Apple Watch Thoughts August 3, 2015
I spent a week with the Apple Watch. It's in the drawer with my Android watch and my Pebble.
The Apple Watch is one of the nicest pieces of physical hardware I've ever put on my wrist. I've got a Rolex and a Tudor... a bunch of Seiko watches, and others. My favorite watch is a Traser... but that's mostly because it's very practical.
I got the 38mm, Black Sport Watch. The physical feel of the Apple Watch is superb. The materials are amazing. The silicon band is the first silicon band I felt comfortable wearing for 12+ hours.
I would gladly pay $500+ for a watch built like the Apple Watch with a quartz movement and tritium hands.
But the hardware is the only good part of the Apple Watch.
The First iPhone
I got a first generation iPhone. At the time, my kids were 2 years old. They were able to use the photo viewing app to see pictures.
The UI on the iPhone was the first "intuitive" UI of any mechanical device I've ever seen. The UI on the iPhone works like whatever is baked into human and monkey brains.
The watch requires a lot of learning.
I had to run through the set-up process 3 times on the first day... and the set-up process is long and boring.
I started setting up my Apple Watch at the Apple store. Bonding the watch to my phone via the camera was a really smart move.
Unfortunately, I lost LTE connectivity mid-way through the set-up process and had to switch to WiFi. This caused the process to fail.
So, we reset the watch and started again with my phone on the store's WiFi network.
Then, later, I wanted to enable Apple Pay on the watch. I had to enter a passcode on the watch. I entered one of my 3 "standard" passcodes. Then the watch wouldn't accept my passcode and I had to reset it again.
That was two resets too many. It seems that the watch set-up process is fairly brittle. Not what I would expect from Apple.
Because the Apple Watch set-up takes so long, the owner is prompted to watch a video about the watch.
The video is a subtle condemnation of the watch. It's 4 minutes of "this feature is analogous to some other feature you're already familiar with in Apple products." Like the crown being like the iPod's scroll wheel.
I watched the video and cringed. It seemed to me to be as much of an internal marketing pitch about each of the Franken-features of the watch as it was a tutorial. "No, no, it's not that hard to use... it's similar to the gestures people already know..."
The watch is not like the iPhone in terms of being truly intuitive. It's not like the iPod because each button, crown, screen, etc. is overloaded with gestures, push-durations, etc.
Setting up a passcode on the watch is a challenge. Setting up Apple Pay means going through the same long "take a picture of your credit card, call your bank, then Apple Pay works" process when the phone is bonded to the watch was more than I was willing to do.
Plus, it's much easier to pull out the phone, finger-print authorize, and put the phone back, than to enter a PIN on the tiny watch screen.
Apple Pay was harder with Apple Watch than with my phone.
I'm a huge anti-fan on texts appearing on my wrist for the world to see. Texting and email preview on the watch is not a use case.
"Hey Siri" rarely worked on the watch. Double-pressing the crown is only marginally faster than pulling my iPhone out of my pocket.
Letting the world see who is calling me is less than optimal. If I'm in a meeting, I don't want my phone to light up with a call. This is an anti-feature.
When it's important
I have a special ring-tone for calls/texts that are kid-related (nanny and kids' mom). These I care about during a meeting. Nothing else matters except the people I'm in a room with. The watch is a constant nag about texts and calls and email and other stuff I silo to not-with-other-people time.
Integration with Maps and the watch is a very cool feature. It's much better to have navigation on the watch than on the phone.
Sadly, this feature sucks the battery dry. It's useful for a 20 minute walk between locations in San Francisco. It drained the watches battery on the 4 hour drive from LA to Cambria.
The nag, nag, pester, poke, nag
The taptic interface is just a frickin' nag. Maybe it's because I only wore the watch for a week and didn't figure out the Morse-code tapping, but getting nagged for something 6 times an hour is way too distracting.
It's distracting in meetings.
It's distracting when I'm trying to focus on alone-time coding or writing.
The activity nag
Getting pinged once an hour to stand and move around is kinda a cool feature... when it's not a nag.
The activity nag is just a nag, though.
It nagged me to stand up when I had a map open and the watch knew I was driving 80 MPH between LA and Cambria. "Um, watch, I'm driving."
In the office, the nag to get up and move around was initially okay. Except, "stretching, using the restroom, and making a cup of tea" is not satisfactory "moving around"... one must engage in unspecified activity to count for the "minute of hate... I mean activity."
If the unspecified activity level isn't enough, the watch nags you to "reward" you for reaching percentage goals. "Hey, I'm going to interrupt you and break your train of thought to say, 'Way to go!'"
Bad activity measurement
I wore the watch during a 90 minute yoga session. It recorded 3 minutes of the session as activity. That's bullcrap.
The 1 mile, 20 minute, 300 vertical foot walk from my house to my office counted as 10 minutes toward my activity goal and earned my 100 calories toward my calorie goal. This, too, is radical undercounting of activity.
If you're going to "reward" me for good activity, measure the activity.
Checking the time
The Apple Watch sucks as a watch.
It's like a 1970s LED watch that requires a lot of work just to read the time.
I want to see the time on my watch. I want to be able to subtly check the time... which I sometimes do in long meetings.
The Apple Watch makes checking the time a lot harder than any watch other than the Android watch.
The Apple Watch has skin-deep beauty, but its uselessness goes all the way to the bone.
The Pebble watch is the most useful of the electronic watches I have tried. It's not an everyday watch, but I keep it charged. The e-ink display is a huge positive differentiator for me.
The Android watch is a useless piece of junk that has not redeeming value.
An Apple Slam
Since the iPod, Apple seemed to have a "ship it when it's ready" attitude. The Apple Watch was shipped a year or two before it was ready. One may say, "Version 1" but the problem is the gestures are baked into the watch. It'll take a lot to convince V1 watch users to adopt a different set of gestures... and the gestures for the Apple Watch are wrong.
The Apple Watch seems rushed and that's not the Apple that I am willing to pay a premium to.
Skip the Apple Watch. Wait a few generations to see if Apple can fix the mind-set flaws that led to a product that is not even as good as the Pebble.