The Apple Watch: Impressions After 1 Year

I stayed up late the night of April 9, 2015 to pre-order the Apple Watch. I actually ordered two — work was paying for them, and we wanted to ensure there were enough devices for the team (we were busy putting the finishing touches on our watch app at the time). The device I kept was a 38mm Apple Watch Sport.

The Good #

Comfortable #

I’m not huge into watches. I used to occasionally wear one for a few hours on the weekends. I’ve been fighting pain in my wrists for years, so the thought of wearing a watch all the time was a pretty tough sell. Sure enough, when the Apple Watch finally arrived and I put it on it was pretty uncomfortable.

After a few days of this I swapped out the band for the larger one and moved the watch to my non-dominant hand. Both of these improved the comfort immensely. Props to the team at Apple — you can not only swap which wrist you wear it on but also flip the watch itself upside down if you prefer the buttons on the other side.

I’m pretty sure I’ve worn it every single day since then, and it feels great. The Sport Bands are higher-quality than I initially imagined, have held up well, and are comfortable.

Notifications #

If the watch only had one feature, notifications would be enough. I love being able to read inbound texts/alerts/whatever without pulling my phone out of my pocket. This is especially nice if you have small children about who tend to swarm whenever a phone becomes visible.

Apple Pay #

Including support for Apple Pay in the Watch was genius. I love being able to just double-tap and hold my wrist up to the reader to pay for things. No fumbling with credit cards in your wallet. No pulling your phone from your pocket.

Find Your iPhone #

Yes, you can do this via iCloud, but it’s so much easier to just tap a button on your wrist. I haven’t used it a lot, but every time I do I think, “That was handy.”

As a bonus, my toddler seems to always find that button in quiet places, and everybody around me thinks the fire alarm or something is going off.

Turn-by-Turn #

As a companion to your phone, the watch is actually quite helpful when using turn-by-turn directions. I’ve found that the watch notifies me (via taps) a few seconds before the audible alerts from the phone.

The Bad #

Battery Life #

Let’s face it: battery life isn’t great. I usually get through the day with ~45% battery left. “Wow. That’s better than I thought,” you might be thinking. The problem is that even with 45% left you have to charge it every night, because it won’t make it through that second day if you don’t.

(The solution to this is probably to buy a second charger and keep it at work or haul one around with you.)

Slow #

Although the techie side of me loves that the watch can figure out when you’ve raised your wrist, at the end of the day it’s just too slow to respond. You rotate your wrist and then have to pause a beat before the screen shows up.

Me: rotates wrist
Apple Watch: ?
Me: …
Apple Watch: Oh, hey there. Time is 9:30.

If you’re about to actively do something on the watch this delay might be negligible, but if all you want to do is check the time it’s frustrating to say the least. I get that tradeoffs were made to reduce battery drain, but the watch would be 10x better if I could quickly read the time at a glance.

The “Hey, Siri” functionality is similarly plagued by slow response times. I have often just given up and pulled out my phone before Siri is ready to listen on the watch.

The Ugly #

The Digital Crown #

The Digital Crown was touted as the next great input method in the introductory keynote for the Apple Watch — a breakthrough on par with multitouch from the iPhone. Here’s the thing: it’s terrible to use.

Part of the problem seems to be a software thing (the response curve to rotations is screwed up), but overall I find it very cumbersome. Trying to set a timer for 1 minute versus 2 is downright infuriating — either you don’t turn it fast enough and it stays on zero, or you turn it too much and you’ve plowed right through one and two and are on your way to three. The difference of 1 minute might not seem like a big deal, but when you’ve got a threenager waiting for his/her turn on the swing that minute is life or death.

I’ve had many people ask me over the course of the past year if they should buy an Apple Watch. Overall, it’s useful — especially for consuming push-based content, but I’m not sure it’s worth the price tag. The recent price drop definitely helps, but I’d probably wait for the next generation.


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