April 25, 2015
One Day with Apple Watch
Two week ago, like I usually do, I woke up in the middle of the night to place a pre-order for my Apple Watch. After the five days of repetitively checking Apple’s order status page, my credit card, and UPS, I woke up to an email that my hold request was complete and I could pick up my watch at my nearest UPS Customer Center. It’s now the end of the day, the Watch is back on it’s charger, and I’ve got some thoughts about it. Here they are, in no particular order.
First, administrivia. If you live in the Indianapolis area and choose to place a hold at the UPS Customer Center at 81st and Zionsville (the only one in the 465 loop), be aware that the Customer Center is not actually attached to the distribution center. This is important because the automated systems that trigger the “Your Package is Ready” email are 10ish yards and one truck away from the CC. With a “high security” item like the Apple Watch and the iPhones, they have to be securely brought over. In other words, an email at 7:50 am doesn’t result in an 8:00 am pick up. It results in a 9:15 pickup, if you’re lucky.
Having Mickey dancing on my wrist makes it impossible to be upset. He just happily dances and points at the number, occasionally blinking. It’s just charming. Admittedly, I’m incredibly biased towards all things Disney.
The iFixit Review found an ambient light sensor in the watch behind the LCD panel. Given that this thing is already battery constrained, it would be rad if WatchOS 1.1 would take in to account that sometimes my sleeve is down over the watch face, and if so, there’s no reason to light up the screen. They could be doing this, but to the best of my testing with a sweatshirt with a fairly dark wristband, it still lights up. My unscientific method included very gently peeling up the sleeve and looking for light. It was there. I doubt the ambient light sensor mattered there.
The Milanese Loop didn’t initially grab my arm hairs until after a few hours, which I thought was pretty weird. The magnet sure is strong though.
I can’t prove it, but I think the resistance on the digital crown goes up when you reach the border of a list. Sufficiently magical. Also, getting might right hand in the right position to press in on the crown is hard, and I’m considering flipping the watch over and having the button on the bottom left instead of top right – although, the marketing hype thus far has taught me that this is the wrong way. But maybe I don’t care.
As I did on my iPhone, I’ve hidden the battery indicator. It will go down during the day, and there’s no point being anxious about it. I left it on for an hour and then came to my senses. There’s just no point getting worked up about it. I haven’t really explored Power Reserve mode, but it’s got one.
Notably absent from settings are anything related to wifi. I hear it’s in there, and supposedly that’s right since the iPhone can be out of Bluetooth range but still work, but I can’t see the settings anywhere. It’s not unlike Apple to share wifi information between devices – I’ve had iPhones join the wifi in Starbucks shortly after my MacBook does – but for some reason I wish it was there.
The box is beautiful. I went for the standard Watch (not Sport, not Edition), and it was packaged much more like jewelry than any other Apple product. Of course, that makes complete sense as it is jewelry. But it’s a step above what I expected, and I had high expectations.
There’s a feature called Prominent Haptic, where it buzzes more than the normal tap to “pre-announce” important alerts. That went off almost as quick as it went on. The last thing I want to do is have to pay extra attention to the alert patterns, and it just felt mushy. Instead, I’ll take the widely-available advice to pare down the alerts I get so I’m only tapped when actually important things are happening.
Being Dick Tracy is amazing. It doesn’t use the ringer the iPhone does, which is a bummer because it really could, and if you’re like me, you’re already surrounded by a ringing iPhone, iPad, MacBook and now Watch. That’s a lot. But once answered, it’s very cool. The speaker is nothing to phone home about, but it’s functional. I am worried that the novelty of holding my wrist to my mouth will wear off fast, but as expected, Handoff worked seamlessly.
Speaking of Handoff, Continuity worked a treat as well. I was pleasantly surprised to cmd+tab on my Mac and see the familiar Messages in Continuity show up, except with a watch profile. Like Steve used to say, “it just works.”
I don’t know what magician programmed the pairing screen, but he or she deserves a promotion. That was a fantastic experience. There are some videos of it on YouTube, and it’s worth watching.
The companion app feels very weird. We’ve spent seven years flirting with the idea of settings in the Settings apps and developers disregarding the HIG and putting settings in their app. Those days are over for the Watch. That said, it feels weird to have to go an app to control the watch.
Double pressing the long button brings up ApplePay, which is great, but it should also bring up Passbook passes. The Passbook app itself requires you to double-tap the button to pay, despite showing the cards. This feels disjointed, and doesn’t sync up with the iPhone experience. If I deliberately go to Passbook and pick a credit card, I expect I can hold it near a reader, pay, and go. Likewise, while I’m swiping through my cards from a double tap, it’d be great if the passes were there too. A final though on passes – the tiny barcodes are, for lack of a better word, adorable. I just hope Starbucks has a decent imager.
The camera app will act as a remote viewfinder for the iPhone camera. While basically a novelty, it’s encouraging to see this work given what we were told to expect with the limitations of the hardware.
A few times today, I found myself wondering why some alerts went to the Watch and others to the iPhone. But I didn’t really spend enough time to find a pattern or anything, other than thinking the iPhone is smart enough to know that if it showed you an alert on screen, the Watch does’t need to get it. Unscientific study.
I have never seen my iPhone lag, but it did today. I assume there was a lot going on with sending data back and forth, or maybe there was just a bad wifi connection between my iPhone, Watch and router, but it seems to me like the companion app requires an active connection, and anything that limits that results in lag. It’s since cleared up.
Having spent the last several months following the development of this product, reading rumors, iOS changelogs and betas, I was worried that I wouldn’t be surprised by anything the Watch did. But, pleasantly, I was. Things like the camera, Continuity, and how well the phone worked were really pleasant. It isn’t too heavy, and like every other watch I’ve ever work, it eventually fade in to the background and just become part of my gear. I look forward to that, as I look forward finding how my interactions with my devices will change now that I have one on my wrist.