I ordered an Watch the day preorders began at about 5 PM. (P.S. The shortcut for the character is option-shift-k on a Mac. Memorize it.. it will come in handy.) Between my indecisiveness about which case and band combination to get and other things going on I missed the midnight-sharp preorder. So, I had to wait about a month longer than a lot of my developer friends to receive my Watch.
It finally arrived on June 1. Unfortunately for me, I didn't make it back to my apartment before the front desk attendant that received it locked up for the night, so I had to wait another 12 hours before getting it the next morning.
So... just... why?
I've been asked several times before and after I got the Watch why I wanted one. There's a couple reasons:
- I'm an iOS developer. My entire industry was created almost overnight when Apple released the iPhone and subsequently the App Store seven years ago. Watch is a new platform, and although people are justifiably skeptical, I want to be familiar with the device itself, its apps, and the tools for building watch apps given that it could have profound effects on my future career.
- For almost two years now, Wired, FastCompany, Mashable and the like have been proclaiming wearable tech will become an industry as big as the smartphone. We've seen some interesting products like Google Glass, Pebble Watch, Fitbits, Jawbone Up, Garmin GPS Watches, and tons more, but nothing has really pushed us into the phase of ubiquitous wearable technology. Will Watch do it? I don't know, but I'm anticipating it'll bring us closer than we've been in the past.
- I'll admit it. I've become quite enveloped in the Apple ecosystem since moving into iOS development three years ago. I use a MacBook Pro on a daily basis, an iPhone, and an iPad. I used to use an iPod before my iPhone replaced that need for me. I enjoy the quality of Apple products (as I also enjoy the quality of my Xbox One and old Nexus 4) and their relentless attention to user experience. I hoped that the trend would continue with Watch.
This isn't me, but for reference...
The packaging was nice, as it always is for these types of products, and the pairing process was beautiful. Your phone becomes a scanner while a nice animation displays on your Watch. You point your phone's camera at it and you're paired.
Love it - Setup
There's no need to search for and download 50 apps to get up and running. Because you already have an iPhone full of useful apps and because many of those app developers wanted to provide you with an Watch experience, all you have to do it select which apps you already use and love on your phone that you now want on your watch. On top of that, you don't have to login or configure anything for those apps, since they're already authenticated from your phone.
Love it - Notifications
I've long felt that something is wrong with iOS notifications. From 2009 to 2012 I would switch back and forth between Android and iOS each year and always felt that Google had figured it out with their notification management. On Android it was easy to receive notifications, even in other apps or games, and decide whether to engage or ignore. The notification would also clear when you opened the app later, preventing you from a mess of old notifications hanging around your notification drawer.
Apple has improved notifications greatly since 2011 with the notification center, actionable notifications (reply to text message, etc.), and the ability to clear multiple notifications simultaneously, but I still find my notification center clogged with alerts that haven't been relevant to me for days. Already, the Watch has solved part of this problem by giving me easier access to my notifications.
Love it - The inconspicuousness
I didn't want to become a glasshole. Well, I didn't. Err ...at least don't think I have. I live in San Francisco and need to keep my head up when I walk to work so I don't get hit by an Uber driver. To that point I really like being able to get a notification to my wrist. It saves me from needing to pull out my phone probably 50-70% of time. Random ESPN notification? Nah. Urgent work thing? I'll pull my phone out and look into it.
Love it - Battery life
There's not much to say... it's really good. Definitely gets you through the day. I think Apple played it smart by limiting third-party developers from accessing some of the higher energy-consuming features of the watch for the initial launch. This fall, third-party apps will be allowed access to the speaker, microphone, heartbeat monitor, and other sensors. Battery life will definitely be affected, but I trust Apple wouldn't open up the developer toolkit unless they had a good way of ensuring the majority of apps won't turn into battery guzzling drains.
Love it but needs improvement - Apple Pay
Apple Pay is nice. Dru and I both use it on our phones when at Walgreen's or Whole Foods. On Watch it's even more convenient, so thumbs up there. The first time you use it, though... it's awkward.
On that third graphic how would you think you activate Apple Pay? The part where it says "Double Click to Pay?" I'll give you a hint, it doesn't involve any TAPPING. You double CLICK the side button. I guess you learn it once and you know, but when you have a line of 5 impatient San Franciscans behind you at Whole Foods and can't figure it out for the life of you... it sucks. Hypothetically speaking, of course. So while I love the convenience of Apple Pay from a watch, the education behind it still needs improvement.
It's okay - Default activity tracker
It's pretty cool, I think. I haven't been meticulous in setting target numbers, but in general it's helped me pay more attention to my health throughout the day. And I haven't turned it off yet, so that's a good sign.
It's okay - App loading times
Some apps (including Apple apps) take a little while to load. This should also be improved this fall when apps are allowed to run natively, rather than relying on your phone's Wi-Fi and the watch's bluetooth connection to your phone. It'll also improve as app developers get more familiar with the platform and optimize their apps for Watch (e.g. by not loading tons of data up front like they may be able to get away with on iOS or Android).
Needs improvement - Becoming a staple
The device isn't on the level of making me turn around and go grab it if I realized I've forgotten it five minutes after leaving my place. Maybe it'll get there. I also sometimes forget to charge it at night, which means I either leave it home for the day or bring the charger with me and plug it in somewhere.
Some of the apps I use:
- Faces - The default screen that shows when you look at your watch. I chose the solar face because I think it's pretty awesome.
- Instagram - the square nature of Instagram makes Watch a great platform for it. It's surprisingly easy to browse Instagram from the watch. I think my IG activity might've doubled since it's one of the first highly functional non-Apple Watch apps I've found.
- Twitter - not crazy functional, but useful.
- Timer - it's just easier than an iPhone timer for some reason. Small thing, but nice.
- Slack - you can't scroll full channels of chat messages, but you can see DMs and mentions.
- Passbook - Dru and I have seen two movies by just pulling up a Fandango pass on Watch. The theater attendant scanned the QR code on the watch and we were in. Really smooth both times.
I'm sure I just haven't been exposed to dozens more great apps. If you have any that come recommended, please let me know.
Watch or Watch Sport
I couldn't decide which one, and you might be in the same position. I ended up ordering the sport edition (black aluminum case) the first day so I could get my order in, but then changed my mind and ordered the stainless steel with black leather loop. I didn't cancel the first order, and both have now arrived so I've actually been able to play with both models. I decided to keep the Watch Sport because I liked how I really liked the inconspicuousness and how lightweight it is - it just felt normal and right. It was also cheaper. The stainless steel definitely felt more professional though, and that milanese loop 👌. Both are fantastic.
I don't really have a formal conclusion. So far I'm happy with my purchase and am looking forward to more apps coming to Watch, as well as more functionality in existing watch apps as Apple opens up the platform a bit more this fall. I can't say you should go drop $350+ on an Apple Watch today, but if you are already a watch person, or a tech early adopter, or perhaps both... then go for it. And send me a little digital touch drawing if you do.