The Apple Watch is the best smartwatch available on the market. It is also overpriced, difficult to use at first and somewhat limited in what it does well.
That said, after two weeks of use, I’ve found a few things that it does well enough that it is changing my daily habits, which is the best real test of any new gadget.
I’ve found it most useful in the mornings, when a few of the apps really deliver: checking my bank balance on pay day, the transit app telling me when the next streetcar is and paying for my Starbucks.
It also handles the morning routine with our 3 ½-year-old. “Daddy, can I see Mickey Mouse, please?” she says. I switch over to the cute Disney-styled watchface and get a smile. Which gives me one, too.
The killer app for me is responding to texts, using either dictation or a quick response with a single tap. I love that it has some intelligence, breaking up binary questions for a one-touch response.
I still won’t use it to answer my phone, because, well, that just looks and feels douche-y. It’s like yelling: “Hey, look at me! I’m answering my phone on my watch!”
I was surprised at how much I like the look of it. It’s smaller than expected and feels good on the wrist. I also like the changeable and customizable watch faces.
Battery life is better than I thought it would be: I’ve been getting two days out of a charge. Though they are outrageously priced, the two bands that I have worn are comfortable and look good.
The biggest hurdle to coming to terms with the Apple Watch is managing expectations — both yours and of what it does.
If you really want one, the best way to avoid being disappointed is to think of if it foremost as a watch with extra capabilities that can move some activities off your phone.
Even as a watch, I’d rather the watch face always be on, so I can see the time at anytime, instead of it appearing only when I move it to my face.
In figuring out how to best use the watch, it often came down to whether an app worked better on the phone or not. If it did, it was best just to keep it there.
Email is the perfect example. On first getting the watch, you have to decide which notifications will buzz on your wrist. If you add too many, your wrist will buzz endlessly, bordering on annoying.
I get a lot of emails, and expected that I could do a quick triage, but the quick view in the notification field is fairly useless. It also took too many swipes and taps to dismiss them, so I came to hate using it for that.
Things got much better when I took email off notifications, and while I occasionally use the watch app to do a quick check, that is a task best left for my phone (or computer). It’s that trying out, paring and pruning that most users will have to do to make the device work for you.
While there are more than 3,700 apps, in these early days many of them are half-baked. I am a gamer and there aren’t any games that I really like yet.
The apps that work best are those with bite-sized bits of information, like The Score’s app, which has kept me quickly informed of playoff games scores. In truth, every app works better on your phone. The hope is that they will get better, but the screen size is so limited that they might not.
Which bring us to the biggest issue: There is no single reason you need this device, and Apple joins the list of companies that hasn’t made a real case for using a smartwatch.
After living with it, I can easily see the potential for this device in the future. Apply Pay is rumoured to be coming to Canada in November, and that might make it more useful. When Watch-native apps finally appear — ones that don’t require your phone — that might be the real Dick Tracy future watch we want.
One side effect of wearing the Watch is that it has made me think about my use of technology. Mornings I like to use it, but after the first week I started taking it off in the evenings when I got home, so I wouldn’t be bothered during dinner and getting my daughter ready for bed.
The biggest issue is that the Apple Watch costs almost twice as much as its competitors. For me, the small conveniences it provided, particularly in helping smooth my frazzled mornings, make it nice to have, but not a necessity.
The big question is whether you can find enough for it to do to justify the cost. As for the next generation, I’m still wondering just how much better it can get, or whether the device’s form factor is its real limitation.
It’s clearly early days for the Apple Watch, but with this product, time really will tell.