By Dan Moren
March 31, 2017 4:55 PM PT
By Request: Wearing in its welcome
Member Brent asks, Is @dmoren an Apple Watch wearer at all?
So glad you asked, Brent. Yes! I am a devoted Apple Watch wearer, though as I look down at my wrist right now, I realize I do not have it on. (Some mornings when I wake up early and hang out in my…let’s say casual wear for a while, I don’t put it on until I get totally dressed.)
The Apple Watch has managed to become a significant part of my life over the last couple years. Not that it’s become totally indispensable, because if you asked me to part with that or any of my other devices, it would probably be the first to go. But there are things that it does that nothing else can do—even if those things are largely secondary to my everyday life.
So, let’s run down what I consider the most important features of the Apple Watch in my everyday life.
Notifications: Number one with a haptic. I still love the ability to get texts, emails, warnings of impending rain, and even—depressing as they often are these days—news alerts on my wrist. The information truly is glanceable, and I don’t get sucked in as I do when I look at my phone. It’s also much easier to take a surreptitious glance at it, or even ignore anything beyond the buzz on my wrist. I don’t usually dive deeply into a notification but I do fairly often use the built-in reply abilities to send back quick messages.
Workouts/Activity: As I’ve been training to run a 10K in a little under a month, the Watch has been helpful in my workout regimen. Not as much as I’d like, however, in large part due to the somewhat underwhelming nature of the Apple Watch’s integration with my chosen training app—Nike+ Run Club—as well as the unreliability of third-party apps on the Watch in general. (Slow performance, crashes, and so on.) I even actively switch watch bands when I go to the gym, falling back on my original black sport band instead of the newer black/gray nylon band I wear most days. But I did use the Workout app when I ran a 5K a couple weeks back, and it was handy to check on my time and distance during the run. I also have a few people I do Activity sharing with—that’s a feature I actually really like that I think Apple has undersold.
Watchface: Prior to the Apple Watch, I hadn’t regularly worn a timepiece in several years. The Apple Watch has definitely gotten me back into it, however, especially spoiling me for information on my wrist. I love having the weather, my pedometer, and my next appointment time available at a moment’s notice. And I really enjoy switching between a couple different watchfaces: I particularly enjoy the analog Activity face to keep an eye on how close I am to closing my rings.
Apple Pay: I use this every single time I go to the grocery store. Which is great, because I have definitely left my phone in the car by accident several times. (I’ve also used the Reminders app, which has my shopping list in it, on those occasions, which has been a lifesaver.) I think I’ve had Apple Pay fail maybe once, and if I recall, it was actually a bug where it just wouldn’t come up when I double-clicked the side button. A restart fixed it.
Third-party apps: Perhaps the biggest letdown of the Watch still remains third-party apps. There are a few I use—Pedometer++, for example, and sometimes the aforementioned Nike+ Run Club—but even with the addition of the Dock in watchOS 3, I find that I don’t generally stray too far from Apple’s own built-in functions. Besides Pedometer++, CARROT Weather is the only third-party app in the Dock—and really it’s just there in case I tap on the watchface complication. The Home screen on the watch has gotten if anything more unwieldy: I have a hard time finding an app when I actually want to launch it.
Siri: I want to love the voice-control part of the Apple Watch, and when it works, it’s pretty handy. Unfortunately, for me it often doesn’t work as much as it does: it doesn’t hear my “Hey Siri,” or I find myself sitting around waiting for it to “tap me when it’s ready.” It’s better than it used to be, but it’s still generally less reliable than Siri on my phone.
Features I find myself using pretty often: the Timer, the ability to ping my iPhone, Heart rate (more as a curiosity; the Health app on the iPhone has a better overall look at it which is more interesting), World Clock (more when my girlfriend was in a different time zone).
Features I rarely, if ever, use: Music, Apple TV Remote, Digital Touch, Home (funny, given how much smart home stuff I have, but Alexa or the iPhone is almost always faster), Passbook (much more convenient on the phone, especially for scanning at the airport), Phone (only on rare occasions when I can’t find my iPhone and the phone is actually ringing—though I do use it to dismiss spam phone calls fairly regularly), Photos (too small to be of interest, though I do like the Photo/Photos watchfaces), Maps (it comes up automatically when I use Maps on my phone, but I still find the haptics hard to interpret).
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @firstname.lastname@example.org or reach him by email at email@example.com. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is now available for pre-order.]