My Awful Year With The Apple Watch

My God-Awful Year With the Apple Watch

I bought the Apple Watch a year ago. I stopped wearing it two months ago, and I'm not sure if I'll ever wear it again. That's because it doesn't really do anything that anyone needs, and even when it does, it doesn't always work like it's supposed to. I wanted to buy the Apple Watch because I was excited to jump out of the hamster wheel that is buying a newer, slightly nicer version of something I bought a few years earlier. Anything we buy these days is just a sequel of the same crap we already have at home, so it was fun to try something new! It was also frustrating as hell. Here are some things I learned over the past year (minus two months) of strapping the shitty screen vibrator to my wrist.

First, I still don't know what the buttons do. This is ridiculous (and probably very stupid on my part) because, well, there are only two buttons, the digital crown and the side button. Most of the time, pressing the digital crown acts like an iPhone home button. But sometimes it's a back button (like when you're in the Favourites contact screen). It gets more confusing because you can scroll through a list with the crown but you can never select. You have to tap the screen for that to work. Most of these things you eventually figure out, but these little inconsistencies just add to the frustration of using it.

With an iPhone, everyone knows how to use it, assuming they have access to fingers. With Apple's wrist-time-box, I still find myself lost every time I grab hold of it, even if it's just trying to recreate the steps to something I did earlier. Which mostly results in me just giving up trying to do anything at all. For its solid aesthetic design, the Watch is not at all intuitive.

If you did somehow manage to figure out how to do something on the watch, there's literally no comfortable way to actually use it. You're constantly changing your grip style because none of them ever feel right. What I settled on is placing a thumb on the bottom left corner of the watch to stabilise it and then I use the left side of my index finger to twirl the knob and hit the crown. Other times I just use my finger tip to spin the crown. Or a thumb only method sort of works. With reasonably sized phones, your thumb can reach anything on the screen just by holding the phone in your hand. One grip, done. But with the small size of the screen on the watch and because it's attached to your wrist, you're always awkwardly trying to make things half-work with multiple finger dancing grips and none of them ever feel right. And yes, I'm aware that I also look like a total tool when using it (no matter the grip).

If you do manage to figure out how to do something with it and find a comfortable way to use it, there's actually nothing worthwhile to do with the Apple Watch that you can't do just as easily with an iPhone. OK fine, that's not all the way true but it's not too much of an exaggeration. Most Watch apps just end up being a shell of the iPhone app.

There are a few things I like about the Watch, though. I'll list 'em here:

  • Apple Pay on the Apple Watch is ever so slightly more convenient than it is on the iPhone. The downside is that enabling Apple Pay forces you to add a passcode to your watch for security purposes. This gets quickly annoying because the biometric sensors on the underside of the Watch that's supposed to remember me once I've punched in my code, regularly loses contact with my wrist, making the security system think that I've taken the Watch off. Which means I have to punch in my passcode multiple times a day to use it. It totally kills it.
  • Seeing text messages on your wrist is fine enough but responding on it is just silly. Aside from a few canned responses you can pre-program on your watch, it's just easier to whip out your phone to text back.
  • There's a nice watch "complication" (AKA feature) that shows me what time the sunrise is when I look at my watch face. Those sorts of additional tidbits of information available at a glance are nice to know.
  • When I complete goals in the fitness tracking activity feature, I feel good.
  • I've Shazam-ed from my Watch like two times?
  • Changing bands is really, really easy.

Other than that, there's really nothing fun about using the watch. Not even for the most basic thing: telling time. The problem is that the screen doesn't always turn on when you raise your wrist like it's supposed to. So you're left trying to snap your wrist hoping it will activate the watch screen. When it doesn't, you feel like an idiot and look really stupid in front of your friends.

And even if there were cool things to do with the Watch and they actually worked, the guts aren't good enough to keep up with the mediocre tasks the Watch is theoretically supposed to be good at today. Charging the Watch every night is not the worst thing in the world (charging by magnetic stand is great, by the way), until you wake up somewhere without an Apple Watch charger, and the watch is dead for the entire next day.

My God-Awful Year With the Apple Watch

Getting information like the weather isn't bad either, except that when you try to actually look it up, the watch slows down and gives you a spinning loading indicator. You don't know if it will load in a reasonable amount of time, or if it will just keep on swirling about. Everything is so terribly slow. Like really, don't even bother slow. Like, it's easier to just pull our your iPhone from your pocket than use your watch slow. For example, it takes me more than 15 seconds to get Twitter finally loaded on my watch. It takes less than five seconds to get my phone out of my pocket and onto the app. Oh, and the Watch's app is useless as it only has room to show a single tweet at a time.

And this hints at the biggest problem. With other Apple products, you realise the limitations but become mostly OK with them because the ease of use can outweigh the sacrifice (price, ports, customisability, walled garden and so on) for some people. With the Apple Watch, I'm not exactly sure what the benefit is. To get text messages buzzed to my wrist? To scroll through a few pictures on Instagram? There's really not a single thing that makes my life easier. No sane human will ever want to use Siri on the Apple Watch over their phone. I used that sharing drawings and heartbeats thing with my other Apple Watch-owning friends like three times before I never did it again. It's a fun gimmick, but it's pointless.

Wearing the Apple Watch for nearly a year did change something in me though, but it's the opposite effect that was probably intended: the Watch's constant low-level notifications made me realise that there's nothing really worth being notified about. Being able to feel every text, email and whatever else made me see how useless they mostly were. I used to joke that wearing a watch is handcuffing yourself to time. Wearing an Apple Watch (or any smartwatch, really), doubles down on that by locking you in a barricade of notifications too. So I've taken the Apple Watch off and don't know when I'll put it back on. The Watch isn't at all worth it, but I'm not sure it's even possible to make a smartwatch that I, or any reasonable non-tech nerd, would need. The more ambitious a smartwatch gets, the more complicated it is to use.

I've told every person who has asked me about my Apple Watch that as the wrist-puter stands right now, it's really not worth the money or the effort. That doesn't mean I don't think it will eventually get better as Apple improves the hardware and software or if it maybe simplifies its goals, but a year with it has told me that it's going to be a very long eventually. You shouldn't buy this Apple Watch, and my sense is you probably shouldn't buy the next Apple Watch either. But maybe (just maaaaybe) you'll buy the next next one. Or the one after that.

All Images: Sean Hollister/Gizmodo

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Comments

    Thanks for the article. I was seriously thinking about getting one but I couldn't come up with a single reason why. This has cemented my opinion that I would never have found the reason to buy one

    Last edited 26/04/16 10:24 am

      I'm all ears for the next iteration but if the battery life is still around 24 hours then it doesn't matter how good/bad it is, nope.

        Get a pebble. Mine last 1 week+ on average.

          Yeah, my Gear S2 lasts 4 or 5 days itself. Battery life is improving, theres no reason Apple dont have a better one, other than cost and space saving. Or bad programming.

          Get a proper watch. I have a Tissot T-Race, lasts 2 years+ on average :) Or buy an automatic, it had been invented in 1923 by John Harwood, and it lasts as long as your body can move :D

            People don't buy smart watches for the timekeeping ability dipstick

              Sense of humour is not one of your virtues, is it? :D

                Humour would require some sort of joke to be made. :D

        if you are in to any type of fitness, and have use for a tracker with basic smart functions, Garmin VivoActive has almost a 2 week battery life (less if you use the fitness tracking on a daily or every other day basis. it notifies me of texts, emails and facebook notifications, also vibrates when im being called, tells me who it is and lets me cancel calls but not answer them AND i can launch spotify on my phone and flick through songs on the last opened playlist and adjust volume, and has built in alarms and step tracker too.
        i was pretty impressed when i got it, as i solely bought it for fitness tracking, but got the added bonus of basic smart functions.

    Personally I don't like the box-like design but of the handful of people that I now that has one they all "love" them.

    Saying to wear a watch is to "handcuff yourself to time" is a meaningless emotional statement.

      If someone paid $800 or even $400 I have no doubt they are going to say they love the watch. No one other than a reviewer like Casey is likely to admit they fell for a marketing gimmick.

      Thanks, Casey. It takes courage to admit when we make decisions like this (we've all made them). Having to strap this thing, or any of the other smart watches to your wrist is just another distraction and burden. How can it be taken seriously with a 24 hour battery life?

      Last edited 26/04/16 1:10 pm

      Those people you know who say they love it are an example of confirmation bias.

      I know people that like theirs also. Clearly it's not for everyone, but there's people out there that do benefit from it.

    The only reason I want an Android watch is so I can have the Goldeneye 007 watch face.

    I have a Pebble and love it to bits. It's interesting that the Apple watch proponents knocked it for not doing 'enough' by not being a small phone on your wrist. Personally, I never wanted, nor needed another phone. It's a companion piece of hardware that meant I just didn't need to get my phone out of my pocket quite so much or carry it around in the house all the time.

    Plus the 10 day battery life, and it charges in 20-30m.

      The reason it gets slated for not doing enough is the price.

      If you spend $100-$200 on a wrist gadget like the Pebble, it means you probably don't expect too much from it, it's a bit of a cool gimmick that costs less than lots of regular watches.

      However assuming you don't want the sports one (which is already pretty pricey at $430), you're spending $800+ on a watch from apple, which puts it into a price range where you'd expect more than a 24 hour battery life and a sporadic ability to show you the time when you bring it up to your face!

        "The reason it gets slated for not doing enough is the price"

        This is the right answer. If the Apple Watch cost $200, you could forgive most of the issues. It doesn't do that much, but it has a few cool features - and hey, it was cheap, right?

        That's not really how Apple normally operates - they are always trying to claim the luxury high-ground and charge accordingly. But the price is simply too high for the average buyer to be interested in, when the feature set is relatively unappealing.

        My own experiences with the Moto 360 have been largely positive, because it was really cheap (got it for $110 on eBay) and for that kind of money, it's a great gadget. I get a watch that appeals to my geeky nature, tracks my sleep, allows me to control my phone's functions without touching it, get my notifications silently on my wrist and (almost an afterthought) tells the time. The battery life is easily 24 hours and a full charge only takes about an hour. And with a $15 stainless steel band, it looks great, which is really important for a watch.

        If I had paid the full $400 retail price, it would still be a cool watch but there's no way I'd be happy with it. It just doesn't do enough to justify that kind of money. But at a low price, the whole value proposition changes and it feels like a total bargain. No regrets....

        Last edited 28/04/16 1:42 pm

    This article makes my confirmation bias happy - for all of these reasons I have never bought one, but the niggling tech nerd in the back of my mind thinks they're cool and would like one.

    I'm a happy Garmin watch user, I have the D2 Bravo and think it's fantastic. Unlike the Apple watch it always show's the time, the battery lasts a week between charges, the only downside is it's not touchscreen, but then I don't really need to use it for any input other than using the buttons.

    I like the notifications, but still do use my phone to read all but short txt/emails, and there are some useful apps (although nothing I can't live without). The reason I went with the D2 was as a backup in the cockpit for flying, but the new Fenix is pretty much the same thing without the aviation apps.

    Shocking.... I didn't even have to buy one to realise it would be rubbish. Just it's pathetic battery life was enough. I still don't understand why anyone would want to start an RF emitting device to their wrists 24/7

    You can unlock your Apple Watch by unlocking your iPhone (With Touch ID if you have it enabled) so you don't have to type the passcode in on the watch. So maybe that will un-kill it for you?

    So had the watch going 4 months now.... basically I agree with everything said.

    Another silly thing... the phone in my pocket is ringing loud and the watch dumbly rings as well even though they are less than a metre apart and surely the phone must know the watch is on my wrist....possibly even looking at the watch face.....

    A lot of watch-apps seem to have been quickly developed with very little thought and shoved out the door because it was the thing to do.

    A good thing is the find my phone button.... A lot quicker than heading to a website/device to ping your iphone.

    I actually really like my Apple Watch. I bought the Sport, because I buy pretty much every new device, and I didn't want to spend too much on something I didn't end up liking or using much.

    I used to wear a Pebble, and also bought a Pebble Time Steel because I liked it so much. I did get sick of the fitness apps like Misfit and UP losing sync all the time, and the occasional struggle to get it to connect when it lost sync.

    The Apple Watch is something else, though. I like being able to see my texts when I'm in the middle of something, the alarms are fantastic, and the fitness app has encouraged me to successfully lose weight through its hourly guilt trips, and few-hourly reminders that I haven't met my fitness goal.

    It's not a device that does everything, but it notifies me about everything I need to know, the battery life is fine for me (I charge it next to my bed and use it as my bedside clock, it's never dropped below 50%), and I've found it to be quite easy to use and intuitive.

    It works for me, it does what it's meant to, and I find myself feeling sort of naked without it. I bought it with low expectations, but it actually isn't a purchase I regret.

    I am happy with mine - none of the issues he mentions - no spinny wheels accessing weather, not slow that I have noticed. If your life involves meetings and calendars it is pretty magic, but no face is useful except the "utility" one. Useful to control music/podcast playback without pulling out the phone, "record this" is handy app to grab audio. Siri is kinda spooky always on, but seem to work. The subtle "haptic taps" of alerts are pretty good. Makes a very nice bedside/travel clock in "sideways mode" with a very subtle trick - any nearby tap on the bedside table wakes it to show the time.

    Battery is an issue though, agreed. As is default cable charge setup (tends to come loose and does not support nightstand mode) - cheap beside adaptor stand best purchase I made, apple should just include one.

    Gizmodo has this habit of making blanket statements that are worse than the blanket statements I usually make, and that's pretty bad. Case in point, "That’s because it doesn’t really do anything that anyone needs".

    If you have a cell phone, in general, you don't really need a watch at all, you know? Why? Because the phone always has the correct time. Nevertheless, people still buy watches.

      Yeah it's poorly worded, but you get the gist.

      FYI if all you want is to tell the time you can get a pretty awesome designer watch for less than the $800 you'll have to fork out for the regular apple watch.

      Plus battery life is 25 years not 24 hours...

    Great insight! Bordering on blind rage, but refreshingly candid at least. Reminds me of my first reaction to the iPad. But why, I thought, wouldn't I just do all that on a computer where I'm 100x more productive? It finally clicked when I read a (NYT I think) article that described it as a coffee table device. Then it all clicked, and I can't imagine not having it while sitting on the couch at the end of the day to control the tunes, check the news and browse Fecebook. I wonder if we're still waiting for the Smart Watch's "coffee table" moment. kelaher's comment gives a glimpse at what it would look like...

    I wanted something that would do all my golf shot tracking, I have the phone app but pulling the phone out 70 times a round (okay maybe 100 times per round) is just irritating, to the point where if I'm playing with a different group I won't bother.

    So I was looking at spending a significant amount of cash just to have a decent app on the wrist. I don't think the pebble will do this? Maybe some of the android wear ones will work with the app, but I was pretty sure it was just the iwatch so far. I'm talking about golflogix if anybody knows for certain.

    So the purchase was almost justified solely for that app, if it did basics like time and notifications it was going to be a winner for me.

    Last edited 27/04/16 9:42 am

    All tech has to start somewhere, some people just lack the foresight to see it coming. I heard the same things when the iPhone was released without a keyboard... people went nuts, now every phone is a replica of it.

    Peoples expectation of Apple is a little over the top sometimes. I love apple products and I knew the first gen was not going to be good, I knew it when I found out the chipset was based on 28nm tech. There is a reason for this and that the development time spend on the first gen.

    The next gen will kick goals.

    I got mine in early January and while I don’t think it’s anything amazing, I don’t think it’s rubbish either. Basically all I use it for is basic watch functionality, fitness, reading texts and notifications. I do like using Siri to change the music while I’m driving too. I do wish the watch face was more customisable in that I could use some of the fitness tracking stats on it, like being able to see my step count would be nice. Music controls could be a little more accessible too.

    This is a very flawed article which does not give a proper review of the product. You can't say "I bought an Apple Watch, didn't wear it correctly, didn't use it correctly and it didn't work well". That's like saying "I bought a wrench and I couldn't hold it with my teeth and it wouldn't hammer a screw into my wall". Not a very good tech review if it's not given a fair go.

    My review of it (while wearing it correctly... and no you don't have to strap it tight at all!)
    - Setup was simple, no pin numbers/passwords to worry about, just scan the watch when prompted with your iPhone camera.
    - Clean / simple looks
    - The sensor does have to be reasonbly in contact with your wrist (can't expect too much if your watch is worn very loose...)
    - The watch woke up whenever I looked at it (tried it strapped very loose and it thats the only time it doesn't 100% recognise the gesture)
    - The watch remained unlocked while it was on my wrist and unlocked with my iPhone (TouchID), which is also an option
    - Comfortable with the Silicone strap
    - The digital dial does not work as you first expect it to (like the author has said), but after about an hour or so, you get used to it. It's basically a scroll wheel or a back button when pressed - simple.
    - It's slower than I expected with some apps
    - The stock watch faces are pretty good with some customisation of what elements (called complications) you want displayed (e.g. Activity/Calender/Battery/Date/Weather etc.)
    - Wish you could customise it a bit more or download third party faces
    - Glances are useful and you can customise what you want to see in which order.
    - Missing a reminders app, but you can download a free app that reads from your existing apple reminders
    - Missing a calculator (but you can download one).
    - Fitness reminders (stand every hour, steps, exercise) are very useful for me
    - Notifications are awesome.. don't need to pull out my phone
    - SMS reply - Canned messages are customizable (from the iPhone App), but Siri dictation is easier and works for me and most times better than pulling out my phone to type out a short message.
    - Siri does not do 'Shazam' integrated, but you can still use the shazam app.
    - The circular springboard is interesting, but quite usable.
    - Apple Pay... didn't get to use it, but seems pretty straight forward, just double click the second button and wave your hand?
    - Accepting / Making a call using the watch for speaker and mic is pretty good in resonably quiet areas. Good when cutting onions!
    - You wouldn't want to use speaker phone on any device in a noisy environment.
    - You can play a few games on there (e.g. Solitare, but why would you?... but you can!)

    All in all, it does pretty well, especially with the help of Siri on your wrist. You wouldn't want to do too much with any screen this small, regardless of whether it's an Apple or other brand watch.

    What do I wish it could do?

    - Take over the world
    - ... not much else really?

    In conclusion... wear the watch correctly and it works as advertised!

      Nice to hear your thoughts on the watch -- this story isn't so much a review as an opinion piece, however. If you want to read Gizmodo's reviews on the Apple Watch you can find both Australian and US reviews further back on the site:

      http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2015/04/apple-watch-australian-review/
      http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2015/05/i-beta-tested-the-apple-watch-so-you-dont-have-to/

    I'm really sad they have lost sight of their origins and have drifted so far into brand snobbery & gimmick territory. This watch has been a waste of money for me. I've been an Apple die hard fan for about 15 years now, but I'm getting less and less enthusiastic about the gear they have been pumping out. Too much hype and not nearly enough content. I see Apple going the way of Sony after the Walkman died out. When they start to shrink, they will shrink fast because the products are too proprietary, and are not competitive in terms of technology, performance, features, or price anymore... Apple like Sony thinks they can just sell off the brand name and not merit. Such a shame!

      first of all, they're not "pumping out gear".......they made a smartwatch, everything else is just a new version of the old ipad, mac, iphone etc.... as they've been doing for years.

    Finish this saying:

    A fool and his money are.......

    I have the gear s2 classic and have a good experience with it, I would expect the Apply watch to be better given the price point. I guess if you pay more you expect perfection, not sure why apple went rectangle it just looks like a the Casio watch of yester year.

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