A watch can tell you a lot about a person. Do they care more about utility or fashion? Are their tastes modest or lavish? Even how adorned the watch face is can tell you a lot about a person. A more complete & complicated face can tell you whether the person cares greatly about punctuality to the second, whereas a blank face, such as a Movado or Guess, can tell you that the person is only interested in the general estimate of the time.
I doubt many people take notice of such things. In my observations, most people register another person's watch. I've taken notice of this more than usual the past six weeks when I took off my Seiko 5 and put on my 42 mm Space Gray Apple Watch Sport.
I honestly expected strangers to notice and ask me questions about it. My friends, of course, knew I was getting it and naturally asked about it. But it took a solid three weeks before a stranger noticed, and it was when I pulled up Passbook for the local theater's rewards program. The clerk immediately noticed then, but, really, how could he not? It was obvious. Likewise, the only other times anyone has noticed have been for times I have used the Watch for Apple Pay or Passbook.
Outside of those obvious contexts, the Apple Watch is just another watch to almost everyone out there.
And it really is a fantastic timepiece. But it is also more than that.
It's a companion.
Let's start with the basics. The Apple Watch is an excellent watch, and it is priced comparatively to other great watches. Being digital, it is intensely accurate — ± 50 milliseconds of the global time standard.
It's also a handsome and fashionable timepiece. I'm really glad I went with the Space Gray model, as I love the darker toned metal, and the black band it came with. It honestly works with any style of wardrobe I choose. And when you are not using the Watch, the cover glass is pitch black. It draws no attention to itself. It is humble and unassuming.
One feature of the Apple Watch that traditional watches cannot replicate is that it truly can fit for any occasion. It comes with a myriad of choices of watch faces, and a number of them offer a great level of granular customization. You can adorn the face with as little or as much complication as you want, and even change the colors of some elements to match what you are wearing. My favorite is the Utility face, and I generally have the accent color for the date & second hand set to orange, my personal favorite color.
The Utility face is greatly customizable. It can be set to show numbers for all twelve hour positions, or just the four cardinals, or none at all. Another favorite is the Color face, set to either a bright blue or orange, which reminds me a bit of Tron.
No matter the occasion, the Watch is a companion to your style.
A great deal of the watch faces have little bits of data you can add called Complications. They are like little widgets. You can set things such as activity level (more on that later), the weather, timer, calendar, sunrise/sunset, moon phase, and the time of various cities via the World Clock.
The standards I keep on my beloved Utility face are Activity, Timer, and Weather. Tapping one of them will switch you over into the corresponding app. I love this in the morning as I am getting ready. I'll glance at my Watch to see the current weather, and with a tap on that Complication, I can check the hourly forecast for the day. Sometimes I take a peek at the 10-day forecast to build a mental picture of how the week looks. It seems Monday will be an opportune time to mow the lawn.
It turns out mowing the lawn is quite the workout. I have the data to prove it thanks to the Watch. Of course, I'm the one using an old school, Chris-powered reel mower, so it better be a workout.
Fitness is one aspect where the Watch has been shining as a companion. The three activity rings — pink for active movement, green for exercise at a brisk walk or above, and blue for 1 minute of standing movement per hour — are genius and provide a great deal of motivation for me to move more.
The pink Move ring, as Apple calls it, measures your active caloric burn throughout the day. By default, it starts you off with a rather attainable daily goal. When you meet that every day for the week, the start of the next week will prompt you to increase your goal and suggest a new goal. You can adjust that up or down. I've become a bit obsessive about completing my Move ring each day. I had a 34 day streak going until I missed it by 15 calories when my wife & I were watching something. Don't worry, I'll get it back.
The green Exercise ring is the bane of my existence right now. For the past two months I have gone on a daily walk during my lunch break from work. At first I could log only about a half mile in 20 minutes. Now I can do about 1 to 1.25 miles in that time. Yet at my new normal walk pace it isn't enough to budge that dang green ring. I don't know what speed Apple considers a brisk walk, but I have to be near jogging to get the ring moving. I hope this gets adjusted in a software update, because it feels a bit off.
That said, it logs perfectly when I go for a run or a bike ride, or when I mow the lawn of all things. I have a feeling a great deal of the Exercise ring is due to heart rate, and I must not be getting my heart rate up enough when walking to count. But mowing the lawn does the trick quite well. Oh, did I mention that the back of the Watch is a heart rate monitor? Well, it is.
Finally, the blue Stand ring is changing my health for the better, and I love it. It's not only helping my physical health, but also my mental health. I'm the type of person who will get tunnel visioned on my work and I will sit at my desk for four hours straight before standing. And when that happens it hurts to stand up. And my eyes hurt from being so focused on a screen.
Now, if I have been sitting from the top of the hour to fifty minutes past, the Watch will give me a tap on the wrist. It's hard to ignore. I glance at the screen and it says it is time to stand up and move around for at least one minute. I obey, rise from my chair, and walk about the house. I say hi to my wife, give her a kiss, and ask her how she's been the past hour. We connect for a moment, and I get myself something to drink. Another tap, the minute is up.
It's now a new routine. I get a mental break from my work. A brief moment to unplug and step away. My eyes thank me for the change of scenery. My legs appreciate the movement.
Now, if I have not been sedentary for those 50 minutes into an hour, the Watch logs that and credits the hour to my Stand ring, and forgoes the nudge on the wrist. I also appreciate that, too. I rarely feel a tap to stand up & move on a weekend.
The Watch has become my fitness companion.
The single greatest thing about the Watch has been that I am looking at my iPhone less.
It used to be that my phone would vibrate and make a sound, and I would instinctively pull my phone out from my pocket, and swipe on the notification to deal with it. But I wouldn't stop there. The next thing I knew I was checking another app, then maybe another. And ten minutes have passed. I never really noticed this as a problem, but in retrospect it wore on me.
Some of the first things I did when setting up my Apple Watch was to silence it, and limit which things I'd allow the phone to send over as notifications. Now, my phone doesn't explicitly notify me for most things, and my watch gives me gentle taps on the wrist instead.
The beautiful part is that I've gained more restraint in whether or not to act on a notification. My wrist is tapped, I glance to see a short preview of the notification, and often I just turn my wrist away to queue the notification to be acted upon later. Most things don't require my immediate attention, and now I can tell that in seconds with little effort.
It's almost like having a well-known assistant who can give you non-verbal cues as to whether your attention is really needed or not.
I'd be remiss to make a comparison about the Watch being like an assistant with mentioning Apple digital assistant Siri. I'll admit I was pretty bearish on Siri for the Watch as Siri has never been all that stellar on iOS. But somehow, Siri is really good on the Watch. This is important, because Siri is the main way you interact with the Watch. Dictation is almost always spot on with the Watch, more so than it ever has been (or still is) with the iPhone. I've even found Siri to be responsive to a near whisper if I hold the Watch a little closer.
She also doesn't talk to you, at least, not out loud like she does on iPhone. Instead, Siri on Apple Watch communicates solely via text. And I kind of like that. It almost feels more personal since it is unlikely for someone else to be looking on, whereas the verbal aspect of Siri on iPhone can be heard by anyone around you.
Between the subtle approach to notifications and a faster, more accurate, and — dare I say — more intimate Siri, the Watch makes an impressive companion as an assistant.
The Little Things
Apple Watch wouldn't be an Apple product if it didn't make us appreciate the little things. And there are many of them to be appreciated.
In no particular order:
- The ability for the Watch to easily change bands is amazing. With the simple press of a button on the underside the strap slides off the case, and a new one can slide right in. It's amazing other watches have never done this.
- The Sport band is extremely comfortable. I didn't expect it to be. I expected it to feel plasticy or rubbery, but it feels like neither. It is soft & feels fantastic. I can see why Apple insists on using the mouthful of a word fluoroelastomer instead of simply rubber, as it is a totally different grade of material warranting a higher expectation.
- I love using the Digital Crown. The crown on traditional watches is something you use maybe twice a year to set the time for daylight savings. On Apple Watch, the crown is used constantly. It's how you scroll a text view or longer notification or zoom in and out of maps (and it is so smooth when scrolling. It glides like it is greased with butter). Pressing it is akin to the iPhone's Home button. Double pressing it switches you between the last two apps used. Pressing & holding manually activates Siri.
- I was impressed by how compact the Watch is, even the larger 42 mm. The pictures on Apple's site don't do it justice here. The pictures make it look rather thick & cumbersome, and it is anything but. In fact, it is the same thickness as my Seiko 5, and has about the same height x width footprint. It really does feel like a watch, not a miniature wearable computer.
- This is the first Apple device to be water resistant, and it is really water resistant. It appears to surpass Apple's very cautious recommendations. I've seen videos of folks swimming with it, or leaving it at the bottom of a pool for an hour without problem. I've personally ran with it in the rain, done the dishes numerous times, and even wore it in the shower once, all without issue. It's a very rugged little watch.
- Sending my heartbeat to a friend is fun because it weirds them out. Receiving a heartbeat from a friend, well, weirds me out. I do think it'd be a great feature if my wife ever decides she wants an Apple Watch, especially on the rare times one of us is traveling without the other. I can see having an appreciation for sending & receiving heartbeats with her, much like I appreciate FaceTime in that regard.
- Don't worry about battery life. I have rarely had it dip below 30% charge, even with higher usage on a family trip to Chicago, where I was getting directions. It truly is all-day battery. And, since I am looking at my iPhone less frequently, my battery life has been better day-to-day on that, as well.
The fact that the Apple Watch is a watch first and foremost — and an excellent watch at that — makes it an excellent companion with regard to style and daily utility. Add to that an amazing fitness tracker that measures many aspects of my health, and improving on aspects I didn't expect it to, makes it a companion on the journey to a better me. Finally it is my companion as a well-timed assistant, keeping me focused on the things that carry greater importance, and leaving the chaff to be dealt with at a later time.
I was skeptical about how the Apple Watch would fit into my life. I questioned whether I really needed yet another device. But Apple Watch is not just any other device. It is my new watch for any occasion, in pretty much any environment, helping me be healthier, and helping form a new habit to be intentional in my interactions with my devices and with other people.