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.
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