As with any new Apple product, or any tech gadget, much of the first year is devoted to getting used to how it works, what it does, and what not to do. Watch is no different. Unfortunately, members of the technorati elite politburo view Watch as a failure because it didn’t match some arbitrary expectation list. Let me set the record straight.
It’s An Accessory
Before blazing down the river of dreams, let’s set the expectation. Watch is an accessory to the iPhone. Nothing more, nothing less; to some, an expensive techno-bauble, to others a very convenient way to communicate and to receive communication.
For the first few months of Watch ownership I would swap it out for something more fashionable, usually for evening wear. Then along came multiple styles of Watch bands (beyond the anemic and expensive ones Apple sells) and Watch became a fashion fixture while other watches, some more expensive, gather dust.
Here’s what I like about using Watch.
Time – Watch tells time. I thought I would like some of the classy watch faces but I’m stuck on the modular version which displays the most complications.
Notifications – It takes time to setup which notifications you want moved from iPhone to Watch but the convenience is unmatched. DarkSky, text messages, email, and all the rest make it a superb way to stay connected without bothering to go fish for what’s buzzing in purse or pocket.
Phone Calls – The first few times I used Watch to receive calls I felt stupid talking into my wrist. Don’t bother worrying about that. The convenience outweighs it and Siri makes it easy to make calls without fishing around for the iPhone.
Siri – During the first version of watchOS, Siri was anemic. She’s gotten better since watchOS 2.x, and I expect better in the future. Simply saying, “Hey, Siri…” and being able to query, or open an app with little more than voice presence is priceless.
Glances – Touching the Watch screen and flipping it up is the way to get to Glances and navigate back and forth. It works well but could be better. Yahoo! tech writer David Pogue has a better way, but let me simplify it by saying that Glances should take you right to the glance screen of an app, but that the app should be live. Navigating through apps is a breeze.
Find Your iPhone – What a great way to find your phone. Flip through Glances to the control settings, tap the Find button, and listen for your iPhone to tell you where it is.
Applications – There are thousands of apps for Watch, but it takes time and effort to find those that work for you. There’s a smart thermostat with a Watch app. Uber has an app that lets you use watch to hail an Uber vehicle. Hotel apps let you check in and unlock the hotel room door with your Watch. There’s even a tour guide app for major tourist destinations. Lights and shades in your home can be controlled with a Watch app. Languages can be translated on the fly as you speak. DarkSky predicts weather and notifies you accordingly (one of the best Watch apps). You get the idea, right? Lots of apps, but they require trying out; download to iPhone, install on Watch, setup Complications or Glances, tweak Notifications. Lots of extra effort to make Watch work.
Watch Faces – There are plenty, many of beautiful, but I’ve become addicted to the modular watch face with multiple Complications.
Heart Rate – This is priceless if not a bit inaccurate at times, but the data gets collected over time and gives you an idea of how your heart is behaving; you can easily see stress periods, exercise periods, relaxation periods at a glance. Plenty of fitness and exercise apps, too, but data collected is in its infancy.
Gimmicks – Apple is, if anything, as much about sizzle as it is about steak, so there are plenty of options that look cool during a demonstration but don’t do much after that. Animated emoji, sharing a heartbeat, drawing, even selecting apps from the stack of little round app icons are functions that look cool but don’t do much in practice. Photos? Bah, humbug. Music? Forgettaboutit! Apple TV? Too slow. Remote Camera viewfinder? It works, but I can’t always remember how.
Apple Pay – What’s not to like?
Maps – This function has more promise than actual benefit. The screen is too small and Maps is very slow on Watch, even with watchOS 2.x, but the turn-by-turn haptic buzzes are a good touch.
Friends – I’m surprised at how much I use Friends (the wheel of Contacts). Touch the side button and flow through the basic contacts (all customizable) with a tap. Much faster than Siri, and easy to make calls, send messages, or contact.
Car – We’re shopping for a new car and so far the list is obvious. The car must have Apple’s CarPlay and there must be an Apple Watch app to match. That’s marketing power, folks. Cars without that are not being considered.
Favorite Apps – I have a list that goes beyond the basics of Mail, Messages, Clock, et al. Here’s what I have.
- DarkSky – weather where you are
- Fantastical – better than Calendar
- Deliveries – notifications for packages
- App in the Air – sweet
- Currency – a must if your travel abroad
- 7 Minute Workout – because you need to
- Sleep++ – tracks sleeping habits
- Just Press Record – easy way to create voice messages
- PCalc – the best Watch calculator
- Due – Watch companion for Mac, iPhone, iPad app
- Pedometer – counting steps is a good thing
- Things – Watch companion for Mac, iPhone, iPad task manager
- iTranslate – because it’s easier than learning a new language
- OfficeTime – time capture for project billing
There are more, but those are the ones with the most value. I don’t and won’t do games.
Watch is more than the sum of the parts, and actually takes more work to setup and use Watch apps than iPhone does iPhone apps; partly because iPhone is involved, and partly because Watch and the use case scenarios are so new. But the trend is clear. Watch now goes with me all the time while luxury and fashion watches stay at home.