Armen Chakmakjian

Apple Watch 6 month personal review

In technology on December 23, 2015 at 4:42 pm

It’s a few hours until Christmas and I’m sure several of you are thinking about buying an Apple Watch, whether for yourselves or someone special. I received for Father’s day (i got it several days later due to availability) and it has become a great enhancement to my phone and replaces the other wrist devices that I had been using.  I’ve written a couple of other posts on my experience early on, but I’m well into it now and can be more judgmental now 🙂

  1. Watch. It tells time. This alone would not justify buying it, but it is a watch first and foremost.
  2. Notifications. It moves many of the buzzes and beeps that are notifications on your phone to your wrist. The most useful of these are messages and calendar notifications
  3. Phone. It does caller id (but so did my fitbit) but it also allows you to either answer or dismiss the call right from your wrist. The cool thing is that if you’ve left your phone or iPad on the table, you can take the audio call from the couch on your wrist. Taking a call while walking in a crowded mall with your wrist against your ear make you look like a failed ballet student.
  4. Directions. Because it uses the GPS in your phone, it is actually a better way to do walking directions than using your phone in your hand. Once you have asked for directions, it buzzes/beeps when you need to change course. you look down and see that in 50 feet, you need to take a right on Tremont. buzz buzz continue 500 ft, then take a left on School Street. Buzz buzz take a right on school street. Continue on School street, left on Washington street. Buzz buzz take a left in 50 ft onto washington. Note this whole time you;ve been walking along using your eyes. you only look down to your wrist to get the next direction…the map is so simple it’s not something you would focus on for very long. Some of the 3rd party apps use this well also telling you the closest location to you and turning over directions to the map app.
  5. Fitness. It is a good replacement for your fitbit. It also does more and connects into all the same apps on the phone. Since it also tracks your heart rate it is a nice plus. It’s also relatively accurate about distance of running/walking as exercise since it is connected to your GPS.
  6. Messaging. You get texts all day, Facebook messages, LinkedIn messages. You get these notifications at the level you want to since it is adjustable. The ability to do quick canned responses right from the wrist is helpful, responding with audio when necessary is useful, and quick emoticons is good. I have had several instances where the speech to text did not go through because of intermittent wi-fi and that is slightly annoying at that time. In those cases I’ve got to my phone and typed in the response.
  7. Complications. The most useful one is the temperature. Knowing the outside temperature at a glance to your watch is very useful and unobtrusive. I’m less sanguine on the utility of the other ones, the moon phase is interesting but not very useful.  I still don’t understand why they exposed an obvious internal name for a feature.  It should be called “enhancements” or “enchantments”.
  8. Fashion. The watch is bulky. The various wrist bands allow you personalization. I got a watch sport, which came with the black rubber band. I replaced it with the stainless steel loop. While the band was really for the stainless watch, it does go with the space gray watch well and since it is infinitely adjustable perfect for me. The biggest improvement for me will be a thinner watch. I’ve also changed the watch face to match my color scheme.
  9. Siri. Only really useful for obvious questions. “What time is the Patriots game today?” 4pm. great. “What is the definition of semiotic?” It responds with the definition of “symbiosis” sigh. You can ask it directions and that does work most of the time if it clearly gets the number and street address. I don’t have a boston nor a middle eastern accent, but it often responds as if I had both. I think it thinks I drop rolling r’s.
  10. Wallet. It is very funny going into a Dunkin Donuts or a Starbucks and pay the first few times with your watch. The Dunkin Donuts person’s reaction is usually wide-eyed and then something “I’ve been working here for 20 years and this is the first time I ever saw anyone pay with their watch.” The barista response is usually “oh, you have a watch, that is so cool.” then you become the guy with the watch. Airlines aren’t sure what to do since the readers they have are for paper and can accommodate phones, so you twist to get it to work as they look at you suspiciously…but if they want to look at your electronic boarding pass, you still have to pull out the phone.
  11. Apple Pay. I’m treating this slightly separately from Wallet because it is more awkward than the bar/qr/code reading. On the phone the gesture is somewhat understandable. if you are near the reader with the phone the phone tells you what to do. With the watch here’s what happens. I’m in a Panera or a McDonald’s at the counter. “That’ll be 7.57” I pull back my sleeve and fiddle till I get the wallet app up. sometimes it detects that apple pay is available. other times it doesn’t and when you tap on a card, it tells you to double tap the button (not the crown). Sometimes when you double tap, if it is not at the correct speed, you end up in the primary function of the button, to take you to your “favorites”. While seeing a picture of my lovely wife is always welcome, I now have to tap again to go back and then I try the double tap again. 50% of the time I get it right and then the payment goes through. The associate is looking at me the time bemused that I’m spending so much time tapping at my wrist. Let me give Apple Watch designers a piece of advice. you all know the concepts mental models and affordances. This whole interaction violates all the good principles of this. The affordance, the side button, and the mental model (which is the touch id on the phone) are completely unrelated to each other both in spatial terms as well as function. And since a mistake takes you out of the context, you are spending a lot of time trying to get back to a place that you are familiar with taxing your metacognition…you should be able to assume the watch knows what you want to do so you don’t have to massively focus on the gestures but rather the transaction. A more realistic thing would be to take advantage of the 3D touch as the imitating gesture of the touch id because that keeps you in context, but forces you to manipulate the affordance with a deliberate gesture that has a parallel to the mental model of using the touch ID to confirm payment. I know apple could do better than this here.
  12. WatchOS2 and network connectivity. The other night I had an interesting experience. I was in a meeting at a community organization. I reached for my phone and I didn’t have it. I thought about beeping the phone from the watch, which is a highly useful feature, but I didn’t want to disrupt the meeting. But I really needed my phone. So I went to the screen on the phone and when I was about to ask it to beep the phone I noticed that instead of an icon on the top right corner denoting the phone was in range (or not) I saw a cloud. This means that my phone and my watch are connected to a familiar network but not to each other by bluetooth. This means I forgot my phone in my car outside next to the building. I got up and went to my phone without disrupting the meeting. The more interesting part was that the watch continued to work even though the phone wasn’t around. I did quickly get some information on it before retrieving the phone that would only be available by wi-fi. so that is a very cool thing that simple functionality was not disrupted when the phone was not nearby.
  13. Taking pictures. No there isn’t a camera. yet. Next gen. However the cool feature here is that you can tap into the camera on your phone from the watch and snap! The nice thing here is that removes you from racing into the picture to beat the timer on the iPhone camera and you can still see if you are in the frame on the display of the watch as it shows you what the camera sees.

So there are many more things about the Apple Watch, but this is the base functionality that makes it a useful extension of your phone. I suggest that with the recent improvements it’s a viable product and yes you may want to consider getting one for yourself or someone else at Christmas. I’m writing this to the impulse buyers in the next 24 hours.  Rumor has it that they are coming out with a new version of the watch maybe next April/May that may have a few more hardware features, but its pretty good right now.


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