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Apple Watch Sport Fit and Feel

By Eric Shelton

People often tell me that Apple products are made for people who aren’t smart enough to use other products. These people often want the freedom of being able to trick out and customize their product to their hearts content. I can fully appreciate that argument. I remember installing builds of Linux on my Compaq iPAQ years ago just to get away from the limits of Windows CE. So I’m no stranger to wanting control and freedom. However, I also have reached a point in my life where things are complicated enough on their own, I want my products to work even if that means they don’t give me complete control over every aspect of how they work.

People often think Apple products are made for people who aren't smart enough to use other products.

Apple is known for investing in design in order to make their products instantly accessible. The Apple Watch however might be the first product, where the design has not been immediately intuitive. Instead of figuring out how to do things on the watch in an hour, it took most of a day. Even now, I still don’t always swipe correctly or know whether I’m looking at a notification, a glance page, or running an app. Sometimes, I deep press (Apple’s term for pushing down hard on the screen) and can make things happen, and sometimes nothing.

Don’t get me wrong, the WatchOS is remarkably refined. In fact, when I use the watch as I believe it is intended, it is nearly transparent. Where the Apple Watch shines is in how it compliments what you are already doing. If you have to stop and use the watch screen for more than a couple minutes, why not pick up your phone and use the app? The phone will be much faster and give you a more complete picture. The watch shines in the times you really don’t want to fish your phone out of your pocket, your bag, the second floor when you’re on the first etc…

Here is the perfect example. I went for a run shortly after getting the watch. I use RunMeter to track my runs, and it has a complimentary Apple Watch app, so I decided it use it. The app displays most running information I want directly on the watch screen. I listen to music from my phone over a Jaybird Bluetooth headset. I don’t like to have to fiddle with my phone once I start running since I have a limited amount of time. However, I would normally have to start RunMeter on my phone, then tuck my phone into my running pack or belt before I go. This also includes getting the music cued up etc…  Once I’m running, if I receive a text message, I usually have to stop, fish out my phone, and check to make sure it’s not my kids needing my attention.

 apple watch ride time.jpg     watch_darkskies.jpeg

The first day I decided to use my watch. I put my headset on, tucked my phone into my pack, and started a brief warm up walk. I pulled up the RunMeter app on my watch and selected the run I wanted to track. I switched to the music control app to start my running playlist, answered a quick question via text about where my daughter’s calculator was, and then I was off. My daughter sent a follow-up text, which I didn’t even break step to check. The text came in, a solid haptic snap alerted me. In the time it takes to bring my watch up to view, the screen slickly displayed who the text was from and in just the right amount of time switched to show me the body of the text. A simple swipe dismissed the text and I kept running. Ten minutes later there was another tap at the wrist. The DarkSky’s app was letting me know that it was going to begin raining in my area in 15 minutes and the rain was going to be heavy. I pressed on the notification, and the screen pulled up the DarkSky’s app showing me that not only was it going to be heavy but it was going to stay that way for an hour. Since I was 15 minutes away from shelter, I turned around and headed back. I advanced the tracks that were playing a couple times, and then read the first few lines of a couple of emails as they came in. Not once did I ever get my phone out of my pack.

Now this is an anecdotal example but it really speaks to how the watch should be used. If you want to read the entire news article, then find a more comfortable device, but if you want a quick update of the headlines, then swipe up from your watch screen and get the latest from CNN.

What the Apple Watch Does and Doesn’t Do

Interacting with the Apple Watch really comes down to four different functions:

1. There is the watch face itself. Apple would have you believe that this is where you can really make a personal statement and configure it to your taste. I disagree. There are several very attractive watch faces, but many of them look the same. Don’t get me wrong, for checking the time, most of the watch faces give me exactly what I want. Most faces allow you to select “complications” that are displayed. Things like the date, day of the week, current temperature, alarm settings, next thing on your calendar etc… are all options, but are necessarily accessible on every available watch face.

2. The second interaction with the Apple Watch is through notifications. A notification is something that interrupts what you are doing and is an immediate piece of information. A text message, a calendar reminder, a ‘stand up you’ve been sitting too long’ nudge, a news bulletin, weather alert… the list of possible notifications is quite long and probably endless.

Notifications come from an app and are stored in a list. If you don’t interact with a notification immediately when it comes in by raising your wrist and looking at your watch, they are are stored. A red dot at the top of the screen lets you know you have pending notifications, and a swipe down from the top of the screen displays them all in a list from most recent to oldest. They can all be dismissed with a touch or you can interact with them individually. Not all of them are dealt with in a consistent fashion and often it depends on the type of app that initiates the notification. So a text message can be replied to immediately, but a weather alert just opens up the weather app that generated it. Notifications are fast and fluid and might very well be one of the best parts of the Apple Watch experience. They represent the most intuitive part of the watch and the part to which I have adapted the best.

3. The third interaction is “glances”. To view a “glance” you swipe up from the bottom of the screen. From there you can swipe left or right to review each of your “glances”. Any app developer can have an optional “glance.” You can control which “glances” are displayed including ones that are built in. The first “glance” however is a control panel that allows quick access to sleep, airplane mode, etc… After that you get things like your current heart rate, a “Now Playing” control interface for your music player, battery life, and current activity.

Where it gets more interesting is that any app can have a glance. This includes your calendar, weather apps, news apps and more. My experience is if you have too many its pointless, but in a quick moment you can swipe up to activate and page through them quickly to get a small piece of information. Current weather conditions, stock ticker, upcoming calendar events, flight status. “Glances” are meant to be quick. You cannot interact with them and everything about them fits on one screen with no scrolling. Tap a “glance” screen and it will start up the app.

 watch_glance_quicksettings.jpeg     watch_glance_player.jpeg      watch_glance_heartrate.jpeg       watch_glance_battery.jpeg       watch_glance_googlenews.jpeg

4. The last type of interaction are apps. A lot of press has gone into discussing apps, and with good reason. If the Apple Watch is going to have a game-changing moment, it is likely to come from the app developer community. Apps are started or launched in a number of different ways. They can be launched from a notification, from the glance page, or from the app home screen. The home screen is sort of a cloud of all of your installed apps, and tapping on an app launches it.

There are currently two types of apps, 1st party and 3rd party. Currently only 1st party apps can truly utilize the watch’s full capabilities. They have access to the haptic engine, the touch screen, the speaker, microphone, digital crown, accelerometer, and heart rate sensor. They also don’t have to have an app back on the iPhone that sends them data. They can run completely untethered on the Apple Watch. This makes them faster and more complete. So the watch can operate without a phone nearby. It has 8GB of internal storage where music and apps can live. You can load up a playlist on the watch and listen to music directly from the watch over Bluetooth-all made possible with 1st party apps.

 watch_appcloud.jpeg     watch map.jpg

Third party apps don’t have access to all of the watch’s hardware. They also must have a companion app that runs on the iPhone. Most of the heavy lifting is then done on the iPhone and is sent to the watch. For some things this trade-off isn’t a big deal, but it also means that apps like RunMeter, can’t access the heartrate sensor on the watch. So, if you want to go for a run, you have to drag your phone with you if you want to use an app that requires GPS. On the other hand, you can use the native “workout” app on the Apple Watch and once it has been trained (meaning you’ve taken it on a couple of runs and it has had time to compare your stride with gps measurements). You can then go on runs with just the watch, even for storing music for playback on Bluetooth headphones.

watch_flipboard2.jpeg      watch_googlenews.jpeg     watch_calcbot.jpeg       watch_tide1.jpeg

The watch accepts input from a variety of sources. The watch activates upon being brought up to your face. From here you can swipe the screen for notifications or “glances.” On the side of the watch is the “digital crown” which is essentially the home button. Pressing it activates the screen and can be easily rolled by your finger to scroll through a longer page. This prevents your finger from getting in the way as you scroll. There is also a flat button next to the digital crown which brings up a list of your favorite contacts. This brings up a special screen allowing your to text, call, or draw a message to a friend. Two of those things are obvious, but the draw a message, also known as a digital touch, function requires that your friend also have an Apple Watch. You can either send them your heartbeat (somewhat intimate) or you can draw them a crude picture which will be replicated on their display. Apple touts this a great selling point, but it is clearly a gimmick. Drawing on the watch is crude at best and you only have a moment before it is sent away.


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Recent Forum Posts:

AcuDefTechGuy posts on August 23, 2015 11:45
TheWarrior, post: 1093927, member: 57254
Lol! I'm just an Apple fanboy cause I appreciate the ease of use, and the fact that the hardware lasts so long. I was referring to an iBook G4 that I still own…
I own a MacBook Air, a few iPads, and iPhone in the past.

But I don't like the thought that the battery on the watch has to be replaced every few years like the iPhone.
TheWarrior posts on August 23, 2015 07:33
AcuDefTechGuy, post: 1093899, member: 26997
The Apple watch has been around for 10 years?

So you just charged the watch battery every night for 10 years?

Lol! I'm just an Apple fanboy cause I appreciate the ease of use, and the fact that the hardware lasts so long. I was referring to an iBook G4 that I still own…
AcuDefTechGuy posts on August 22, 2015 20:01
TheWarrior, post: 1093861, member: 57254
I've never replaced any Apple battery actually…. and thats over 10 years!
The Apple watch has been around for 10 years?

So you just charged the watch battery every night for 10 years?
TheWarrior posts on August 22, 2015 06:41
AcuDefTechGuy, post: 1093799, member: 26997
I love my Citizen EcoDrive watch. Solar energy is good.

Will the Apple watch battery need to be replaced about every 3 years?

I've never replaced any Apple battery actually…. and thats over 10 years!
rojo posts on August 21, 2015 21:25

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