As many tech commentators have stated, Apple Watch is the kind of device that takes a while to grow on you. Part of that is figuring out where it fits in with the other tech you already own, and part of it is that it is still early on in the development of Apple Watch as a platform. The release of watchOS now allows for native apps that can not only run faster but also have access to many of the hardware features of the device, such as the microphone, the heart rate sensor and so on. This provides even more options for what developers can do with Apple Watch, and it will be exciting to see how it translates into apps that allow you to use your voice for even better accessibility.
After a few months of using the wearable, here is my take on it.
- Battery life seems to be improved with watchOS 2: I have not done any scientific tests to confirm this, but since I updated to watchOS 2 it seems the battery is lasting longer into the following day when I forget to charge the watch. Are any of you seeing the same thing? To me, battery life is the key feature of all of these mobile devices (not how thin or how fast they run – they are already thinner and more powerful than we really need them to be in my opinion). As I have stated before, battery life is key for a device you rely on for accessibility throughout the day.
- Native apps are a great addition: Not only do they run faster, but opening up access to the microphone and other hardware really expands what can be done with the device. One app that demonstrates this is Just Press Record (a voice memo app with iCloud saving capabilities). I am using this app to quickly save random bits of information (confirmation numbers, etc.) before they are lost or forgotten, but you can use it jus like any portable recorder (to record a quick interview, podcast, etc.).
- Apple Watch really shines on the road: Recently, I took my first trip where I did not use any kind of paper boarding pass throughout the entire journey. All of my boarding passes were added to Wallet from my airline’s app and I was able to check in at the gate using my Apple Watch. No paper to lose or misplace is a great thing for me, and overall digital is more accessible than paper to me too (at least when the app is accessible). While at the airport, I was also able to pay for Starbucks with my watch, instead of having to take out my phone while trying to manage both my white cane and my carry on bag. These are the kinds of interactions where I find the convenience of having every thing on my wrist truly valuable.
- Apple Watch works great for text messaging and quick phone calls: Text messages are ideal for Apple Watch (they tend to be short and sweet). I love that I can be notified with a quick pulse on my wrist and then send a quick reply by selecting from a preset list of responses, selecting an emoji, or using my voice to dictate a response. With phone calls, I know who is usually a quick phone call and who will require switching to the iPhone. If it’s a contact I know will be a quick call I take it on the watch so I don’t have to go through the trouble of locating my iPhone. Even though you can now reply to emails as well with watchOS 2, I don’t find myself emailing from the watch that often. I do often use it to manage my email though: by dismissing and archiving emails so that I have fewer to look at when I get back to the iPhone or my Mac (works great for getting through all the spam!).
- Directions in Maps is a killer feature: Using the Taptic Engine to let you know when it’s time to turn is both cool and useful. I am using this feature both for walking directions and while helping to navigate in the car (for everyone’s safety I don’t drive due to my visual impairment).
Overall, I am very happy with the Apple Watch, but as with any technology it’s not perfect.
The Not So Good
- The watch bands: I have two, the Milanese loop and the Sport band in green. I have not yet tried any of the third-party bands. Of the two bands I have, I find the Milanese loop to be the easiest for me to use, but it looks a bit strange when you are at the gym or doing something more active. The Sport band is very comfortable and works well in those situations, but it is not the easiest to get on my wrist. When I first heard about Apple Watch I thought the watch bands would be like a “slap bracelet” that you could just put on your wrist and snap closed. I know Griffin used to make one of those for the old iPod nano, but I have not seen that option for the Apple Watch yet. If one becomes available, I’ll be first in line.
- The charger: I am not sure if it is possible from an engineering standpoint but what I would love is an adapter that just lets me use the same Lightning cable I plan to take with me to charge my iPhone. It looks like there will be third-party docks with an integrated charger that you will be able to use at home to charge the watch, but that will not help when you are on the road and every additional thing you have to carry adds weight. And, the watch charger is one more thing you have to remember to pack.
What are your thoughts on Apple Watch? What are your favorite features? What can be improved? Let me know in the comments.