The Apple Watch is the first new product category from Apple since the iPad, and I've been eager to try it. I've now been wearing one for a week, the larger 42 mm version. As the owner of every other Apple product ever made, from the MacBook Pro I am writing this on to the iPhone 6 to the iPad I read my books and newspapers on to the Apple TV I watch my movies on, one might say that I'm predisposed to like Apple products. One might even call me an Apple fanboi.
The particular reason the watch was leant to me was to check out the app that connects to a pair of hearables (iPhone-connected hearing aids) I've been testing. The short review is that it doesn’t add much utility to the hearables.
In fact, the more I use the watch, the more I find that it doesn’t add much utility to anything — or do much that I find useful at all.
Let’s start with the basic design. The 42mm watch is BIG, like a TV on my wrist. It does one thing very well. Apple was clever coming up with the idea of looking at your wrist to get the time instead of having to drag out your phone. It’s a dark screen most of the time, but you just flick your wrist and there it is — the time, your next calendar appointment and the temperature in Ottawa, Canada. (I don’t live in Ottawa, but have gone through the manual and done everything I'm supposed to do — changed the world clock, deleted other cities on my iPhone — but the damn thing still thinks I'm in Ottawa, a four-hour drive away.)
One of the main features of the watch is health tracking — the time you're sitting vs. standing or moving, but I find the sports band, with the little metal pin sticking out the bottom, uncomfortable to wear while using my MacBook; it clicks on the computer and catches on the edge in an annoying fashion, so I often take it off.
It also keeps telling me I need to get up and walk and burn some calories. It thinks I'm a slacker, not knowing that I have just rowed 12 kilometers in just under an hour but can’t wear the watch on the water because they say it’s not warranted to be waterproof. (Rowers always assume they might go swimming.) So the whole fitness feature is dead to me because it doesn’t do water sports.
But hey, it will be a great controller when I'm running, where I'm often pulling out my phone to change podcasts. Oh wait, for some bizarre reason, they didn’t build a podcast app into the watch, so I still have to choose them from my phone. (I then found a third-party app, Overcast, which will manage podcasts on the watch. But what a dumb thing to leave off!)
The screen is too small to really read much, so I have already disabled notifications from news sources. I do like the twitter notifications. (When you're an addict, anything that feeds your habit is fun. However if you're already wasting too much time on twitter, this just makes it worse.)
As for the watch working as a remote control for everything from iTunes to my hearables, well, it’s OK, but I have not found a single function that it performs as well or better than the actual iPhone itself; everything is a compromise. And as I listen to phone calls through my hearables, the fact that the watch’s mic doesn’t work with them is just ridiculous.
This is the first iteration of both hardware and software and no doubt both will improve. Apple is already peddling the next software update so they must recognize the limitations. Perhaps a week wasn't long enough to give it a fair shake. But in the end, it’s not like the iPhone is so big and inconvenient to use; it's already a miracle of miniaturization, and it's better at everything except conveniently telling the time. Besides, I think I have an old wind-up thing in a drawer at home that does that too.
Related on MNN and TreeHugger:
- Is it safe to put on wearable tech in a smart home?
- Why your Apple Watch or FitBit is like Santa Claus
- 3 ways the Apple Watch can help you lead a healthier life