On the Apple Watch

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I've spent some weeks now with some Apple Watch Sport models and with the classic Apple Watch. The Monday Note, as ever, managed to condense a lot of insight into their piece on the device, rounding up a number of other good articles.

For me, the Watch is full of contradictions. I enjoyed wearing it, and I shall likely wear one again, although for now they are being worn and used by the team at Reincubate as they learn more about them.

This generation of the Watch is not quite right, at least not yet. It feels important, like it’s the start of something, and I sense there’s a lot of extra capability in the device that will be unlocked with future firmware updates. For now, the watchOS 2 beta all but bricks the unit, though there are signs in that of some fairly significant steps forward. It is unusual that Apple’s beta release feels like an alpha, and that the released consumer product feels like a beta.

It’s easy to criticise the watch for its functionality as a watch: it’s hard to put on, with the sports and the leather straps being particularly fiddly. You can’t tell the time lying down. Not being able to glance at the time without raising one’s wrist is a pain. The AppStore is confusing. More third-party apps don’t work than work: notably Evernote, 1Password, TripAdvisor are all broken. It’s unintuitive, it didn’t come charged. Or perhaps it did, but the short battery life and long transit led to its arrival, exhausted.

The better glass on the mid-priced model makes the device bulkier and heavier than the cheaper edition, which seems wrong. The system for exchanging doodles and heartbeats works irregularly, and certainly isn’t realtime. It’s slow, like really slow. Below there’s a video showing just how slow it is.

Apple’s Activity app is great, and I found it quite engaging when I first started using the device. However, it didn’t take long to realise that it couldn’t replace my Fitbit. Like many others in the office, I tend to take my old fashioned (but rather more serious) watch off whilst I’m at my desk, or during long meetings. With the Apple Watch being bulkier, I’m certainly not likely to change that behaviour, and this will mean that its measurements are incomplete. The Fitbit is much less intrusive, and has solid sleep tracking functionality. Even were it not necessary to take the Watch off overnight to charge, using it at night for any sort of measurement would be impractical due to its bulk.

Whilst the health measurement issue seems intractable, many of the other nuisances will be resolved, and the newer OS will give developers a lot more freedom to add value to the platform. Unlike the iPad, which has seemed like a toaster-fridge to me, I could see Apple figuring out and communicating the "why" of the Watch more readily. When one could use it to reply to WhatsApp or Facebook messages it could be a delightful tool to cut down use of the phone. Mass adoption isn't around the corner but the device still feels compelling, and wearing it had me checking my phone far less. That, I think, is a blessing.

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