24 Hours with the Apple Watch

24 Hours with the Apple Watch

The beginning of something great.

After waiting for a nerd’s eternity, my hotly anticipated Apple Watch Sport arrived yesterday. I’ve spent the last 24 hours putting it through every kind of test I can think of. Here are a handful of raw thoughts about what is currently the world’s most elusive new gadget:

If you’re a guy, even one with small or average size wrists like me, you’ll want the larger (42mm) model. It’s actually slightly smaller and has a lower profile than the round watch I wore every day previously.

The Sport Band is fantastic, and feels wonderful on the wrist. If “premium” rubber exists, this is it. It is slightly awkward to put on the first few times. though.

My Sport model came in a large, long box that is unexpectedly heavy. I guess that’s to make it feel more valuable? The packaging and unboxing experience is probably the best I’ve ever experienced with an Apple gadget, so I won’t ruin much of it for you here.

Unboxing an Apple Watch Sport

If you’re torn between the two, I’d go with the aluminum Sport model over the standard stainless steel. It’s cheaper, lighter, has a fantastic matte finish, and I haven’t seen a stainless one in the wild that isn’t covered with scratches and fingerprints. Imagine wearing the back of your highly polished old iPod constantly; that’s what you’re getting into by going the stainless route.

The screen is bright and beautiful, but renders color more like a Samsung device than an iPhone due to its OLED display. No big deal, but worth noting. A big plus is that there’s no backlight, so black on the screen is always inky and dark.

The “Taptic Engine” is incredible, and feels like something between a tap on the wrist and a localized muscle spasm. It’s also completely silent, which makes me feel like a spy.

Speaking of spy, the remote camera viewfinder/shutter for your iPhone is bonkers cool, and is going to get all sorts of people in trouble in the coming years.

The watch faces are great, but there are nowhere near enough of them. They need a watch face app store pronto.

Speaking of faces, you’re going to want to use the ones that include the most “complications” (tiny pieces of glanceable info like the date, temp, etc). The coolest faces are missing complications entirely, which is a huge bummer. “Solar” is easily my favorite, but I refuse to switch from “Modular” for now since the glanceable info is incredibly useful.

Something I didn’t expect with the faces is how much fun it is to switch them depending on the occasion or mood. My kids LOVE Mickey when we’re at home, for instance.

The most compelling reason to own an Apple Watch is that glanceable, ambient data. I can now see the time, weather, data, stock market performance, my daily activity, and important notifications in about two seconds or less. I regularly check that sort of data on my phone dozens of time a day, and it used to take me a minute or two to see it all (not counting the times my phone sucks me into a black hole of menial tasks). It’s only been 24 hours, but this reduction of friction is game changing for my lifestyle.

I’ve used a Nike Fuelband and Fitbit in the past, but I already enjoy Apple’s built-in activity tracking quite a bit more. Apple Watch tracks your steps, flights of stairs, your pulse (every 10 minutes!), and your “brisk” activity that counts toward your exercise goals. Add the fact that there’s no need to open an app to sync, and it’s a great piece of “bonus” functionality to someone like me that’s not a fitness nut.

Much have made a big deal that it reminds you to stand once an hour (to improve circulation I guess), but I haven’t seen that yet. Apparently it already sees how much I get up and walk around the office throughout the day, which is cool. This thing is smart.

I don’t work out (I know), so I don’t have an opinion on the workout app or that side of things.

One big surprise: I haven’t even had to think about the battery life. Even in my first day of playing with it non-stop, I still had more than 40% charge left when I plugged it in last night.

The magnetic induction charger is cool, but I wish the magnet was stronger. It barely stays on there, and I’ve already ordered a stand since there’s no easy way to position the watch when it charges.

I already do this on my phone, but you’ll want to dramatically pair down the notifications that come to the Apple Watch. I have it set to only the things that matter to me enough to be interrupted (texts, a few emails, notification that I’ve sold something, etc).

The companion app for the phone works fine, though it seems just slightly buggy to me (especially the first few hours I used it). It’s obvious that this is a stop-gap solution until the actual Watch App Store rolls out this Fall.

Speaking of 3rd-party apps, they’re almost all universally poor at this point. Apple should’ve launched only with built-in apps (like the first iPhone) at first, then rolled out the App Store this Fall when it’s ready. The built-in apps are polished and snappy, but nearly all of the 3rd-party ones are unpredictable, freeze often, and take forever to load. Bad quality control there on Apple’s end of things.

Speaking of quality control, the Maps app is terrible right now for some reason. Even its glance view is bad. It’s the one exception among the otherwise great built-in apps.

How the Apple Watch shipped without a built-in calculator is beyond me. Seems like a two-hour project for one of Apple’s top programmers. CalcBot is a workable 3rd-party solution in the meantime.

Maybe it’s because of the quality issues mentioned above, but I find myself spending much more time in the watch face, glance view, and notification pane than on the app springboard or in a full app itself. Apple Watch is at it’s best when you’re using it for seconds, not minutes.

Launching apps and navigating became a lot easier when I reoriented the watch with the digital crown by my thumb instead of by my index finger. In fact, it dramatically improved the user experience for me.

I can’t seem to find a way to invert the scroll motion of the digital crown, and that’s driving me mad.

Unless you want your family and friends to disown you, turn off all notification sounds the second you set up your Apple Watch. The haptic alerts are more than adequate to keep you in the loop.

I paid with Apple Pay via the Apple Watch at McDonalds today, and I felt like a celebrity among the other guests. This is both oddly satisfactory and personally humiliating.

Should I Get One?

First and foremost, the Apple Watch is a luxury accessory. If you’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, live your life digitally or on your phone, and are looking for a way to keep your focus more on the job at hand, I think you’ll love the Apple Watch. If you want a great fitness tracker and a way to get convenient notifications, I think you’ll really like it. If you want it to expand your wrist’s horizons with 3rd-party apps, I’d wait and see how things improve this year. Full watch apps are supposedly coming this Fall, and hopefully that will be a dramatic change from the disappointing mess that’s available right now. Those apps are the only big “gotcha” right now.

That being said, I already adore my Apple Watch and refuse to eBay it for a huge profit because of how much it has already improved a single day. If your life is similar to mine, I think you’ll feel the same way.


Eric is the creator of At Home in the Future and has been a passionate fan of the future since he was seven. He's a web developer by trade, and serves as the Director of Communication and Technology for a large church in Nashville, TN (where he and his family are building a high tech home in the woods).


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