I’ve been using an Apple Watch since release day, other than a very brief period after I sold my first gen and thought I was moving on. It seems that the Watch was a little stickier than I thought it would be, and I ended up buying another one soon after and have kept one on my wrist since. Even with the flaws of the Series 0 hardware and watchOS 1 and 2, I found myself missing the instant notifications on my wrist, music control, and the ability to triage messages. After two weeks, I just got tired of looking down at an empty wrist.
I upgraded to a Series 1 Watch when it was released to get the speed upgrade of the new dual-core S1P system-on-a-chip, and the performance has been as good as expected. It runs watchOS 3 smooth as silk, which was even more of an upgrade than the hardware. watchOS 3 effectively smoothed out all of the rough edges and re-focused the Apple Watch on core strengths like fitness and notifications. The added uniformity with iOS (swipe down for Notifications, up for Control Center, press button for app selection) was also a smart move to make the interface more familiar to new users.
Now we have watchOS 4 and its added refinements on the horizon. I just upgraded to the watchOS 4 beta a few days ago, so I’m still getting accustomed to the changes and improvements, myself. As I get started, I am going to start going through some of the good and the bad of the Apple Watch, in general. If you are new to the Watch, or are considering one, let me know if you have specific questions you would like me to cover.
Here it goes for installment one:
The Good- The New Siri Watch Face
When I watched the WWDC Keynote, I wasn’t blown away with the concept of a Siri Watch Face, which is new in watchOS 4. However, I have really appreciated its usefulness in practice, and find myself spending a lot of time with it set as my watch face because of it.
There certainly isn’t anything revolutionary here. Google hit on the card motif idea a while back, but the vertical scroll Apple used to implement it on the watch face is very efficient and easy to use with the Digital Crown.
The usual suspects like Calendar and Reminders are here. What adds usefulness is all of the other options that are available. If you have a Stopwatch, Timers, or Alarms, they will appear in order in the list. If you are playing music, a card will show up for Now Playing, allowing you to jump right into the music app and take control of your music. News headlines will appear, and even the occasional photo or photo album from your iCloud Photo Album.
I also like how easy it is to customize the content that gets displayed. From the Watch app on the iPhone, you can select from Alarms, Breathe, Calendar, Home, News, Now Playing, Photos, Reminders, Stocks, Stopwatch, Timer, Wallet, Weather, and Workout.
And Siri does the rest, and does it quite well, as it turns out. I would love to see third party data from other apps made available here, at some point. However, this is a good start. Another benefit is that people using this will likely help Apple get better at determining the kinds of data users want to see served up.
The Bad- The App Situation
Apple keeps touting the improvements they have made to improve the speed and usefulness of apps. That’s great and all. As far as I can tell, their changes have actually improved things.
Unfortunately, the current problem with apps started before the launch of the Apple Watch. Apple grossly oversold the capabilities of the platform as the next great coming of the App Store. Unfortunately, the small screen just isn’t the place to deliver on that kind of promise. Add in the snail’s pace that most third party apps ran at on Series 0 hardware and watchOS 1, and you had a recipe for disappointment.
There were plenty of developers who jumped into the Watch’s App Store early, looking to make a mark. They believed the Apple hype, and most likely came away very disappointed with the results and user complaints. Unfortunately, despite the improvements delivered by Apple, there is a lot of abandonware in the Watch App Store. Even among apps that have been maintained to some degree, many are not compliant with watchOS 3. This means that, while they may load a little faster, these apps will not update in the background if you place them in the Dock.
For example, I am a big fan of weather apps. This is one of the categories that has a sensible home on the wrist, and there is plenty of room for innovation beyond the stock app. Unfortunately, few of the third parts apps out there work in the Dock. I have used AccuWeather and Weather Underground extensively, but both have to update when you call them up because they just aren’t set up to do it in the background.
I know that the Watch is a limited platform for apps, but there are some categories, such as fitness, location search, weather, and alternate calendar or task apps that do make sense. My hope is that, if the rumors of the addition of LTE in Apple Watch Series 3 are true, that it will improve app operation enough to get developers interested in taking a second look. There is room for the right kinds of apps on the Watch, if Apple can deliver the right conditions for growth.
What do you think of the Apple Watch? Any owners out there? What do you think of the situation with apps on the Watch? If you are using the watchOS 4 beta, what do you think of the Siri Watch Face? Let me know in the Comments section below, on Flipboard, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter @iPadInsightBlog.