite as smoothly as I expect. As far as glances, it seems the display shows up even when I don't want it to. The only reason why this is a concern is when it comes to power usage - I don't want the display to drain battery when I don't need it to.
With notifications, I seem to get haptic feedback and dings out of sync with the actual notification (ussually with something like a calendar reminder or text message); I don't know if that's the Apple Watch in particular or the communication speed but it seems to be a bit quirky.
It seems to me that Handoff is more of a crutch that apps use when they don't know how to do the UI on the watch. Handoff is a great technology which allows apps to be accessed simultaneously on multiple Apple devices. This has already been in use in other Apple devices and has allowed functionality like taking phone calls on your Mac.
Like I said with the Mail app, why not allow built in responses to emails or speech-to-text. I know apps like TL;DR; Email are filling that functionality gap. However too often I find apps and even Siri sometimes failing to push the limits of the watch's UI before forcing the user to use their iPhone.
Using the Charger
When I heard the charger for the Apple Watch will be a magnetically attached power connector similar to the MacBook's MagSafe connectors, I thought that was a great idea. At first, it was great and seemed to connect fine, however I received no indication from the watch it was being charged. After some tweaking I was able to get it to work fine.
The charger uses inductive charging as opposed to the standard conductive charging. Conductive charging is what you are use to: there is a connector you plug into the device, pretty simple. Inductive charging uses an electromagnetic field to transfer energy rather than a wire. You may have seen this in products like Charging Pads. It is less efficent but more convenient.
However it does not have any sort of haptic feedback or a light to let you know it is working. As a first time user I wasn't sure what to expect from charging the Apple Watch. After some searching I found out the watch should saying Charging and indicate with a lightning bolt icon in the top. It ended up charging fine the first night and I don't think it will be problem in the future but I wish the charger had a light just like the MagSafe connectors do.
The Watch part of the Watch
I am not a watch person. I have not worn a watch since I was probably a kid. I definitely stopped wearing a watch once I had my first cell phone around 15 years ago. Getting use to wearing a watch at all is somewhat of a challenge.
I am also not a youngin anymore. I get my share of aches and pains from repetive tasks especially those related to menial office and technology work. I am slightly worried that repetitive use of the watch could lead to same sort of injuries similar to the neck strain from a smartphone, carpal tunnel from a keyboard, or eye strain from a monitor. We'll be using these watches unlike any other watch we've used before.
My broken watch
This problem is definitely only a problem with my watch but it crashes the entire watch when I try to use the favorites list via the digital touch button (the button below the crown). After tapping a contact rather then asking me whether I want to call or text that person, the watch restarts. I have warranty so Apple will gladly be getting me a new one soon.
The other things I want to look for as I use this watch:
- What are other use cases for the watch which as an entrepeneur I can see?
- How does the battery actually hold up?
- How often can I get away with not using my phone and using the watch instead?
- How well does the Activity tracking app work and how well does my Nike app work with running? Should I continue using the Nike+ app or switch to Apple's native activity app?
Young and Slim
The Apple Watch is a young device with some issues for sure. Apple has released a product which is complete but still in progress. They know they are going into green territory here and don't want to Google Glass this by releasing a overly robust product.
This is a slim product. One place you can see that is when it comes to battery usage. As a developer I have noticed how much they don't let you do with the interface in order to make sure you don't kill the battery. However there is an advantage to a minimal interface and this wearable device is already a great fully usable product which could very well augment your technology needs.
So the question is - would I recommend the watch to you? Well it depends... here are the three questions you should ask yourself:
##Do you have an iPhone?
If not then you can't use this watch. If you are still interested in a watch, then you may want to look at the plethora of Microsoft and Android wearables out there.
##Are you concerned that the Apple Watch will be obselete in a couple of years?
If so it may not be the time to get one. You should get one - just not now. I would wait a couple of years until the hardware upgrades and technology quirks have settled down.
##Do you wear a watch frequently and own an iPhone?
Then you should consider getting one sooner. Assuming you will need to replace the device in a couple of year, I would say the cost of replacing the Apple Watch in couple years will be worth the convinience this device presents to you.
##Are you interested in the technology or business oppurtunity it provides?
Yes it is worth it then. I don't think the Apple Watch's full potential has been fully realized and if Apple plans on opening the SDK even more to developers before the end of the year, there will be even more oppurtunity for great experiences on the watch.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the Apple Watch and I will be sure to keep you updated how it goes as I begin to use this new device.