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Apple Watch Update

I have now been using an Apple Watch for over 6 months so it must be a good time to post an update on how useful it is. I guess the most telling point is that on the odd occasion that I forget to wear it I constantly find myself looking at my wrist until I realise nothing is there. If I got through a day (or even an hour) without missing it then I would probably have to say it was a failure, but the opposite is true.

I still don’t think this is a device that everyone needs. In fact what does that mean? Do we really need anything – especially any high-tech gadget? Probably not. But I do think it is a device that everyone could find useful – assuming they already have an iPhone for it to talk to, of course.

First some preliminary comments. This is a very usable device. I wear it almost all of the time – except for two 15 to 30 minute intervals per day for charging. With this system the charge is always well above 50%. With the amount of use I give it I could probably manage with a charge every second day but it’s more sensible to have a routine where I keep it as fully charged as possible (with lithium-ion polymer batterries it is the number of full cycles which matters so frequent charging isn’t a major problem).

Because I wear it all the time it needs to take some punishment. A while back I was cleaning windows and slipped and ground the watch into a concrete wall. It looked like the case and face were badly scratched but after cleaning off the extra concrete and polishing the face a bit there was no damage at all, except for a chip out of the concrete wall. I’m not joking, this thing is very robust!

And yesterday I was doing some work with expanding foam, which contains a solvent capable of dissolving many materials. Yes, I spilled some on the watch, but after it had set I just scraped it off and there’s not a sign it was there.

So this is a device you can actually use and it doesn’t require too much special treatment. I mean, I wouldn’t deliberately slam it into concrete walls but if that happens there’s a decent chance it won’t suffer a lot of damage.

Until recently I hadn’t worn a watch for many years and I thought the basic fluoroelastomer strap might be a bit uncomfortable, but it doesn’t seem to be a problem. And the 42 mm watch just feels a tiny bit too big, but it’s not excessively obtrusive like I initially thought it might be.

Now on to what I actually use it for. As I suspected, it’s really just a supplement to the iPhone. There’s not much I use it for that can’t do with the phone – it’s just a lot easier and more convenient.

Here’s my list of uses: show the date and time, temperature, next appointment, and countdown timer (I have these 4 functions on the watch face); display the phone number of incoming calls; view text messages and emails; compose and send new text messages; view my diary; show distance walked and sleep patterns; display news notifications (currently from the New York Times and Guardian) and notifications of new podcasts on the phone.

That’s the list of stuff I use “all the time”. In addition there are many other functions I use less often: view photos, play podcasts and music, check bank accounts, check upcoming astronomical events, view tweets, use maps, and probably a whole lot more I haven’t remembered just now.

The difference between the “all the time” and “occasional” functions is convenience. Some things just aren’t that easy on such a small screen with minimal inputs (no mouse or keyboard and only basic touch control) when an iPhone, iPad, or computer is available instead.

And that’s the whole point. It may seem like an unnecessary luxury but having all 4 devices works well for me. I usually have an Apple Watch, an iPhone 6S, and iPad Air 2, and a MacBook Pro i7 15″ laptop available. And I use all 4 almost equally. This is an example of the Apple ecosystem working really well for me.

The way the devices work together is the key. For example, I can receive and send text messages (and iMessages) on any of the four devices and they all sync together. And if I put the phone into airplane mode the watch follows it automatically. There’s a lot of small things like that which make the separate devices work as a system.

It does mean that I am stuck with Apple as my supplier of all hardware but that’s a compromise I make to get the level of compatibility and convenience I want. The fact that I am an unashamed Apple fan-boy helps, of course!

So yes, the Apple Watch has worked well for me. There are some frustrations and performance issues, and some things could be better than they are (for example, finding the app I want to launch from the disorganised “cloud” of icons), but for a version 1 product it is very impressive.

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  1. February 9, 2016 at 11:11 am

    Great review!

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