Last month, my husband gave me an Apple Watch for my birthday. He knows I love Apple anything and I would be delighted with their watch. However, I am a careful consumer even if I love the brand.
I had actually been researching the watch since its release, and I was sitting on the fence when it came to getting one. On one hand, I don’t wear watches; I’m not comfortable wearing something that emits any type of signal; and it’s a pricey gadget. On the other hand, I coveted some of its features such as the fitness apps, alerts, and being able to view my calendar at a glance.
I wasn’t certain that the Apple Watch would deliver sufficient benefits to outweigh my concerns (and the price tag), but I welcomed the chance to test it out. I wore it for two weeks — that’s how much time Apple gives you to return an item — and ultimately decided to return it. While it is an attractive piece of technology, I didn’t find it useful enough. In this post, I share what I liked and didn’t like about the watch, and why I decided not to keep it.
Appearance & Wearability
In typical Apple style, the Apple Watch is sleek and minimal. At first, I thought it was big, but the 38mm Sport Watch actually fit perfectly on my wrist. Initially, I wore it snugly. The slight protrusion of the sensors on the back of the watch left me with a sore wrist at the end of the day, so I loosened the strap one notch. This was more comfortable, but then the watch danced on my wrist. I’m not sure how this affected its ability to monitor my heart rate or activity levels. I also did not like the sweat that builds up between the watch and your skin while working out, but wearing it loosely helped with that.
I was notably impressed with the display’s resistance to scratches. I have little kids which means any device I own will get banged around a bit. My Apple Watch weathered small bumps and scrapes but remained blemish-free.
In my opinion, Apple products are intuitive and easy to use. The Apple Watch is no different. I began using it without instructions, although I did eventually watch some of Apple’s guided tour videos just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on any features.
The watch face can display a collage of information chosen by the user. These are called Complications, and they can have as much or as little information as you wish. My Complication had the time, local weather, calendar events for the day, and my progress toward activity goals; but another person might also want to display stocks. I found the Complications useful because they give you quick updates on things you care about. However, I am puzzled by Apple’s word choice here. At first, I thought it was a typo. I thought they meant “Compilations” since they are in fact compilations of data on your watch face. In my mind, the term “complications” invokes a sense of adverse complexity. Of course, this doesn’t affect the watch’s functionality, but…does anybody else thinks that’s an odd name for this feature?
The watch has a dial on the side, which Apple calls the Digital Crown. It is like the iPhone’s home button, allowing you to exit apps when you press it. If you hold it down, it activates Siri. I found it most useful for scrolling through items on the display. Swiping on a small screen isn’t practical sometimes, but using the crown eliminates this problem.
Apple released Watch OS 2 while I had the watch, so I also tested the “time travel” feature. Using the Digital Crown, you can scroll through calendar events and the weather 72 hours into the past or future. I wasn’t wowed by this capability. While an hour-by-hour play of the weather was alright, I prefer seeing calendar events one day at a time.
My favorite feature on the Apple Watch is Force Touch. The display is not only a touch screen, but it also senses pressure and responds with a vibration that feels like you’ve actually pressed a button. Using Force Touch is similar to right-clicking on a computer — it brings up additional options. For example, I used Force Touch to change the watch face, clear all notifications at once, and end my workouts. Force Touch is a key feature because it enables options that may not be otherwise available.
How I Used the Apple Watch
Aside from relying on my Complications for information, I mostly used the health and fitness apps, notifications, and digital messages.
Health & Activity Tracker
The Apple Watch allows you to log workouts conveniently. It’s a simple as telling Siri to start a workout. You can set goals in terms of time or calories for the workout, and you can set goals for the day. However, checking your progress as you work out isn’t as convenient because turning your wrist doesn’t always activate the display (like it’s supposed to), and the touchscreen doesn’t work well with sweaty hands.
The watch also tracked my steps and activity, it monitored my heart rate, reminded me to stand up every hour, and told me how many calories I had burned throughout the day. This definitely motivated me to walk and move around more. I felt I was competing with myself to beat my previous day’s score. I learned that I am compelled to do more when I know somebody (or something) is watching me — even if it’s an Apple Watch. This could be a huge benefit for somebody who wants to increase their activity levels.
One drawback was that I still needed to take my phone on runs if I wanted to track my route or stream music from Pandora. The watch doesn’t have GPS on board, and it needs a WiFi connection to stream the music. Although tetherless WiFi is possible with the OS 2 update, there really aren’t any WiFi networks available when you’re out running. For people who own music, they can load up to 2 GB of songs on the watch. I stream all of my music so I was S.O.L.
The Apple Watch sends notifications through vibrations. For example, the watch will let you know if you’ve received a text message, if a calendar event is coming up, or if it’s time to stand because you’ve been sitting for too long.
At first, I thought I would like receiving these notifications. I am notorious for missing calls and text messages because I don’t always have my phone with me; and if I do, the ringer is usually set to silent.
Now I know why I do this.
I don’t like to be interrupted.
I found that the notifications on the Apple Watch were more of a distraction than an aide. They disrupted my workflow, even if I didn’t stop what I was doing to address the notification. Of course, you can turn off the notifications, but then that’s one more thing for which I DON’T use the watch.
Digital messaging is a cute feature where you can send your actual heartbeat, taps, and sketches to another Apple Watch owner. Since my sister has an Apple Watch, I played around with these messages. It’s a fun way to send messages, but definitely not a necessity.
How I Tried to Use the Apple Watch
One of the biggest disadvantages of the Apple Watch is that it is an expensive accessory for the already expensive iPhone. Many apps cannot be used on the watch alone, so the device hands it off to the phone. For example, I tried using Voice Memos on the watch, but it directed me to continue on my phone. I was disappointed because I was looking forward to recording ideas on the fly. I’m not sure why you can’t record voice memos, yet you can dictate reminders and calendar events. There are third party voice memo apps available for purchase, but that’s another expense.
I also tried using the Apple Watch for phone conversations, text messaging, and emails, but I didn’t find it practical. First, I don’t like broadcasting my conversations. Second, the watch’s speaker is small, making it difficult to hear the other person. If you want to send a text or email message, you have to use a preset message or dictate it. Again, people around you will hear your message.
Deciding to Return the Apple Watch
The Apple Watch was a fun gadget. I was tempted to keep it but decided to return it based on the following:
- Benefits don’t outweigh the cost – The Apple Watch didn’t simplify my life. Had it mopped my floors, cleaned my toilets, or picked up the kids from school, then it would have been a keeper! Instant notifications and the activity tracker didn’t make my life any better, and the watch didn’t free me from carrying my phone. I’m sure other people who like being “connected” 24/7 would love this device. There are many other apps that I didn’t mention here, such as Apple Pay and Maps, that are useful to people who live a tech lifestyle. I can also see how the Apple Watch would benefit people who are trying to improve their health. If you are not very active, those reminders to get up and move can definitely make a difference.
- Safety concerns – I know this probably sounds crazy, but I’m not convinced that wearable devices are safe. I am concerned about wearing something that emits a signal, whether it is Bluetooth or WiFi. I know some studies suggest that these devices are safe, but they haven’t been around long enough and we haven’t studied them sufficiently to know for certain. I recognize that WiFi is ubiquitous, and we are exposed to these signals daily. However, the effects of exposure to radiation are cumulative, so I don’t want to expose my body to these emissions any more than necessary. In The Emperor of All Maladies, Siddhartha Mukherjee describes how physicians initially doubted the relationship between smoking and lung cancer. Not only was there a lack of evidence, but some doctors were smokers themselves, and that probably biased them. They wanted to believe that cigarettes were safe. Evidence for the relationship between smoking and disease accumulated from the 1930’s through the 1960’s, culminating with the 1964 Surgeon General’s report which indicated a link between lung cancer and cigarette smoking. I can’t help but wonder if this could also happen with radio frequency emissions. Perhaps having breast cancer has made me paranoid, but I don’t want to risk it.
In order to determine whether I really want or need something, I typically use a simple test. If I can’t stop thinking about it, then I must really want or need it. I’ve been without the Apple Watch for a few weeks now, and I haven’t missed it. Maybe a future generation of the watch will deliver more benefits that will override my concerns. For now, I’m fine without it.