A skeptic’s guide to Apple Watch (part 2)

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Find out how I’m getting on with Apple Watch, after almost a week with the tech giant’s latest device.

In my previous article, I shared my first impressions of Apple Watch whilst I give Apple’s newest device a whirl over the course of 14 days. In this, the second and final instalment in the series, I’m going to take a look at how I’ve been using the watch during the course of (almost) my first week with the device.

So, it’s now Friday, which means I’m six days into my Apple Watch experiment and, I have to say, so far I’m only mildly impressed with the device.


I’ve been using it every day from morning until night and I’ve still not had any battery woes, which has to be a positive, and it’s also proven its worth in the notification department – I’ve quickly and easily been able to review and take action on both emails and instant messages (from Slack, for instance) with no trouble, meaning less work for me to do when I’m back at my desk or when looking back at my phone.

 Typically, the first things I do on a morning with Apple Watch are check the weather and my train times. I commute to work on a daily basis, so the National Rail app makes it easy for me to see if there’s any delays on my line which could impact the time I reach work. Thankfully – and not necessarily unusually, I may add – everything’s been on time, but it’s still nice to know that this information is right there on my wrist. I’ve had the National Rail app installed on my iPhone since forever, I think, but it’s not an app I regularly used to check until I started wearing Apple Watch, and this has caught me out a few times in the past, leaving me stranded at a train station for hours waiting for a train that never arrives.

Similarly, the weather app has a nice view whereby I can see the conditions of the weather on an hourly basis just by switching to this view using a long press on the screen. Again, it’s something that’s already in iOS’s native weather app, but it’s been more convenient to check on my wrist than it ever has been on iPhone.

Next up to bat, it’s the built-in music app, which links directly to my phone and allows me to control what’s playing, as well as selecting other music to play from my entire library. Before Tuesday, when Apple launched Apple Music, my entire music experience was completely handled by Spotify which, although lacking a dedicated Apple Watch app, did work with the built-in Music Glance (think iOS’s Notification Centre extensions), so I could play, pause and skip backwards and forwards through tracks with a simple swipe up on the clock face. It’s pretty novel to be able to do this without ever touching my phone, and I’ve found that I’ve actually been leaving my phone in my pocket for almost my entire train journey, solely using Apple Watch to navigate through tracks. Some would argue that I could do this just as easily previously through inline controls found on Apple’s own EarPods as well as most third-party headphones, and that’s absolutely true, but it’s nice to see what’s playing and navigate through tracks ‘smartly’, without doing it blind just by using inline controls.


A nice little touch is the ability to view album artwork for the currently playing track which, although small, is a welcome addition. Finally, since Apple launched Apple Music this past Tuesday, I’ve been predominantly using that as opposed to Spotify, and one of the best touches is being able to mark a track as ‘Loved’ when listening to one of the many curated radio stations which is a key feature of Apple Music. I’ve been doing this a lot over the past few days, and it’s a much better way of virtually thumbs up or thumbs downing a track without having to constantly switch back to my phone.

Apple Watch in the office

Whilst I’m in the office, Apple Watch takes a bit of a backseat. I tend not to really do much with it other than actioning emails and viewing Slack notifications because, to be honest, it doesn’t do much useful that I’d like in the office. The biggest use for Apple Watch that I’ve found during the day is to delete the countless emails I get from one source or another that would just clog up my inbox until I get around to sorting them out later in the day. Due to the small size of the screen, I tend not to actually read any emails on Apple Watch, rather, I  take a cursory glance at who the email is from and the subject line, before quickly deciding whether to keep it or ditch it. It’s usually the latter. Emails themselves, then, are pretty unintuitive on Apple Watch, too. You can’t reply to them on there (to the best of my knowledge, anyway) and, again, due to the small screen size, all you see are text-only versions of emails, which look awful and can go on forever, depending on how well the sender’s formatted their plain-text email variations.

I also find myself sending short, stock replies to text messages I receive during the day, or the odd Apple Watch emoji which, whilst fun, isn’t a great way to communicate. Apple Watch does give you the option to speak into the device and Siri will automatically convert what you dictate to text, but I haven’t used that particular feature too much, as I don’t really want to  look like a bit of a prat speaking into my watch all the time – especially in a crowded office!

Briefly, I tried out the watch’s Workout app (‘Shock! Horror!’, as those of you who know me personally will probably cry), and again, I found this decidedly lacking. I’ve got a Jawbone UP and this tracks my (few and far between) workouts in a much more effective and easy to see way that Apple Watch and its companion Activity iOS app. Other than tracking my heart rate, which is something UP sadly doesn’t do, there’s nothing special here which isn’t present in the far cheaper and, in my opinion, far better lifestyle device from Jawbone. The UP also has support for far more activities than Apple Watch, such as Tennis – my preferred choice of activity.

Finally, I’d like to draw attention to Apple Watch’s potential. There’s been a fair few times that I’ve notifications come through to Apple Watch from my iPhone, but they’re completely useless – for instance, Snapchat and Whatsapp both push updates to the device, but it’s impossible to do anything with the notifications themselves other than simply dismiss them, forcing me to switch back to iPhone anyway to see the message or photo. I think I’d find my experience with the device much better if more apps supported it – which is obviously not a reflection on Apple’s device, but rather developers of third-party apps who haven’t yet added support for it. Once watchOS 2 is released later this year, I’d like to see more developers add support for the watch, which I’m hoping will heighten the experience and make the watch less of a notification hub and more useful.

To conclude, I’m still fairly certain I don’t need Apple Watch, and I’m also standing by my decision to return it just before my 14 day return window expires – probably as early as this coming Monday – but I am impressed by how neat a device it is. There’s a lot of potential here and I’m extremely interested to see how the tech matures from both a hardware and software perspective over the coming months and years as newer generations are announced, but for now, I wouldn’t recommend Apple Watch. It’s cool, and that’s certainly no small thing, but it’s effectively just a glorified, expensive and unnecessary second screen for notifications.

My final word? Apple Watch – in its current capacity and with its current capabilities – is nothing more than an accessory.

A Marvellous blog by Alex

Alex enjoys films, great TV shows, developing websites and (apparently) writing about himself in the third person.

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