Six months with the Ap­ple Watch

We re­veal how watch has in­te­grated it­self into our lives

iPad&iPhone user - - CONTENTS - Dan Moren

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In all the hub­bub of the iPad Pro, Ap­ple TV, and iPhone 6s launches, you could be ex­cused for for­get­ting about this year’s pre­vi­ous Ap­ple dar­ling, the Ap­ple Watch.

There’s been a lot of dis­cus­sion of late over the Watch, in par­tic­u­lar how it’s do­ing and whether or not it’s a flop. As some­one who’s been wear­ing one pretty much daily for eight months now, I feel like I’ve fi­nally in­te­grated it into my life enough that I’ve got a good idea of both its ca­pa­bil­i­ties and its lim­i­ta­tions. And be­lieve me, it’s got plenty of both.

Watch this

I’ve worn watches on and off for my life – I even went through a brief phase, and I’m not proud of this,

where I toted a pocket watch. I know. It was the late ’90s, a life­time ago. The Ap­ple Watch wasn’t even my first foray into the smart­watch arena; that came with the orig­i­nal Peb­ble, of which I was a Kick­starter backer. But by the time the Ap­ple Watch came around, I’d al­ready con­signed my Peb­ble to the pile of out­dated gad­gets and giz­mos in my of­fice for a year or more.

All of this is to say that in its use as, first and fore­most, a watch, the Ap­ple Watch has been a suc­cess. I wear it pretty much ev­ery day, it tells the time: done. But when it comes to the smart side of the equa­tion, well, that’s a dif­fer­ent story en­tirely.

Let’s take one of the Ap­ple Watch’s core pieces of func­tion­al­ity: no­ti­fi­ca­tions. This is os­ten­si­bly the sim­plest smart fea­ture on the Watch: your phone gets a no­ti­fi­ca­tion, it pops up on the Watch with a sub­tle vi­bra­tion. Most of the time, this fea­ture is great. It’s nice to get no­ti­fi­ca­tion un­ob­tru­sively, rather than hav­ing a phone buzz or chime, and I’ve found that it ac­tu­ally tends to not dis­rupt per­sonal con­ver­sa­tions that much, be­cause I can gen­er­ally check my Watch later at a less ob­tru­sive time.

But it’s not with­out prob­lems. The other day I got a no­ti­fi­ca­tion on my watch of a text mes­sage I’d re­ceived the pre­vi­ous night, which had al­ready shown up on Mes­sages on my Mac. And which I’d al­ready re­sponded to. Since no­ti­fi­ca­tions are routed through the Watch, I fre­quently see an email pop up on my iPhone or my Mac twenty or 30 sec­onds be­fore see­ing the no­ti­fi­ca­tion for that email on my watch. And in a bizarre glitch – my friend, Panic de­signer Neven Mr­gan, dubbed it The Black Plague Bug – one of my con­ver­sa­tions con­stantly shows

the same two re­ally old mes­sage bub­bles at the top when I re­ceive a new no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

And this is all in re­gards to one of the Watch’s sim­pler fea­tures, one which I use pretty much ev­ery sin­gle day. Aside from telling the time, it’s the least of what the Ap­ple Watch does, be­cause the Ap­ple Watch does a whole lot. The sad part is most of it not very well.

Look­ing smart

At this point, I’ve re­moved most of the third-party apps and glances from my Ap­ple Watch. Even with the na­tive apps ush­ered in by watchOS 2, launch­ing an ap­pli­ca­tion and wait­ing for it to load data is just too slow to be use­ful ex­cept in cases where I can’t get to my phone. (The speed­i­ness of the Touch ID sen­sor on the iPhone 6s, in par­tic­u­lar, has made a mock­ery of how much faster it is to un­lock my phone and launch an app than wait for it to load on the Watch.)

Glances are like­wise kind of slug­gish, and hav­ing more than a few has made it largely un­man­age­able: there’s no in­di­ca­tion of which Glance is where, which means swip­ing through a bunch of them to find the one you want, only to have to wait for it to up­date. In watchOS2 2, you can use Siri to open a Glance, but that feels a bit like us­ing a crow­bar to open a jar of pick­les.

Third-party com­pli­ca­tions, an­other of watchOS 2’s hall­mark fea­tures, was some­thing I was look­ing for­ward to greatly, but it’s ul­ti­mately ended up be­ing a bit un­der­whelm­ing. I in­stalled Dark Sky’s, but most of the time it looks much like the built-in weather com­pli­ca­tion, and it doesn’t seem to up­date

con­sis­tently, which means I have to load the app to get an ac­cu­rate tem­per­a­ture read­ing… and then we’re back to wait­ing for that to load.

Time will tell

Eight months into the Ap­ple Watch, it seems clear to me that it’s a cool de­vice, but it’s got a long way to go. I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing what watchOS 3 brings, but I’m start­ing to think that it will take un­til the se­cond-gen­er­a­tion Ap­ple Watch for the whole thing to re­ally come into its own. Be­cause per­for­mance is def­i­nitely the big­gest im­ped­i­ment right now, and there’s only so much that soft­ware en­gi­neer­ing can do to make up for slow hard­ware.

De­spite all of my com­plaints, nit­picks, and crit­i­cisms, I’m still bullish on the Ap­ple Watch. As smart­phones and tablets be­come more and more peo­ple’s pri­mary com­put­ing devices, smart wear­ables are go­ing to start tak­ing over some of the more ca­sual uses that those cat­e­gories have aban­doned. The slope of tech­nol­ogy tends to­wards the more per­sonal: from desk­top, to lap­top, to smart­phone. Wear­ables strikes me as the next log­i­cal pro­gres­sion, the Ap­ple Watch is al­ready stak­ing out ground on the wrist.

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