Posted on Thu 21 January 2016

How I use my Apple Watch

I find it interesting to read about how other people use their Apple Watches, and whether they're still using them months after the novelty has worn off. I thought I'd join the fray by sharing my own experience so far.

I got an Apple Watch in September, as a very early birthday present. I'd originally planned to wait for v2 of the watch, hoping to get better battery life, faster connection between watch apps and my phone, and support for sleep tracking. But by around August/September I'd seen so many of the apps I use on my phone add watch versions that I decided I wanted a v1. I was also keen on having better integration with my phone, as the Pebble is quite limited when connecting to an iPhone, so I couldn't control my Podcast player, for instance, as only the bult-in music app connected to Pebble's player controls.

I've now had my Apple Watch for about four months, and I still wear it every single day. I was already a "watch person", giving up my Swatch for a Pebble, then my Pebble for an Apple Watch.

Here's what I love about my Apple Watch so far:

More info on my watchface

I use the Modular watchface exclusively, with widgets for the weather, my watch's battery status, my activity as tracked by the watch, and the current date. The date is a Fantastical complication, so I can tap it to go straight to my calendar. The other third-party complications I use right now are CARROT weather (large complication), and Pocket Weather (small). CARROT includes lots of detail in its large complication, but it uses Forecast.io which is usually off by a few degrees in Australia. I keep the small Pocket Weather complication on the watchface so I can quickly tap into the app, which has accurate weather data for Australia, but lacks a useful complication like CARROT (the small one doesn't even show current temperature—only today's high temp).

Interactive notifications

I've only started interacting with notifications since getting my watch, even though they've been available on my iPhone for a while. For some reason, I never really "got" how interactive notifications worked, or why they were so useful, until I saw the watch versions. I often archive or delete emails on my watch, dismiss notifications after reading them on my watch, and even reply to messages sometimes from watch notifications.

Quick access to apps

I've found a few apps are really handy to have on my watch. In particular, Momentum for habit tracking, Checkie for checking in (connects to Swarm), Sumptus for tracking expenses, Runkeeper for tracking runs, and Deliveries for those times I'm constantly refreshing to see when a package while arrive.

Connection to my phone

One of the ways I use my watch most often is to skip ads in podcasts, or skip to the next podcast when I get to the end credits/wrap-up. It's really quick and easy to pop up the music control glance and hit skip a few times. I found Overcast's controls even more useful, but since third-party apps can't have interactive glances yet, it's quicker to use the built-in glance. I've also used my watch to call my phone a couple of times when I couldn't figure out where it was.

So far, I'm really happy with my watch. I wish I had a way to force watch apps to update, as they often get out of sync with their iPhone counterparts, and I wish apps were faster. More battery life would be really handy, but I find the watch so useful that I'm willing to put in the effort to charge it every day. I actually get around 1.5 days total out of each charge, so forgetting to charge at night usually means I can pop it on the charger when I wake up, and it won't have died overnight.

I'd also like to see the second button repurposed in v2. I find it ridiculous that of the two buttons on the watch, one is entirely dedicated to opening a contacts view. I've never used this. It's nonsense on stilts if I've ever seen it.

And finally, the layout of apps is nuts. They're far too small for easy tapping (I often mis-tap when trying to open an app) and a swipe moves them around too much. A bit like the original multi-tasking on iOS 9—Apple clearly realised that was hard to use, and made the app previews move more slowly. Now when you swipe between apps on iOS 9 in multi-tasking view, they slide gracefully without bouncing around, and they stop moving when you remove your finger. It's easy to tap the app you want or to slide it up to force quit without having to hold on to it first to stop it moving around.

The Apple Watch app layout has pretty much the exact same problem. Apps continue moving for too long after you stop swiping, so it's hard to get the one you want. I'd be far more happy with an analogous set-up to the iPhone's screens, where app icons are laid out in a grid and I can swipe smoothly between screens. A grid taking up the whole watchface would also make the app icon tap target bigger so there'd be less mis-tapping.

But all in all, I love my watch. I'm curious about the changes we'll see in v2, but I'm not convinced I'll want to upgrade immediately.

Oh, and I also love the strap. I got a black sport band, and I'm so happy with it. The finish feels nice, and the way it does up looks really sleek on my wrist. I hope the holes don't wear out from doing the strap up all the time, because I always use the same hole, but so far it's holding up well.


P.S. I make some stuff you might like: Exist, a personal analytics app to help you understand your life, and Larder, a bookmarking app for developers.

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