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The Apple Watch

I bought one and I like it.

Background

When the watch was first announced, my feelings were… meh. It looked nice, but not very compelling. The initial reviews seemed to agree.

When watchOS 3 was announced, my interest was piqued. Apple had basically started over with the software and in doing so managed to get a lot more usability and performance out of it. It was the quintessential story of learning from mistakes and trying again.

When the new generation of watches came out (Series 1 and 2), I was again interested. Cheaper prices and faster chips were quite tempting.

Eventually I relented and bought one.

The Watch

I bought an “Apple Watch Series 1 42mm Silver Aluminum Case with White Sport Band”. It’s a mouthful. It’s also very nice. It looks good and it pretty comfortable to wear.

Note that most pictures make the watch looks really big. It’s not. It’s not that much bigger than other watches I’ve owned. Close up pictures are deceiving.

Series 1 or 2

Apple isn’t actually very clear on this, probably because they want you to buy the Series 2. The only differences are that Series 2 has:

  • GPS
  • Waterproofing
  • Brighter screen

Any other differences are minor. Series 1 also has a limited selection of bundled bands (more on that later).

Because the differences are actually pretty minor (unless you are a workout nut, in which case get a Series 2 and ignore me), Series 1 is a way better deal. It’s $100 cheaper and you get a great watch.

Also note, I bought mine from Target when they had a $70 off sale on Series 1 watches. At that point, it’s a steal.

Using It

Here’s all you need to know about the watch: it is a watch, not an iPhone. It may have apps, but you’ll probably be happier ignoring them. The watch is good at being a watch but with the added bonus of notifications. I like being able to scan an incoming email or message without having to get my (rather large) phone out. I also love being able to dictate a quick reply to a message.

I also love the detail that has clearly gone into many of the animations. The app launcher may be crap, but the transition from the launcher to the clock is different and unique for each watch face. My favorite is the solar face where the “app” icon morphs into the sun on the watch face. These are the touches we love Apple for and I wish they would spread more into iOS and the Mac.

Apps

Ok, I’ll admit that some apps are useful. Here’s what I’ve fallen in love with:

  • Pedometer++ - it uses some form of magic to mash the steps data from the watch and the phone to give a much more accurate count. Perfect companion to the built-in Activity app.
  • Dark Sky - accurate and good looking weather. What more do you need?
  • Fantastical - I dropped the standard iOS calendar years ago and have never looked back.

Activity

Some discovered this when the watch first came out, but having your activity stats on display and being nagged to stand up every now and then really does a lot to get you moving more. I’ve had a FitBit for the last couple of years, but I never had one that you wore on your wrist. That makes a world of a difference. I’m kind of crappy at filling my exercise ring, but I can nail the standing almost everyday (and moving most days…).

The activity rings are very well designed and the whole experience is pretty wonderful. I get why Apple refocused the watch around fitness. It just works well for it.

Bands

If you’re not into the watch, I can see why Apple’s focus on watch bands during presentations is annoying. After getting the watch, I get the attention. Bands are fun and can change the whole look of the watch. Plus they are super easy to take on and off.

I bought the silver watch with the white band knowing full-well that I would never wear the white band. I immediately bought a third-party sport band from Amazon and I have a nicer third-party nylon band arriving soon. I’m also looking around for a nice leather band, though I may wait a while for that.

I really don’t understand why Apple doesn’t sell a combination of the silver case with a black band. It’s a much better look than silver/white or black/black.

Notice how I haven’t bought a band from Apple. Their band’s are very expensive and not worth the extra cash (at least for the simple bands).

Nightstand Mode

I didn’t event know this was a thing before I bought the watch. When the watch is charging and on its side, it enters “Nightstand Mode”. This only shows a digital clock, the date, and the next alarm. It also becomes very sensitive to movement so you can just bump the watch or the nightstand and the screen will come on. It is awesome and very useful.

I’ve stopped using alarms on my phone and my watch is now my alarm clock. I have even bought a little stand to help keep it upright at night.

Wants

I want more watch faces. I want to customize the watch faces more. I would like third-party watch faces. That is all.

Conclusion

The Apple Watch is a great product. I think so much press and attention around it has been negative because people expect it to be another iPhone. It’s not and that’s actually great. It is good at what it is good at, which is being a watch with some neat extra features. The watch was never going to (and will never) set the world on fire in the same way that the iPhone (or even the iPad) did. That’s not a bad thing at all, it’s just destined for a smaller market. But if you’re part of that market, the watch is great.