Two weeks with the Apple Watch

watch shot

It’s been over two weeks – 16 days actually – since I started wearing Apple’s latest piece of beautiful tech on my wrist. Has it changed my life? No. Has it made me realise just how bad my sedentary, day-at-the-desk working life was getting? Absolutely. Has it turned me into a calorie counting, exercise biking, cross training, cardio fitness freak? LOL, fuck no.

What it has made me do though is take more of an interest in my health, something I didn’t really expect to get out of it.

High points:

  • Activity tracking. I’ve never been a fan of walking, except to get from point a to point b, but the visibility the watch gives me has prompted me to get out and walking more
  • Workout tracking. Kind of the same as above, but the watch allows you to track a period of walking, running, cycling, etc. with greater detail and gives you all the tools to track your progress over time
  • Notifications. I don’t have my phone out and on the table, desk, whatever as much as I used to. I can check MMS, email, and screen incoming phone calls without ever taking my phone out of my pocket
  • Battery life. Yeah, weird I know, but it’s nearly midnight, I’ve had the thing on my wrist all day from 7am onwards and the battery just dipped below 50%. It tracks my steps taken and my heart rate on a constant basis, I send and receive texts from it, and the battery life isn’t shit

Low points:

  • Honestly, I can’t think of any. This thing is fucking amazing. It’s a beautiful piece of hardware, the software on it is so damn good and it’s managed to prompt me to get out and walking more than I really thought possible.

The activity tracking is the big ticket item for me, or at least the one that is most used. The Activity app gives you three circles to fill in through your day by meeting your predefined targets: calories, exercise and standing time. Calories burned sums active and resting calories. My guess is that there’s some funky calculations based on age and weight (resting) and how much activity you’re doing (active). Exercise time is based on how much time you spend moving around at a brisk walk or above. Stand time is more for those people stuck at a desk – it represents the number of hours in a day that you spent standing for at least 1 minute.

These targets were set when I first set up the watch. The only way to update anything other than the calorie target is to un-pair and repair the watch and set your activity targets again – light, medium or high. I chose light to start with but may change it. I don’t really want to un-pair the watch again to do that though so hopefully that’s one of the changes in WatchOS2.0.

The one thing I didn’t foresee using so much but have pretty much every day since I first got it is the workout app. I’m not sure if it’s because I decided that being overweight shouldn’t be something I needed to just live with or the fact that I was able to balance a beer bottle on my stomach and drink out of it, but whatever, the workout app fitted in nicely with my desire to move around a little more.

Barring a couple of bad indoor days, the last fortnight and bit have seen me either walking for 20 minutes or riding the exercise bike for the same. All the data ends up in the Health app. It’s pretty cool – I can view steps taken, calories burned, workouts, heart rate, stairs climbed as well as weight, BMI and sleep. Admittedly the last three aren’t from the Watch (more on that in another post) but you get the idea. Basically, the Watch and the associated software provides a level of visibility I’d never thought I’d use.

There’s other good stuff too. Being able to quickly reply to a text with a canned response (“okay”, “thanks”, “can I call you later?”, etc.) without ever having to take my phone out of my pocket. That’s a pretty big one. Same with phone calls: I can answer or ignore one from the watch. Yes, it’s a little dinky talking to your wrist, but you can take your phone out and continue the conversation there. It’s easier if you’re wearing headphones of course.

Given that my phone is usually inside a coat or jacket pocket, being able to control music without taking it out is also pretty handy. Particularly in winter. There’s also a remote that allows me to control AppleTV’s when I’m at home. Not to mention control iTunes music that plays through the amp.

Other things that I find really handy:

  • Shazam (app for identifying a song you’re hearing) on my wrist
  • Alarms that are easy to set (“Hey Siri, set an alarm for twenty minutes”) and impossible to miss
  • Lists of stuff (via Clear)
  • Quick glance at emails
  • Calendar app where it’s easy to view (tap on the date on most of the watch faces)
  • Turn by turn navigation via Maps (though it’s weird at first with the watch tapping on your wrist – 12 taps to turn right, 3 pairs of 2 taps to turn left)

Yes, a Fitbit could do, well, some of those things. It certainly does activity and workout tracking with the right apps, but for me it didn’t give me the additional functionality I have with the watch. Each to their own though.

Like a lot of hardware, the Apple Watch isn’t for everyone. It might not suit your lifestyle. Given that it starts at $500 for the entry level model, it might not suit your budget. But if you think you might get the use out of the activity tracking like I have, and some of the other features are useful enough to you . . . It might be something you should take a look at.

 

James

 

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