FEATURE REVIEW – Apple Watch – Part 3

Introduction

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Wearables are a huge deal today. In fact, it’s one of the hottest growing computing categories on the market right now. Nearly every place you look and every person you actually look AT has some kind of wearable tech with them. Smartwatches and fitness bands seem to the easiest to spot, and nearly everyone at the office is wearing one, too.

Perhaps the biggest and most anticipated entry into the wearables/ smartwatch category is the Apple Watch. Is it the nirvana of wearables? Is it everything that its hyped up to be? Was it worth the wait? These are all GREAT questions.

The Apple Watch is a much anticipated, much sought after wearable. In part one, I took a look at the hardware specifically. In part two, I took a look at usability.

In part three of this four part review, let’s take a look at what the software on the device and on the iPhone – how well does it all work together? What does it look like? How easy is it to use?

Is the Apple Watch, with the way it works, the device for you? Let’s get into how it does what it does and find out!

You’ll find that this one is long, kids, but mostly because of all the screen shots and descriptions. Hit all the sections; but if you need to skim over the pictures, you’re still going to get value out of the review.

Software and Interfaces
There’s enough information in this section that it could – and likely should – be a whole review unto itself. However, for the sake of continuity, I am not going to split this off by itself. Expect to find a great deal of information and screen shots in this section, however. There’s a lot to digest.

Aside from the interface on the Watch, which is not bad; the bulk of the control of what happens on your Watch is dictated by what you do on your iPhone. At this time, you can’t run an Apple Watch without either an iPhone 5/s or 6/+. (However, as I finish writing this, Apple has just announced their Fall 2015 iPhone Event, entitled, “Hey Siri, give us a hint.” One can only hope that means that you’re going to see more of her not only in the iPhone, but in the Watch as well. A better working, smarter, and more sophisticated Siri couldn’t hurt here. Obviously, for Siri to get better, the issues that I encountered with Bluetooth audio will need to be resolved. If you can’t hear her and she can’t hear you, then an improved Siri on the Watch ain’t gonna mean squat…

Aside from Siri, however, the guts of the functionality of Apple Watch rests in your iPhone and the Apple Watch app. The only thing that you really DON’T do here is pick the watch face and complications you want (see below). Nearly everything else is done in the app.

If you don’t have an Apple Watch, then you either haven’t seen the app, or if you’ve downloaded it, it likely hasn’t made much sense without having the actual hardware next to your iPhone. I’m going to take us through the major screens in the app and give a brief description of what each does.

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My Watch

This is the app’s main page. You get to every other screen in it from here

App Layout

Here you can place all of your Watch app icons in any order you want. To get to this screen, while on your watch face, press the Digital Crown. To run an app, tap it.

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Airplane Mode

As you might think, you can turn all the wireless radios in the Watch and on your iPhone on or off here.

Apple Watch

This is where you manage the paired relationship between your iPhone and your Watch.  Technically, you can pair more than one Watch with your phone, but not too many people are gonna have more than one Watch.

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Notifications (Part 1)

This is where you manage all of the notifications that you’d like to see on your Watch.  The top half has some universal switches as well as options for the native Watch apps currently built into Apple Watch.

Notifications (Part 2)

On the bottom part of this page, you configure notifications and alerts from third party apps that may also install glances or apps on your Watch.  You don’t have the same kind of options as you do with native apps. Here, it’s just on or off.

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Glances

Glances are apps.  Well, they’re a type of Watch app.  Here you get to determine which glances, automatically installed by apps you install on your iPhone, get listed.  Here you get to determine what glances are actually active.The only thing problematic about this is that you don’t get to choose if the glance installs or not. If an app has a glance and you install the app on your phone, you get the glance on your watch.

Do Not Disturb

DND mode for both your phone and your Watch can be managed on your watch. It’s a cool deal.

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General (Part 1)

General options are controlled from this screen.  Apple Watch also supports Handoff, so you’ll be able to pass data back and forth between your Watch and your phone. Apps that support Handoff will appear on the bottom left corner of the iPhone lock screen.

General (Part 2)

Here you get to specify wrist detection and whether the Watch will activate when you raise your wrist.  You can also reset your Watch.

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Brightness and Text Size

Here you can set the text size and brightness of the Watch screen.

Sound and Haptics

Here you can control if your Watch will make a sound when it receives a notification.  You can also control the strength of the haptic vibration it makes when notifications are received as well.

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Passcode

If you want to use Passbook and Apple Pay, you’re going to have to put a passcode on your Watch. This is the screen that does that.

Health

This screen shows the integration information between the Watch and Apple Health. This is simply simple demographic information on you.  Tapping edit will allow you to make changes to each data item.

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Privacy Settings (Part 1)

It’s a quick and easy thing, really.  Privacy settings are noted here. Everything noted here is also mirrored on your phone, so what you see is what you get.

Privacy Settings (Part 2)

On this screen you get to turn some health related tracking on or off.  You get to monitor your heart rate and fitness tracking.

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Activity

Here, you get to turn on or off a number of different options for all of the health tracking the Watch does.

Calendar

Many of the options you see in this app will look like this screen.  If there’s a glance, you get to turn it on or off, and then you get to choose whether  you mirror your iPhone’s settings or not.  On this screen, you configure calendar options.

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Clock

If you want to customize your clock, this is the screen that you do it on. There’s a lot here…

Contacts

Like Calendar, you get to make minimal choices here.

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Friends

Here you can include your friends list, and their position on the Friends Circle on your Watch.

Mail

You get on your Watch!  Here you get to determine what comes, how much of it, and how you get notified.

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Maps

Here you get decide if Maps will show in your glances and if you get turn alerts.

Messages

Please note that everything is turned off.

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Music

The Apple Watch can hold up to 4GB of music synchronized from your phone.

Passbook & Apple Pay

Apple Pay on the Watch is an amazing thing.  The only bad thing about it is that you have to put cards on both it and your Phone if you want to use it with cards on your Watch.  If you remember, you’re going to need to put a passcode on your Watch to protect it from being used by unauthorized people.

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Phone

If you want to take and make calls on your Watch, this is the screen to configure it on.

Photos

You can also synch photos to your Watch from your phone. to determine what album and how much to synch, come to this screen.

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Reminders

Like Contacts and Calendar, this is a minimal screen.

Stocks

This glance shows you stock info from your phone.

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Weather

This is also a very minimal screen that lets you define your default city for weather data and forecasts

Workout

Here you get to define if you display a goal metric and if your Watch goes into power saving mode when you work out.

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Apple Store

Its either on or off…

Automatic

This is a configuration screen from the Automatic app that I have on my iPhone.

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ETA

This is a configuration screen from the ETA app that I have on my iPhone.

Activity Monitoring and Health Integration
One of the biggest things that you can do with Apple Watch is track your physical activity. However, I’ve not had much luck with this, to be very honest. No… it’s NOT because I’m a fat slob (still). Its more because I’m really NOT certain how the Watch actually TRACKS activity. It’s all a bit confusing.
You’ll note from this screen in Apple Health that its taking activity and movement information from both my iPhone and my Watch. This is important to know, because they both measure things a bit differently (though slightly) and they internally reconcile things so there isn’t any duplicate data, especially since I often have both with me at the same time.
As you can see from this screen, I’m wearing my Apple Watch nearly every day. However, you’ll also notice that while I meet my Stand goal nearly every day, I don’t come close to my Movement or Exercise goals at all.

This is where I have a huge issue with the way that data is calculated and stored. Apple Watch is really counting Active Calories. Microsoft Band (and others, I suspect) are counting Total Calories.
According to Microsoft Band, I’ve burned over 11,000 calories this week. According to Apple Watch, I haven’t even come close to that.
The difference in my daily calorie counts is the difference between active and resting calories. I burn more resting calories than I do active calories. Apple Health doesn’t really give you credit for resting calories. You need to get off your fat behind and move to get the credit and achievements (of which I have NONE because I’m clearly not moving enough.)
However, I do seem to be standing enough…

At issue here is NOT that I’m getting credit for both with MS Band vs. Apple Watch. The issue is that you don’t figure this out until after you notice this kind of discrepancy. Many people that use Apple Watch may have moved to it from some other kind of fitness band. Those likely bucket active and resting calories together as well. The Fitbit, MS Band and Nike Fuel Band do.

You don’t figure this out because no one tells you and it really isn’t written down anywhere for you to read. If you recall my unboxing of my Apple Watch, there really wasn’t anything in the box except the Watch and an extra 1/2 of the watch band. The Apple Watch and Activity apps on iPhone also don’t tell you or give you any kind of a hint on this.

While not a deal breaker to any extent, it is a huge hole in the way you understand how the Watch works…

Apps and Glances
With WatchOS 1.0, Apps and Glances are pretty much the same thing. Currently, there aren’t any native apps for the Watch. All you have is a Glance, or a shortened, sort of “appling” that is related to an iPhone app. Glances are, in fact, an off shoot or a Watch version of an iPhone app.

The biggest problem I have with Glances is that nearly every iPhone app I have wants to install a Glance to my Watch. You do that, and you’re quickly fill your watch up with a lot of junk. Not every iPhone app well as a Watch Glance. For example, unless you’re walking somewhere and need specific directions, GPS based glances are highly unlikely to get used, at least on my wrist. Turn by turn directions pop up on my iPhone easily enough and honestly I’ve likely got the GPS app screen active on the device anyway while I’m driving. I don’t often walk to places that I don’t know directions to, so having step by step or turn by turn directions pop up on my wrist don’t help much (and can honestly be distracting…)

As I mentioned, some glances can be very powerful and very good – when they work. The Weather Underground glance, for example is really great; but I’m having issues getting it to retrieve information from its parent app under WatchOS 1.01. Under WatchOS 1.0, it worked without an issue.

Here are the Glances that I use and a brief description of all of them.

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Connectivity

This glance gives you control over your wireless radios in your Watch and even lets you ping your iPhone if you’ve misplaced it.

Heartbeat

This glance allows you to measure your current heart rate and shows the value

Heartbeat

This screen of the Heartbeat glance displays the measurement results

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Activity

This glance displays your movement activity

Calendar

This glance displays your calendar and daily schedule

Stocks

This glance displays information from the Stocks application

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World Clock

This glance displays the day/ night status of the city its currently configured to display and the current time in that time zone.

Weather Underground

This glance usually displays detailed weather information on your current location.

Weather Underground

Unfortunately, it decided not display ANYTHING  at all today.

Apple Pay
I’m not going to spend too much time on this for a couple of very key reasons. I know Apple Pay works. I’ve been able to use it on my iPhone, but only occasionally, as its not widely accepted by BRAND here in the area of suburban Chicago where I live. However, many “tap to pay” or NFC terminals do exist.

I’ve had a number of issues using the Watch to pay for things; and that’s either me or the infrastructure not being setup quite right and not Apple Pay. I say me, because of the way that Apple Pay wants to be activated on the Watch.

Like Apple Pay on your iPhone, if you hold your Watch near a Tap to Pay or Apple Pay terminal, Passbook is supposed to automatically open to the last active card you used and will prompt you to pay with that card.

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The white bar in the shot above bounces at you and the words, “Double Click to Pay,” appear. What ensues next is a ballet dance as you hold your wrist near the terminal and you bouncing back and forth between this screen and your Friends screen as you try to pay with your Watch.

Most of the time I give up and either grab my iPhone and use it, or just forego Apple Pay and use the card reader. A Force Touch on the screen might have been a better choice here instead of the hardware button. It would be more accurate and easier to activate.

Out of the dozen or so times I’ve tried to use Apple Pay on my Watch, its only worked once. I also seem to have issues with Apple Pay and my American Express card. The number and transaction never transfer to AmEx correctly and I always get a fraud alert. I’m not certain what’s up with that. I’ve called AmEx about it a couple different times, and they’re at a total loss.

The Cutesy Stuff
There are a few unique things that the Apple Watch can do; and they kinda fall on the cutesy side. While kinda cool, they are in no way meant to be anything productive or value added. Like I said, they’re cute and that’s about it. These items are completely unique to Apple Watch, as no other wearable currently on the market does these things, or anything else like them. That’s either because no one else has figured out how to do something like this… or because no one wants too. Cute only gets you so far.
All of these items are accessed and sent via the Friends menu on the Watch. They show up as a Notification on another Apple Watch… and that’s part of the key. Not only do you have to have an Apple Watch to send them, you have to have one to receive them. They do not come across on your iPhone. They go straight to the Watch and are totally ignored by iPhone.

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You can send any combination of Taps, Sketches and Heartbeats to a single user at the same time.

Taps

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You can send a haptic tap to someone on your Friends list if they have an Apple Watch. Select the friend you want to tap with the Digital Crown. After selecting them, tap their picture or initials and a blank canvas appears. Tap the canvas again with a single finger and a round circle will appear in the color you’ve chosen. (Color can be changed by tapping the small color disc in the upper right corner of the Watch screen and then rotating the Digital Crown…)

You’ll see the circle, like a ripple, appear and then slowly decay inward until it disintegrates. If you think about it, Taps are really nothing more than digital sketches. (see below)

Sketches

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Among some of the most widely publicized things you can do with Apple Watch, Sketches are likely the most common things sent between friends who have Watches.. To send a sketch to someone, select the friend you want to tap with the Digital Crown. After selecting them, tap their picture or initials and a blank canvas appears. You can immediately start drawing on the face of your Watch with your finger. As soon as you stop, the sketch disintegrates on itself and is sent as a Notification to the Watch owning friend. The sketch’s color can be changed by tapping the small color disc in the upper right corner of the Watch screen and then rotating the Digital Crown. However, if you try to change colors, the first part of the sketch (before the color change) will be sent to the user. While you will be able to change colors, you won’t be able to continue the sketch with the new color selection before the color changes on you.
Heartbeats
Using the same mode to identify the recipient of a Heartbeat (via the Friends menu), place two fingers on the blank canvas of your Watch and Force Touch and hold. You’ll pick up the beat of your heart. You’ll capture as many beats as are counted while force holding your fingers to the screen. When you let them go, the notification is sent to the recipient.
Watch Faces and Complications
One of the best things about Apple Watch is that you can customize the way it looks. With the Fitbit Surge, the Pebble Time, and the Microsoft Band, you have a single device display or watch face. Not so with the Apple Watch. With it, you have a choice of up to ten (10) different faces. There are also eight (8) complications.

Watch Faces

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Modular Utility
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Simple Chronograph
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Mickey Mouse Color
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Solar Astronomy
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Motion X-Large

Complications

Simply put, there aren’t enough of either of these. The Watch needs more Faces and more Complications. Again, One can only hope that with WatchOS 2.0, we’ll have a bit more choice and/ or flexibility here.

Part 3 Conclusion
The biggest issue I had with the software was with the discrepancy between resting and active calorie burn and count. That one really confused me. I’ve been wearing my Microsoft Band since Christmas Day 2014, and I’ve come to rely on it as a baseline for all smartwatch and activity band review criteria in this roundup. When the numbers don’t match up and it’s difficult to figure out why, things can become very confusing.

The Watch is currently running WatchOS 1.01; and its software functionality is definitely reflective of a 1.x revision level. There’s some low hanging fruit that Apple can quickly gain and provide value from in the anticipated Watch2.0 update that involves changes to Notifications, options for turning glances and apps truly on or off as well as adding additional watch faces and complications or by providing users with additional means to customize existing faces.

This area needs work, but it’s not a train wreck. Expect an update of some kind in late September or early October when WatchOS 2.0 is released. I’ll hopefully have some good news to report at that point.

Come back next time for Part 4 of my four part Apple Watch review. In Part 4, I’ll wrap it all up and put the Apple Watch to bed.

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