On walkabout in life and technology

Apple Watch - After 1 Year

The Apple Watch turns 1 year old next week. If you follow the popular press, you’d think the device was rubbish and a complete failure.

I vehemently disagree.

It may be a limited version one, but it is a flawlessly engineered timepiece that is conducive to small, yet significant, life hacks.

I wear, and continue to wear my Apple Watch every day. I have done so since the day it arrived, the result of a late night wake-up alarm, a few taps on the Apple Store app and a return to sleep on opening night.

The Rings

If there is a top — by far — reason I wear the Watch as much as possible, it’s those perky exercise rings. I have set the calorie and exercise time goals just above my average, with gym exercise, day. After a year, I am still gamed into walking the long way home and feeling bad on those lazy Sundays when the rings gain almost no color.

The Apple Watch has quietly encouraged me to move and exercise in ways that I have never been able to do myself. I have watched my average heart rate for a 30 minute walk drop to normal levels. And the stand-up reminders, which I use to get up and refill my water glass, seemed to keep me healthier this past year.

The Notifications

I can easily replace the Apple Watch with a dedicated fitness device to replace the rings that rule them all, but nothing saves me more time than having notifications on my wrist.

As described in last year’s How the Apple Watch Has Changed My Behavior for the Better, the process to view notifications is much faster (and less error-prone) and the need I feel to react to them is much smaller when viewing them on the watch.

But over the year I have done something few people have. I have added new notification sources to my world, without noticeably increasing my notification volume. Most of the new notification sources are internal to work, notifying me when systems fail or have issues. I feel these vibrations on my wrist and know — just know — whether to interrupt what I am doing and respond. The result, fewer business issues and faster response when they do occur.

The Time

I was a watch wearer before, and will be for life. The device on my wrist needs to be an excellent time piece, in design, feel, engineering and in allowing me to glance and “know” the time. Prior to the Apple Watch, I wore a Titanium Special Pilot Edition Citizen Eco-Drive watch, a solar-powered engineering marvel. Its face was as familiar to me as my own.

For much of the year, I used the Utility face on the Apple Watch to transition with an analog display. It took no time to get used to. And the wrist flick needed to activate the screen works every time for me. It’s the same movement I guesses I used with the old watch. I still switch to Utility for dress-up.

These days I run modular to see more data in the same glance. And reading that, too, has become habit.

The Next Appointment

It’s not unusual for people to pop appointments in my calendar at work. My fault, I gave them access to my calendar for just that purpose. When deciding what task to work on next, I need to know when my next appointment is. If its far away, I will select a programming challenge and enter the zone. If its near-by, I will work on something smaller requiring less focus.

Before the Apple Watch I would go to my computer and launch the Fantastical menu bar applet to see what’s next. But even that requires the eye to move down the list and read down. Fantastical fades past appointments to make this process easier.

On the Watch, I just flip my wrist up and the next appointment is in the middle of my Modular view. Way quicker.

The Weather

I live in a high-rise in Manhattan. The best weather report comes from looking out the window. But I used to have no idea the temperature range outside as the building is heavily heated. A bright sunny day may look warm from a heated room, but be blisteringly cold.

Having the current temperature (in celsius - I am not an animal) complication on the watch face has saved me many times from going out without an appropriate coat on freezing sunny days.

The Apple Pay

It took a while to figure out the double-tap needed to trigger Apple Pay on the watch. But once figured out, I use it more than Apple Pay on the iPhone. Even late at night after a few drinks, I can Apple Pay for a Yellow Cab with ease.

Aside: I just wish more retailers in the USA supported contactless payments. Some, like my local supermarkets, do. Many, like my local big-chain chemist (who has it on the scanner but stupidly disabled), restaurants and take-out food places do not. Would someone please drag these neanderthal companies into the twenty-first century to join the rest of us.

The Band

I purchased the Black Apple Watch Sport with the black sport band on day one — the nerd version. While that was awesome, I missed having a metallic band like my old watch. I seriously considered purchasing the black link bracelet but felt it just was too expensive for my tastes. I loved the look and feel of the Milanese Loop, but the silver looked terrible with the black Watch.

Recently, Apple released the black Milanese Loop. I tried my luck and the Grand Central Apple Store had one the next day which I purchased. And it’s amazingly great, from a quality watch band feel and engineering perspective. My plan was to wear the Milanese Loop for work, and switch to the Elastomer bands for gym. I did that once. The Black Milanese is now the permanent band, er, for now.

The Apps

As expected, I rarely use Watch Apps unless I want to drill more on a notification. The slow launch times have improved with watchOS 2, but are still too slow.

I do use the Exercise app most days and love that each exercise is now saved and shown on the iPhone.

I also, rarely, answer the phone on the Watch. It works great, but holding my wrist up awkwardly while talking feels weird.

And that’s about it.

A Grand Start

For a device that requires charging every night, has the slowest setup and app launch times, and is tad bulky, it is still a grand start for a product. Its capabilities and utility far outweighs its first version flaws. The press has it wrong about it being rubbish.

It also sold more than all swiss watches in Q4 2015 and would probably make it into the Fortune 500 as a stand-alone one-product business. And its only been one year. The iPhone product business was in a worse state at the same stage of its evolution. The press has it wrong about it being a failure.

I am very happy with my Apple Watch, as much with the device as with how it has immeasurably improved my quality of life and behavior. No other device, including the iPhone, has hacked my ways as quickly, efficiently and unobtrusively as the Apple Watch. And this is just at version one in year one. Failure, my arse!

Follow the author as @hiltmon on Twitter.