My flawed Apple Watch has become a necessity
It is now a year since I enthusiastically became an early adopter of the Apple Watch. I still wear it every day, although the device has become something rather different to me now. It is not a wow product any longer, the thing I look forward to playing around with on my commute. That part of the experience lasted only a few days. Instead, it has become that quiet companion, the friend who taps me on the the wrist every now and then to tell me something useful. The Watch is the least 'in your face' gadget in Apple's product line. Indeed, I seldom notice it until I can't use it, for example if I forget to bring a charger to my mum's house when I stay over for a visit. I then feel a little lost without it. The Apple Watch, the gadget that started out as a luxury item that I hardly needed but soooo craved, has become indispensable.
Here is what I use my watch for, one year on:
- I pay for nearly everything under £30, using Apple Pay.
- I commute on the London transport network, using buses, overground and underground rail, and use my watch to touch in and touch out. Indeed, there are days where I don't even see my wallet. London has become an Apple Pay Mecca.
- I set timers for everything, whether for the oven or when my students are working under exam conditions and I need to remember to tell them to stop.
- The notifications I receive on my watch help me to triage texts. I have turned off notifications for emails because it felt like work was everywhere, including on my wrist, and no one needs that kind of stress!
- I get news updates.
- I check the temperature before I leave the house to help me decide which coat to wear.
- I look at what time it is, which is infinitely more convenient than checking on a phone.
- I vary the look of the watch by swapping bands. I love the classic and modern buckles, but also use the sport band on occasion.
- When I lose my phone, I activate an alarm to find it, performed with a simple swipe up
- I track my steps, if not everyday then most days.
All this essential-ness has not blinded me to some of the more disappointing aspects, and those areas that I think are in need of addressing, either through a software update or the Apple Watch 2 that will likely debut later this year. First and foremost, I think the app-based model is not really appropriate for such a small device. If Apple must continue with this model, then it needs to find a more accessible way for users to interact with them, perhaps via a click wheel format similar to the way contacts are accessed. Moreover, Siri is not great, especially when compared to how fantastic it is on the new Apple TV. I do feel that left handers were an afterthought here, given that the microphone is pointed away from the body when the watch is placed on the right wrist. You can of course turn the watch upside down but that just looks silly.
The device in general is just too slow. Even basic functions like entering your passcode appears sluggish. I don't think it works particularly well as a communication device, although I have taken the odd phone call on it. The watch is at best a reactive rather than proactive tool in this domain. Again, better Siri and voice dictation could help. In addition, the price remains a problem - I am still unsure that the stainless steel option provides good value for money.
The fitness rings are useful but no longer motivational. Apple needs to draw me in again with a few alternative ways to encourage me to exercise. I know, I know, I shouldn't need a tech company to persuade me to lose weight! The TV app is rubbish - I hear a new one is in the works. It couldn't come soon enough. Finally, battery life is good but could be better.
Yet, despite all these complaints, the benefits far outweigh the faults. It is a device that has ever-so gradually integrated itself into my daily routine, so much so that I have re-thought what I say to people who are considering buying one: 'No one needs an Apple Watch', now has the caveat 'but if you get one you will'.