by Carol A Westbrook
I love my Apple Watch…or I used to love it. Now, I'm not so sure.
I was thrilled when I got a new Apple Watch shortly after their initial release by Apple in April of this year, a birthday gift from my husband. I enjoyed the Watch so much so much that I bought him one, too, and have recommended them to all my friends. I loved my new Apple Watch.
But now, I find myself looking at other watches. Sometimes I even wear one of my favorite “traditional” watches. Yes, at times I miss my beautiful, elegant, reliable old timepieces.
Don't get me wrong. I love the way I can use my Watch to check the headlines, get the current temp or weather forecast, check emails and messages, and see if I made my daily activity goal, all with a quick glance and a touch. I can ask Siri a question, find a restaurant with Yelp and get directions on a small map without getting out my phone. Best of all, I loved the way I could “tap” my husband's Apple Watch or send him a quick message. Yes, I love my Apple Watch.
But… do I really like it?
From the start I enjoyed the attention I would get when I raised my wrist to check the time, and the screen would illuminate. Or even better, a call would ring and I would answer it by speaking into my wristwatch, like Dick Tracy used to do in the Sunday comics. Those of us of a certain age dreamed of owning a wrist-radio, but never thought it would happen in our lifetime!
“Wow, ” people would marvel, “is that a new Apple Watch?”
Now that these watches have been around for six months, they are no longer a novelty. The thrill of being a first-adopter has worn off, and my watch no longer gets much attention. As a matter of fact, my entry-level black “sport” Apple Watch ($349.00) looks surprisingly like an inexpensive Black Rebel Swatch ($70.00), as you can see by these pictures, Swatch on the left, Apple Watch on the right.
Sure, I could have gotten a pricier and more stylish Apple Watch, with a stainless case and band, but at $600 to $1000, or even up to $10,000+ it would have been hard to justify. It's not a Rolex, after all.
Of course there are other reasons I'm less than infatuated now. I looked back over the notes I made, to better understand how I felt when I first got the watch. I carefully documented my impressions, including my experiences during the three weeks that it took for me to master it well enough for everyday use.
And therein lies the rub…it took me three weeks to figure it out.
Frankly, I was surprised that the Watch was so complicated. Apple's philosophy has always been to keep their products consumer-friendly, with as much “out-of-the-box” ease of use as is possible for an innovative design. Not so for the Apple Watch, which is even more complicated than an iPhone.
From the time you put it on your wrist, the Watch has so many novel, customizable features that require decisions, before you even know what you might want. It is somehow fitting that these selections are called, “complications.” Tapping the button brings up the next screen view, with multiple app choices that you have to manage with your fingertip. These floating, moving icons are easily missed by a big finger, as you can see on the right. The icons refer to apps from both the native operating system, and a few that have transferred from your iPhone. Each one needs to be set, customized, and tweaked–once you figure out what they do. I expect that many people will not want to own an Apple Watch because it is so complicated to learn.
To add insult to injury, the Apple Watch operating system is susceptible to the hated “updates,” which require a long download to your iPhone, followed by an upload to your watch. This procedure takes you, your Watch, and your iPhone out of circulation and near each other for almost an hour.
Perhaps the most annoying thing about the Apple Watch, though, is that it is a slave to the Apple iPhone. Although the fitness and heart rate monitors are inherent in the Watch itself, most of its other information-gathering functions necessitate that it stay within Bluetooth range of the iPhone. “Nearby” means purse, pocket, or the next room. Continuous Bluetooth connectivity requires continuous power, so the batteries of both the Watch and iPhone run out quickly. This short battery life is universally considered one of the most annoying features of this equipment. And of course, charging the Watch requires yet another type of Apple connector to add to your collection.
Many of the Apple Watch frustrations are due to the apps transferred from your iPhone. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, it runs these apps like a dog walking on its hind legs. “It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all. ” Some are great, others leave a lot to be desired. For example, Yelp works surprisingly well finding local restaurants and positioning them on a local map–also displayed on my watch–but Fandango does not list the local show times, instead displaying only purchased tickets, if any. The airline apps give accurate updates on your flights, but the boarding pass is useless because the display goes blank when the screen is turned upside down to scan for boarding. The German English Dictionary from BKis amazing, as it converts speech into written German, handy when traveling abroad. The Watch will stream selected iTunes to a Bluetooth-enabled headset or car radio. On the other hand, it will not stream podcasts. For those of us Public Radio aficionados who enjoy Fresh Air, and Car Talk, this is a major disappointment.
Don't get me wrong. The Apple Watch is a beautifully-engineered instrument representing a quantum leap in the world of small, personal electronics, in much the same way that the iPod changed our music habits, and the iPhone our cellular phone habits. More than that, though, the Apple Watch represents a paradigm shift in how we use wristwatches. There may come a time when “Wristwatch” will be a thing of the past, much like a dial phone.
In fact, it's beginning now. Last month, LG released their cellular watch, the LG Watch Urban 2nd Edition, which they call a Smartpiece. Though it functions like an Apple Watch, including cellular phone capability, the LG has its own cellular modem and SIM card, so it does not require a nearby smart phone or a Wi-Fi connection. The LG Watch Urbane 2nd looks more like a traditional watch, though its price will be closer to an Apple than a Swatch.
My mindset has changed been changed by my Smart Watch. I would be hard-pressed to put it aside and go back to a traditional timepiece. The instrument has become well-integrated into my daily routine, and I rely on it to check the outdoor temp, monitor my activity, or take a quick glance at messages without retrieving my phone. I would be hard-pressed to stop using it. I miss my old watches but they seem so, well, one-dimensional.
And after all, the Apple Watch keeps time, too.
The image of Dick Tracy is licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dt2wrr.jpg#/media/File:Dt2wrr.jpg