I admit it. I’m an Apple fan boy, a somewhat critical one. For the past eighteen months, I’d been holding off opening my wallet and handing over my hard earned cash for the Apple Watch. Before, I was always a Fitbit supporter and a Garmin user for longer runs. And Apple’s entry into this space was initially a curious one for me. For watch fans, there are companies that specialize in the high end (Rolex), running (Garmin), or low end fitness trackers (Fitbit). There is overlap across segments. But note, this wasn’t a core business for the tech company.
Also, I have a rule. When it comes to the Big Apple, always wait until the second version is released. For Microsoft, the third time is usually the charm. Yet, after much hemming and hawing I finally jumped in, and I’m glad I did. First off, let me say this, “This isn’t a purchase out of necessity.” While one could argue you can’t live without a smart phone these days, the Apple Watch is more of an added feature, balancing out the iPhone experience. It enhances the phone and doubles as a solid fitness tracker. Let me talk about the highlights:
Built-In GPS: This was why I bought the watch. After three years, my Garmin was starting to wind down. Initially, I questioned the watch’s accuracy, but I think my GPS hiccuped on my first run. I know my routes fairly well and felt the watch was off by about a quarter mile. Since then, it’s been relatively spot on. Also, I love how the run starts. It has this 3-2-1 countdown that gets me moving. Yes, it has always been the little things with Apple. Adding the starting line count down was a nice touch.
The Fit: It feels great. I have two bands. They swap out fairly easily, a click on both ends of the face. However, I find that I wear the running band most of the time. For some reason, I don’t change it out often. All in all, the watch looks great. And if you want to dress it up a bit more with a leather band, you can make that happen too.
Fitness Goals: This interface differs greatly from the Fitbit community. I feel I’m in less of a step war and focused on my overall health. Fitbit was fine for awhile, almost insane. I found myself walking around the neighborhood ten to midnight just to win step competitions. Crazy? Yeah. Fun? Most of the time.
But I really like the Apple view of the world. There are three rings. One for moving calories, another for exercise, and the last for simple standing. It’s less about the competition and more about me. Also, you have to work to close the rings. I walked all over three Disney Parks, recorded 30,000+ steps, yet failed to close all three rings one day. While walking, your heart rate has to reach a certain level to close the exercise ring. You can walk for hours and not record enough true activity to hit the goal. Yes, this is brutal, but probably a truer view of overall health.
As a side note, the Fitbit social features are far superior. With the WatchOS interface, It’s somewhat clunky to find friends, cheer, scowl, or beat your family in a step war.
Battery Life: Before purchase, this was my biggest worry. I had visions of four hours. And my Fitbit can go days without a charge. Yet, these fears never really came about. I found I always got at least a solid day out of the watch. And it charges relatively quickly. We’ll see if this holds. Over time, lithium ion batteries do erode. Let’s hope that new battery breakthrough happens sooner rather than later.
Notifications: These work like a champ. I like to think I glance with style now. If a text comes in, I see it immediately. Even if my phone is handy, I find I’d rather answer back with the watch. The precanned responses handle most things, and I like using the writing tool. It is more than solid. And as dumb as it may sound, I really don’t stare at my phone as much anymore. Apple created the clawed hand/tilted head problem, at least they are trying to solve it. Now, these notifications can get out of hand. Between Slack, Apple News, Facebook, Mail, etc., you might find yourself glancing with style a little more than necessary. Overtime, the barrage of notifications can wear down your battery. The lesson here is to take the time to tune these in the watch app on your phone. You’ll be glad you did.
The Remote: I like to use the watch to control the Apple TV. It works better than the packaged in version that came with the device.
Other Surprises: Most of the apps that have been updated for the new OS work fairly well. Mostly, I use Slack, Things, Messenger, and one of the sleep tracking applications (Note, Fitbit still excels here too). Also, I think it’s really cool when Mickey shouts out the time.
So, what’s the final verdict? Is this a home run device? No. But it will help sell phones. Also, it’s probably needed as Android has several different watches on the market. There are also other strategic reasons for the watch’s operating system. Android runs on billions of devices. Linux too. And the elephant in the room is Microsoft. Windows remains supreme on over 1.5 Billion devices and is a multi-platform option. WatchOs is a solid proto-type for small form factor, low power option devices. If Apple ever wants to make washing machines, expand deeper into televisions, build refrigerators, or create the next gadget we never knew we needed, they have a smaller footprint OS to build upon. Hey, you gotta cut your teeth somewhere.