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Birthday Review: Watch

The Apple Watch should be the iWatch, if only because it would be easier to google things like ‘change my watch face.’

I quite like it, and did not expect to like it as much as I do. I’m a watch snob, this is known. I like beautiful things. I like functional things. The watch is both beautiful and functional, but entirely unlike a Rolex. And it makes me happy.

Review

I have to note, besides the Withings, I did try the Pebble. I owned a Pebble 1st gen for a couple weeks, and it lasted less than 15 minutes on my wrist. It didn’t feel good, it was clunky and plastic and hard to read. I also had some confusion about how to add apps, what I could add, how to find them, and so on. The Withings, by contrast, felt slick and sexy and like a luxury watch. Sadly while it’s good, the fact that I had to press the reset trigger multiple times a month to get it to sync made it cumbersome and annoying.

But that said, it took me a few months to become annoyed with the Withings, so I wanted to be fair and give the Apple some time. I’ve had it since May 31st.

The worst thing I can say about the Apple Watch is that it can be slow when asking my iPhone for data and retrieving it. I feel like an elitist prick for saying that. It’s still faster than my first modem.

I have the 42mm watch which I thought would be too big for my dainty wrists, but worked out just fine. It came with a black Sport band, which is okay. I like my watches a touch loose and I know that for the haptic stuff (and the tracking) it needs to be snugger. I’m constantly stuck ‘between’ watch holes, though, and the Milanese Loop is on massive backorder. Months. It’s available for the smaller watch though, interestingly. I’ll work with this one for a while. Part of me craves the link band, even though it’s as much as the watch. I know how much goes into making those.

Getting used to force touching took a little while. It took long enough that my mother informed me that my frustration was what ‘normal’ people felt like with computers. Pencil in a experience scrub for me and my codes’ and websites’ UX because ew! People shouldn’t have to think that hard. Of course, now that I get it, the Force Touch makes sense. This learning curve was unwelcome to me. It felt strange as an Apple device to have that curve, but when I compared it to the struggle I had to set up the Pebble, it was significantly less.

As an activity tracker, it tops the Withings in that it doesn’t assume that me sitting still for 45 minutes is me napping. Also after an hour, if I don’t get up and walk around for at least 60 seconds, it pokes me. It fails that I have to tell it that I’m exercising. The Withings would notice that I’m walking more briskly and tag that as exercise for me.

The Activity App I like. It showed up on my iPhone without warning, but that was okay. As opposed to the Watch App, this made sense.

The most astounding thing to me was that I use it as I use a watch. Yes, it alerts me to things like standing or texts or appointments or even shipments from Apple.com. At the same time, it did so unobtrusively. It felt natural. Very quickly I found I was used to my Watch as both a watch and an addition to my iPhone as a tool. I will note that I don’t have it check email or Slack at this time. I also have no games installed.

After a week, though, I detest the Sports Band. It doesn’t fit my wrist properly. I need a hole between the small band’s 4 and 5 holes, so I’m constantly switching between just too snug and just too loose. Also I can’t stand the rubber feeling on my wrist. I like metal and leather. I had the same issue with the Activité’s silicon band, though. It just was too weird and unnatural. Faux leather is okay, I’ve found, but plastic on skin makes me feel the ceramic back of the watch too much.

Lift-to-Siri has proven to be interesting. It can’t spell ‘Mylo’ though the Apple iPhone knows that means Jen just fine. The voice-recognition is surprisingly good. “Hey Siri, remind me at 9:20 to Video Jason.” When I say that, Siri checks to set a reminder, but before that, the Watch taps my wrist to acknowledge it heard me and is doing a thing.

One actual problem is dismissing alerts. I ride my bike a lot and I like to check how far I’ve traveled as I go. I turn on the activity tracker and/or Strava to do this, and it works great. The other day, as I was biking, my watch tinged. I safely lifted one hand to look and read that a baseball game was starting. Cool. But the dismiss button required me to (a) scroll down (flick my finger) and (b) press dismiss. This was a problem. I kind of need one hand on the handlebars. Okay, no I don’t but I was on a busy enough street that it would be a danger. This meant, until I hit a stop sign, I couldn’t tell it to dismiss. I could Force Touch to dismiss all, but again, that needs two hands.

Lessons Learned

  1. I don’t tend to use more than 50% of the battery life.
  2. Charging every night? Not a big deal, as Mark Jaquith said. Seriously. I liked that the Withings tracked sleep. I didn’t like wearing a watch to bed.
  3. It’s water resistant. Tim Cook showers with his.
  4. The ability to have your iPhone take a photo via the watch can scare the shit out of your cats.
  5. There’s an echo delay on the phone call feature, but damn if I don’t feel like Sam Catchem.
  6. The haptic is adjustable. I started with it on super strong, now it’s on half-way.
  7. I can go 48-50 hours with a charge.
  8. The band matters. Once I got my Milanese Loop my enjoyment skyrocketed and I forgot I was wearing a smartwatch.

Rating

[ficon family=FontAwesome icon=star color=gold size=2x repeat=4][ficon family=FontAwesome icon=star-o color=gold size=2x]

Why not 5? Well, the band situation, the weird directions, and the inability to dismiss with one hand or voice. They were odd enough that I, a savvy technical person, had to stop and think. The band I want was on 6-7 week backorder.

It’s definitely beat out the Withings though, and I really didn’t expect that.