Apple Watch: A year on the wrist

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Where better to start with a year long retrospective than reminding ourselves of what was said at the end of the one week review:

“Would I give it up? Hell no. It’s mine now and it will be as important to me as my iPhone has become.

That is, till the new one comes out.”

After a year on the wrist, is the Apple Watch as important to me as my iPhone? Do I feel that attached to it and I’m a looking forward to the next one? Read on to find out…

One year ago sunday I received my Apple Watch. It was delivered to the office and was immediately taken out of it’s intricate packaging and set up. From that point, notifications started to flow and the iPhone’s second screen was born.

That is what the Apple Watch has always been in the real world; a second display for my iPhone. This second display is also a remote control. Siri, music, iMessages and notifications, these are all the kind of things that you deal with on the locked screen of your iPhone. Is it necessary to be able to deal with them without touching your phone? No. Is it beneficial to your life in general? Absolutely.

The biggest difference the Apple Watch has from the Pebble (of which I spent more than a year with) is that the Apple Watch is a two-way conversation, opposed to the one-way broadcast from the Pebble.

The Apple Watch allows for information to go from the iPhone, to you and a response to go back to the iPhone without interacting with the iPhone and as such your ability to communicate with someone is made faster and is somewhat more personal. This means that your iPhone get’s left behind. On desks, in pockets, away from prying eyes in a case, your iPhone becomes a hub for your life rather than the thing you spend your life looking at.

This ability of the Apple Watch was greatly improved with the launch of WatchOS 2. In true early adopter fashion, making excuses for a device in it’s initial months is defacto and the usual response is, ‘a software update will sort that’. In the case of the Apple Watch, this couldn’t be more true. Just like the first iPhone before it, the Watch had a very limited set of functions. It wasn’t until the introduction of dedicated applications till the Watch really started to feel more complete.

The best apps on the Apple Watch aren’t the ones that are ‘full blown apps’, rather they are the ones that extend the functionality of notifications. The Outlook app for instance is there for access to your email and calendar, but it’s more useful for previewing an incoming email and immediately actioning or deleting it or receiving a meeting invitation and being able to respond immediately. Immediacy is no longer an imposition, it’s as easy as a flick of the wrist.

The other apps that provide small amounts of functionality are welcome, such as Tapbots Calcbot providing the classic calculator watch experience and the NatWest banking app for getting a quick glance at my balance and getting cash from a cashpoint. These apps have some way to go when it comes to speed, but it’s hard to judge if this is the WatchOS, the Apple Watches hardware, the coding in the app or a combination of all three factors, but I’m sure a software update will sort that.

As Steve Jobs once said, ‘the Mac and the iPod are just boxes for OSX’ the Apple Watch is a box for WatchOS. That’s why version 3 really needs to bring some optimisations in speed. Perhaps it’s because I’m so used to the speed of my 6s Plus and iPad Pro, that I’ve go no tolerance for devices that even have a hint of slow down.

This shiny boxy for an operating system, fails a little with the Apple Watch. As a device, it’s become far more comfortable and a part of my life than the Pebble ever did. I’ve worn metal watches for years and the Apple Watch is not the heaviest! But, like any good watch, it’s never out of place. I’ve worn it running and I’ve worn it in a tuxedo and never once did it fell too showy or not showy enough. Its replacement will be lighter and thinner but I do hope it doesn’t loose this quality of being a companion for all occasions.

Talking about this device as a companion and being a part of my life all sounds very over emotional for a peice of technology. But this isn’t a ‘peice of technology’ it’s an Apple product and that means it comes with experiences that no other device really can. For instance, a fellow user described how he was out with some work friend and when he was coming back from the gents, his Apple Watch buzzed. He looked and it was an email from a client. They were really happy with a recently launched project and were sending their thanks for another time zone. Another instance was my own experience. At the rehearsal for my best friend’s wedding, we were arranging the music to be played during the happy couple signing the register and walking down the aisle. Using the CD player was proving to be a pain when the Priest said, ‘we have an aux cable, but there’s no way to control a phone from that far.’ Then it hit me, we could. So on the next day, my phone was hooked in to the church’s stereo and a playlist in place. Then whilst the register was being signed, not only did I play the tracks, but I could give them a fade in with the Digital Crown and then loop the tracks. It went off without a problem and the priest joked, asking if he could keep it.

Those experiences are part of the greater whole of owning an Apple Watch. It’s a first generation Apple product that feels like the most ‘Apple’ device in nearly a decade. The first year of the Apple Watch is the not the last, it’s the first of many for many iterations. It’s earnt my trust and it’s earnt it’s place as a part of my life. Pretty impressive for a ‘watch’.




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