Apple Watch First Impressions

I’ve had it for about a week. Here’s what I’m thinking so far…

Introduction to my Apple Watch First Impressions
While the rest of the world thinks that any news on the Apple Watch is passing, passé… I beg to differ. I received my Apple Watch on 2015-05-19. I waited a few days until I was able to have a personal setup session with Apple at the Apple Store Main Place in Naperville, IL, before I started wearing the device full time.

apple-watch-first-impressions

The thought for me, was multi-purposed –

  1. I wanted the full court press from Apple for myself
  2. I wanted my wife to have a pampered experience
  3. The Apple Watch is new and like the iPhone of 2007, a bit unknown
  4. The Apple Watch is a complex device, requiring knowledge of and familiarity with
    a. its own UI
    b. Apple Pay,
    c. Notification Center, and
    d. the iPhone and Apple Watch App Stores

I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert when it comes to smartwatches and other wearables. After the Pebble Steel, the Microsoft Band, and the Fitbit Surge, I’d better be. I’ve got the Apple Watch as well as the Olio Model One and the Pebble Time to consider as well before my wearables roundup is completed.

General
I was speaking with a fellow tech pundit about this recently, and he wanted to know where and how I was basing all of these preliminary opinions on. I’ve had the Pebble Steel and the Nike Fuel Band, so I think I have a decent idea of what a smartwatch should and shouldn’t do. Spending over a year with the Nike Fuel Band has also helped me understand what a fitness band should provide its wearer as well. Yeah, with him its all about credibility and proving your premise. Without that foundation, all of this might be a load of hot air.

The Apple Watch is supposed to be the Holy Grail of smartwatches. To an extent it is, but I don’t know if it’s going to be the home run that everyone hopes or wants it to be. I’m still working through how it works; and there’s a LOT more to it than any other wearable I’ve looked at thus far, but I kinda knew that, but didn’t know I knew, ya know? So I’m trying to be objective about all of this and not form a solid opinion without having spent some REAL time with the device, but there are a few things that I know for certain; and they were fairly evident right out of the box. Literally…
Band & Watch Hardware
I’ve had watches with silicone and rubber bands before. Yeah… they pretty much suck. I was really surprised when Apple announced the Apple Watch with a fluoroelastomer (read: rubber) band. But if you recall, I was really surprised by how very much unrubber like my Apple Watch band was. The band is very soft, supple and surprisingly, very comfortable to wear. You really can’t feel it at all when it strapped to your wrist, and my guess is that even when exercising, you aren’t going to capture or retain too much sweat underneath the Watch. At least I didn’t when spreading five cubic yards of mulch in the gardens in my yard.

The Watch casing is solid, and surprisingly light. From what I saw on the internet, I expected it to have a bit of weight, and it really doesn’t. When viewed from the side, you definitely get a 2007 flashback to the original iPhone. Not that that’s a bad thing, but it isn’t all that great, either. Given the design genius that is Jony Ive, I really was expecting something more modern and more angular. However, with such a large screen – it really doesn’t have a bezel that blocks the display – it is very readable, and very large. Thankfully, the screen doesn’t look too large on my medium sized wrist, I think.

Apple Watch UI
There’s a lot to say here, and a lot I’ve got to learn about the OS and the UI before I can make any real comments. So, from a general perspective, I’m going to reserve final comments on the UI for the review, that will be published later. However, there are a few things that I want to hit and make certain everyone hears now rather than later.

Notifications
This is one area where you really have to be careful. Its VERY easy to get Notification Overload when you use this or any kind of wearable that helps you manage notifications. Apple Watch by default turns on notifications to “mirror the exact settings on your iPhone;” but that’s not always how things work out.

I’m not big into text messaging. A lot of people get into trouble with distracted driving, or distracted relationships because they pay more attention to their iDevice and the text messages they receive than the world around them (when driving) or to the people they’re with. I honestly only send and receive text messages with just a handful of people – my wife and my daughter. I occasionally text with my son in law, but as we’re guys, we only really do it when we absolutely have to, because otherwise, its just weird. Other than that, the other Messages threads I have are either my wife and my daughter, my wife and my son in law, my daughter and my son in law or all three of them. Do you see a pattern there, I really don’t text at all.

I wanted to remove Messages from my Watch entirely, but currently, like the Fitbit Surge you can’t. I really dinged the daylights out of Fitbit on that one, and unless Apple comes out with a WatchOS update that corrects that while I’m writing my review, they’re going to get dinged too. I can turn off notifications for just about anything, but the data still comes across to the Watch.

That’s wrong. I should be able to turn some things off completely; and right now, I just can’t.

I would expect something similar to the UI you have on your iPad or your Mac where you can enable or disable Messages and FaceTime on those devices and still be signed in with your Apple ID. Currently, its an all or nothing deal – if you want any level of Apple sync services on your Apple Watch, then you have to sign in with your Apple ID, and you get everything. Period. You can turn off the notifications for Messages and other content, but the information still comes across the synch connection to your Apple Watch.

Apps
The Apple Watch doesn’t have any native apps as of this writing. Right now, the best we’re going to get are Glances, and those are mini-apps that are accessed from the main Watch face, by swiping UP from the bottom of the display. They’re nice, but they don’t do enough; and there really isn’t a way for them to do much more.

You can’t install glances on your Apple Watch without first installing the associated app on your iPhone. If you uninstall the app, you also lose the glance. You can uninstall the glance from your Watch without removing the app from your iPhone.

The biggest problem with this model is that if you have an Apple Watch, and you install an app on your iPhone, if that app also has a glance, you get it installed on your Watch whether you want it or not.

Apple Watch App
Every smartwatch has its app. Some of them, like the Pebble, need to run in the background all the time, even though you also have to have Bluetooth. Thankfully, this isn’t the way that the Apple Watch app works.

Here, you choose your options and then you can quit the app, which is really kinda nice. I like that part of the app. What I really don’t like, though is how the app is an all or nothing game. What I’m talking about is the way apps install – with the Apple Watch, its really all or nothing. When you install an iPhone app that has an Apple Watch Glance, it automatically gets installed too… whether you want it to or not.

I’ll have more on the app in the review.

Battery Life
I really have to say that I’m very surprised.

Battery life on the Watch is much better than I thought it would be, at least during the one day that you’re guaranteed that the device will hold a charge. At the end of any given day, I have more than somewhere around 50% charge left on the device, in real world use. While I know I’m not going to get much more than say… 28 – 36 hours out of a single charge… while I’ve got the Watch on and I’m out and about, I really don’t think – based on my usage – that I’m going to run out of power or have it go into Power Reserve (where it only tells time, and nothing else, because I don’t have enough juice to push any real functionality).

So… so far, battery life is OK, given that I know I have to charge the Watch every night while I sleep. However, it would be nice to know that a single charge could realistically last me a week or more. However, other than the Pebble and Pebble Steel, I don’t know of a smartwatch on the market today that can realistically last that long between charges; but it would be really awesome if the Apple Watch did just that…

Conclusion
I’ll be honest… the jury is out on this one. Yeah, it looks and feels great. Yeah its bright and easy to read in the sunlight. Yeah, it really does a lot; but perhaps it does too much. The Apple Watch requires pairing with an iPhone right now. The Apple Watch doesn’t work without one. Mirroring what the iPhone does may keep you out of your phone a bit; but you have to watch how and what you do with it or you’re going to get overloaded with notifications, and confused with all of the cute stuff it does.

Over the next few weeks while I use the Apple Watch and try to customize it for my specific needs, I’m going to do my best to keep this in mind and then hopefully, I’ll be able to crack this nut. Honestly, I really feel as thought I’d better… I don’t want to put the Apple Watch aside. Its too expensive to shove in a drawer, and I really don’t want to sell it.

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