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Apple Watch Sport Impressions

By Eric Shelton

Apple Watch on ArmI’ve been using the watch for about a month. I use it daily, and I feel I have used nearly all of the current functionality available. First, it is not revolutionary. It tells you to stand up if you’ve sat too long, and to keep moving around during the day, but fitness bands and fobs have done that for a while now. It is an acceptable watch, but you can’t really show someone else the time without using both hands to activate the screen via the home button. It only detects when it is brought upward and turned toward your own face. Even then there is a delay, so if you are trying to steal a glance at your watch without people noticing, you are out of luck.

Further, get ready to look at the spinning ball like indicator as you wait for your app to either start, update, or get new information from your phone. Third party apps can be agonizingly slow. In fact, they can be nearly unusable. They are often inconsistent, working quickly in one instance and not coming up at all in another. 

The Apple Watch is NOT revolutionary, but merely acceptable.

Some of the glances seem to preload information in anticipation of you looking, but others wait until you’ve scrolled to their page and then you must wait for it to be sent to your watch. All of this can even be slower when you have to rely on the Bluetooth connection instead of Wi-Fi.

Lastly, since you can set your watch to either display the time every time you lift your wrist, or display your last app every time you lift your wrist, you may find yourself needing the time and getting an app instead. Although most apps still default to showing you the time in the upper right hand corner of the screen, not all do. Either way, you may have to interact with your watch more then you want.

Many developers feel like they must have an app, even if the app does very little. On the other hand, the level of sophistication of some apps may surprise you. Now that developers have watches with which to test, the apps are improving day by day. They are getting faster and implementing features quicker.

Yet, I still feel the watch is lacking. You are going to talk to your watch a lot in order to make it effective. Phone calls are horrible. The whole Dick Tracy idea is half-baked, and I feel  foolish having a conversation on my watch. On the other hand, sending a quick text by either flicking one of the pre-chosen phrases (which are context specific) or by speaking a phrase and having it dictate, is spot on fast and effective. I find myself never even getting my phone out to text any longer.

The haptic notifications mean my phone sits idle not making any noise and I am made aware of text, email, phone calls, etc. by the watch In a meeting or even just at the table for dinner, I can be very aware of incoming information without being rude or looking distracted. The first party apps are smooth and they interact with the watch in a slick manner. Most third party apps are catching up quick and some have added functionality that their 1st party alternatives have neglected.

The watch is comfortable to wear and looks like the piece of forward-looking tech that it is. I find myself using many more watch apps than I expected. Moreover, I find myself integrating it into my day more than I thought I would. I like the feel of it, I like the quick access to emails, calendar, phone calls, and text messages. I like the constant feedback about my health and reminders to keep moving. As more apps embrace notifications, I think it could be amazing. Using Apple Pay with the watch is how all purchases should be made. I never each for my wallet and my card number is never exposed. When I walk into a Starbucks (actually when I just get near one), the app knows I’m there and is ready for me to initiate my purchase and pay, while in Target the app is ready to help me find what I need. A simple flick of the wrist and all of the intrusions stop.

watch_applepay.jpeg

I’ve only run the battery dry once, and it was from a slightly extended run with the 1st party workout app. Since it uses the heartrate monitor more frequently, it drains the battery faster. Otherwise it is on my wrist for 18 hours a day with battery life to spare. I’ve showered with it on, and don’t worry about it getting splashed. In fact several developers have made swimming apps and have taken the watch into the pool. (Apple will not let these apps into the store however since they don’t condone submerging the watch). Overall it has stood up to quite a bit of abuse. Dirt from yard work has gotten under the digital crown and gummed up its motion. Using a little compressed air took care of the problem.

As an exercise companion, the Apple Watch is not for a serious or power runner. It can hold its own, only with an iPhone in tow. For me this isn’t a problem, but for many of my running friends, this would be a non-starter. However, as a health tracker, it is excellent. When added to the iPhone Health app, any participating app has access to biometrics collected by the watch. This means that any connected health app can share data through the Health app. This can make the Apple Watch a central part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

On the other hand, the Apple Watch feels unfinished. You can reply to text messages, but can’t reply to email. Most of the time when I ask Siri to do something, it wants me to pick up my phone anyways, making the Siri experiences frustratingly incomplete. Maybe I’m asking the wrong questions. The subtle delay between raising your wrist and the screen actually switching on is even now a nuisance. I should be able to glance down to see the time and I cannot.

It is not intuitive. The limited screen size leaves little room to alert the user as to where in the watchOS you actually are. Half the time I still don’t know if I’m looking at a notification, a glance, or the app. When I force press on each of those things I get a different response, so when I attempt to interact with the watch I’m still often surprised at what happens next. It feels like when you finally figure something out, it is different the next time you try. Some of this is the updating of apps, but most of it is just the normal operation of the watch.

I’m tired of waiting. I see the spinning ball on the screen way more often than I’d like. I even hesitate to show off the watch to people because I’m pretty sure that all they are going to see is the spinning ball. For every two times an app works great, there is the one time it never updates, or takes so long I have to keep refreshing the screen. Since I want to get my info and go, any waiting while looking at the watch is awkward. The watch experience itself isn’t slow—in fact the watch itself seems pretty quick—but when the watch is connecting to your phone, you are going to be waiting. I would like the watch to do a better job of prefetching and populating data in the background, especially with glances. They should be updating constantly in the background (like every time the watch fetches mail or something). This would at least mean the glances are refreshed and accurate.

Overall the watch feels like a big beta test. I think the hardware is rock solid. The software on the other hand has some problems. Many times when I’m using the app on the phone to interact with the watch, it locks up or appears to lock up. This may be the same reason there are delays on the watch itself. I think whenever there is a connectivity problem or when data is being sent from the phone to the watch, both suffer.

There have been several times when my phone seems to be locked up in different apps that never had trouble before. These problems may or may not be associated with communicating with the watch, but it is a coincidence. More than once a week, I’ve had to restart the watch and the phone. The watch takes an unreasonably long time to boot up, so this isn’t a casual problem. Either way, it seems Apple wanted to get this product out on the market and let their calendar drive their release instead of waiting for a finished product.

I don't recommend buying a first gen Apple Watch unless you're an Apple fanatic.

Truth in point, at Apple’s flagship conference, the World Wide Developers Conference in June, it was announced that iOS 9 and watchOS 2 would be released in the fall. Both would include a long list of enhancements, updates, and features. Among these was the announcement that app developers would now be able to develop native apps for the watch. They then released the SDK for the watch and have been making beta updates and releases on a breakneck schedule. Since no one had a watch in their hands until May, it is likely that developers really couldn’t get a handle on what the watch experience would be like, including Apple’s own developers. It seems that watchOS 1 was the beta test, a way to work out the bugs of the ecosystem and watchOS 2 will be the gold release. My only hope is that I don’t come to regret having version 1 hardware when version 2 software is released.

My opinion is simple. I am enjoying my watch.  I don’t regret purchasing one, but I’d probably be just as happy if I’d waited and instead spent the money on a Garmin. I’d only wear my Garmin if I was running, and I “get to” wear the Apple Watch all the time. But I can’t recommend buying one. Unless you are an Apple fanatic, or simply like having new tech gear, skip this version, especially now. No one knows what the upgrade cycle is going to be for the Apple Watch, so there is no hurry to run out and  buy a half finished product which could be obsolete in a few months.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
MetricRating
PerformanceStarStarStarhalf-star
ValueStarStarhalf-star

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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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