Never buy the first version of a product is generally sage advice. Being a gadget guy for years, it’s also a mantra I rarely subscribe to. I most recently ignored it with the Apple Watch.
Overall, I’m in general agreement with the Apple Watch review ZDNet’s Matthew Miller wrote up after his two weeks of wearing the device. Yes, the interface is a little complicated at first but it’s generally effective once you get past the learning curve. And bearing in mind that the Apple Watch is an accessory to an iPhone, it can give you more time back from staring at your smartphone screen dozens of times each day.
It still has some version one issues though. Although I’ve only had my Apple Watch for less than a week, I see some definite opportunities for improvement; several of which Apple can address through future software updates. Some of these, of course, are personal to how I use the Apple Watch and may not apply to everyone.
Apps and Glances are often too slow to show useful data
Remember that the native apps on the Apple Watch are the apps created by Apple. At least for now, that is: Apple’s WatchKit will eventually support apps that run right on the watch.
Until then, developers can only create notifications, Glances, and ways for Apple Watch owners to interact with an extension to apps really running on the iPhone. The watch gets its data from a connected iPhone over Bluetooth. In theory, that’s sounds fine but in practice, it’s often disappointing.
I’ve actually timed how long it takes for my Apple Watch to get application data and in some cases, I can actually see the data I want on my iPhone faster. That’s due in part because of the iOS widget system: A simple swipe down from any screen shows the weather in my Dark Sky app, for example. Trying to see the same on the watch can result in five or more seconds of a churning icon while the Apple Watch pulls information over Bluetooth from the iPhone.
This situation goes against one of the main purposes of any smartwatch. Why do you need one if it can be quicker to see the same information on your phone?
Again, this will change over time as Apple broadens the scope of what WatchKit apps can do. For now, many appear to be extensions of the same widgets that already exist on the iPhone and can be slow to show you what you want.
Shared calendars is an all or none situation
Maybe I’m too new of an Apple Watch owner to figure this one out but I can’t find a way to fine tune which calendars appear on the watch.
In my home, everyone has their own Gmail calendar which they share with everyone else. With two adults and two kids, it’s an easy way to keep track of where family members are or need to be at a given time: We just look at our phones.
But the watch is, in my opinion, my personal assistant. And currently, when I look at the watch face to see my next appointment, I often don’t see it. Instead, I see the present or next event for a family member, causing me to fiddle with the watch to open up the Calendar app and scroll to my next event. I’ve stopped doing that even: Instead, I’m just pulling out the phone, again defeating the purpose of the watch.
There actually is a way to just get your own calendar events on the watch: Simply stop showing the shared calendars on the phone since it mirrors them on the watch. Obviously, that’s even worse in one regard because now I can’t see my family’s schedule on the watch or the phone. Ideally, I’d like to see finer controls in the Apple Watch app so that you can choose which calendars appear on the wrist.
There’s Mail and then there’s Mail
Like the iPhone, Apple Watch can show notifications for incoming email messages. Unlike the iPhone, you can’t do much with those notifications though. At least not if you’re not using the Mail app on the watch.
If that sounds confusing, that’s because it generally is. When an email notification arrives, the only actionable button is one to clear it; you can also swipe down to dismiss the notification. You can’t reply, delete or archive the message from here. For that, you have to actually open the message by tapping it, which in turn opens the Mail app.
That’s not terrible, but it’s not optimal, either. It’s only once you open the message in the Mail app that you can Mark as Unread, Flag, or Archive it. These options are available at the bottom of the message or you can use a Force Touch to bring them up. Either way, this is inconsistent with email notifications in iOS on the iPhone where you can simply take action on the notification itself.
Siri can hear you but you can’t hear Siri
I like that I can just lift my wrist and say “Hey Siri” to ask for information on the Apple Watch. It’s ideal for when you’re looking at something else. Except you have to look at your watch to see Siri’s response.
I find the omission odd.
After all, there’s a speaker in the Apple Watch; it’s used for Voice Over and for phone calls. You can’t use it for Siri, however.
And that’s another way in which the iPhone actually trumps the Apple Watch. If your iPhone is plugged in for charging, you can say “Hey Siri” and hear replies for a complete hands-free experience.
Siri’s silence could be due to a hardware limitation but I think it’s more likely something on the software side, or perhaps is related to the way the watch gets information over its Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection.
Either way, my hope is that Siri finds her voice in the near future: She’d be far more useful in situations where you can’t focus your eyes on the wrist in a given place or time.