Apple Watch Review

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After reading through many reviews of the Apple Watch, and wearing one for a month I still haven’t completely figured out what the device is and what it’s going to be in the future.

So to start defining what it is for me, I’m going to steal from Apple’s definition of the Apple Watch:

  • Timekeeping
  • New Ways to Connect
  • Health and Fitness

TimeKeeping

Although skeuomorphism is apparently a thing of the past, I prefer a classic watch face over a digital one. Getting updated on new information with a quick glance is what the Watch is all about, and I am quicker on reading the time in a graphic way, than with digits.

This is why I’m using the Utility watch face on my 42mm Sport. This face gives me three complications, which are in clockwise Activity, Timer and Weather.
I like how the weather complication gives you a complete forecast in a single sentence. E.g. 20° Mostly Clouded. it’s short and to the point.

I used to have Calendar appointments at the bottom, but after hearing Gruber talk about how he forced himself to use Glances more, I replaced Calendar with Weather and I use the glance to get up to date information on my next appointments. Aside from Calendar I only use a couple more glances: Heartbeat, OmniFocus, Now Playing, Shazam, Vigil, Knock.

For me the Watch is a way to get notified or act, so glances are remotes to quickly get information or perform a task. If IMDB ever releases a Glance with a search field, it would also be a good fit for the above list. I’m still not entirely sure if I like the way Glances behave though. There’s always a slight delay while swiping across glances, and with anything above 6-10 glances the interface becomes impossible to navigate. I kinda forget in which order glances are sorted.

There’s one other annoyance with the Watch as a time piece: although the battery is far exceeding my expectations (I end my days with +/- 25% battery left), I’d really enjoy keeping the watch on at night and use it as an alarm clock. I’ve tried the alarm a few times for short power-naps and being awoken by gentle taps on the wrist is a lot nicer then a beeping sound.
But you have to charge the device sometime.. I wonder if and when sleeptracking becomes available how they’re going to implement it. Maybe I need a day and night watch?

Connect

Notifications on my wrist are superb. My job requires me to be connected for large parts of the day, and I get plenty of notifications via email, Zendesk and Vigil that I need to see.
I’ve seen plenty of people complain about notification overload after wearing the Watch, but I think the blame lies mostly on their end, there are plenty of options to configure what and who can reach you on your iPhone or Watch.

What I like about notifications on my wrist is that they’re a lower cognitive load than my iPhone.
By which I mean: when a notification arrives on the Watch I can do basically one of three things: ignore, respond, act.
I ask myself two questions when a notification arrives: is it urgent? is it important? If the answer for either of these two is no, I just continue doing what I was doing and the Watch goes back to sleep. It takes a second of my attention. Not even enough time to really distract me from my current task. And if the answers are yes, I’m required to shift focus so no harm done.

Compared to the iPhone: I feel a buzz, take my iPhone out of my pocket, activate the screen if it’s black again, and read the message.
The Watch offers a glance, the iPhone requires a physical action before you can even access the notification.

The Watch also limits the ways you can act on a notification which makes it easier and more logical to defer tasks. It allows for a quick reply on a message, but anything that takes more than that is a real task that should be planned in.
As a GTD fan I love this direct implementation of the three D’s: DO (less than two minutes), DEFER (I’ll act when I’m on my iPhone or Mac), DELETE (ignore).

Do I love being this connected 24/7? Yes and no. It’s a big part of my life and job, so without the Watch my iPhone would be the recipient for all this information. But the Watch improves the way I handle that flow. I can do less so I’m not as tempted to go down the rabbit hole and quickly do this or that while I’m working on another task. If the action can’t be done on the Watch and nothing is burning, I leave it be until I can act, and have the time to act.

When I had my Pebble I hated the email notifications on my wrist. Why? Because Pebble lacked an Archive button. I could see an email, decide upon acting or not, but I couldn’t archive these mails. On the Watch I can delete any passive email in less than a second. When I open my inbox on a more productive device later on, what’s left are tasks.
The face that the state of notifications now moves between devices and that the Watch allows you to purge that inbox on the fly makes it a great GTD device.

I’ve written about the concept of last active device a couple of times. And the Apple Watch delivers on this idea. Ever noticed that your iPhone doesn’t actively display a notification when you’re  wearing a Watch? Or vice versa that your Watch remains silent while you’re browsing on your iPhone? I hope iOS 9 and OS X 11 expand on this idea and also consider the Mac and iPad for this kind of notification filtering.

You may notice I see notifications as a big part of the connected story of the Apple Watch. This is contrasted to how Apple is pushing their Friends button as the Watch’s biggest selling point when talking about communication. But since I live in Belgium and know exactly four other people with an Apple Watch this function is extremely limited for me.

I like the taptic communications and quick drawings I can send to my girlfriend, but I don’t see me sending flowers or messages to the other three people (since they’re colleagues and aren’t that close to me).
But for intimate personal communications the taptic feedback is truly great. Draw a quick Q to let my girlfriend know I’m still in line at the local burger joint (Quick), or a ZZZ to discretely tell her I’d like to go home. Or a heart after she lets me know how boring her meeting is.
It’s an extremely limited way to communicate. The Q example only works because it’s a reference we both get. But the easy of use and closeness make it a perfect way to communicate between people this close to each other.

Health

Third time is the charm, so I kept the best for last. If all the Apple Watch showed was the three activity rings with a clock on top it would still be a great device.
Ever since Apple released the M7 chip, and Pedometer++ was created by David Smith I’ve been tracking my steps and pushing myself to get 10.000 daily steps. With a daily average of 9300 steps since I started tracking data I can honestly say that Apple’s first push into Health really changed the way I move.
The Apple Watch is a perfect extension on this. The gamification of fitness tracking and the simplicity of the three circles works for me. Just as inbox zero is something I force myself to reach every day and love LifeSum for reminding me to drink water, I find that these three circles trigger me to move or stand. Call me a sheep or easily influenced, but when that Watch alerts me at ten before the hour, I stand up and walk to earn that extra hour.

There’s one annoyance in the current implementation though. Apple tracks activities per day. So when I woke up after 12 o’clock on the day after a wedding party, I had less than twelve hours left that day, which makes it impossible to complete the blue circle.
Similar, when I got home at 3AM last night after a nice bbq my Watch had already started counting calories and steps for the next day instead of counting them for that day until I went to bed.
What I’d love is a toggle that allows me to change the way Apple tracks a day.
A day currently runs for 24 hours starting at midnight.
For me a day equals a concurrent series of hours awake. So If I wake up at 1PM and go to sleep at 2AM that day runs between these hours.

In conclusion

While discussing the Watch with my girlfriend she told me she found it annoying that the Activity app on the Watch only shows the current circles, and that she needed her phone to see yesterdays score.
I quickly responded without thinking: the Watch is about what’s now, and what’s happening in the near future.

And I think that sums up the device for me. The Apple Watch serves you what’s important now in a glanceable way.