I have been reporting on Apple for more than 20 years now, and in all that time no product has had such an impact on my life as this little piece of hardware and software. I don’t say that for dramatic effect, it has had a profound effect on the way I live. As you will read later, this is the most personal review I have ever written.
However, before we get there, I need to address a few other items, so let’s get started.
I picked up my Apple Watch from Apple the day before they went on sale to the public. I must admit, I was a bit concerned about using it after reading the initial reviews of the device. They talked about the notification system being just as bothersome as the iPhone and described the watch as having a steep learning curve.
These were exactly the opposite impressions I had of the device after having it on my wrist a couple of times at Apple events, during its introduction. How, after 20 years, could I have misread the watch so badly?
So, while every reporter in the world rushed to get their review of the Apple Watch posted online, I sat and looked at my Apple Watch. I touched it, played with the interface, and I even talked to it.
I needed to know what was so difficult to understand about a device that sits on my wrist, so I put it on and started using it.
The steep learning curve
There is no steep learning curve. Complete bullshit.
Notifications are annoying
This says more about the reviewers ability to use the product than anything. Notifications are completely configurable. Again, complete bullshit.
Apple Watch is a new product and a brand new category for Apple, but fundamentally, it is an Apple product. In order to understand the Apple Watch, you first have to appreciate what Apple does. I’m not saying that in a “I love Apple” kind of way, but you have to have an understanding of how Apple does things.
Having that fundamental understanding of how Apple makes its hardware and software work together, how its user interface works, and how the company brings it all together is key to understanding the watch.
It’s all fundamentally Apple.
When someone asks me how to use an Apple designed interface, I always tell them the same thing: think of the easiest way to do it, and 9 times out of 10, that’s what Apple did. There is that one time that Apple messes up, and something weird happens, but most of time, that advice holds true.
That is the advice I’d give a new user of Apple Watch.
This happened to me on a number of occasions as I began using the watch. For example, when I received a notification on the watch, I could swipe right to left and clear that notification. However, there were other notifications still in the queue—how could I dismiss them all? Surely Apple wouldn’t want me to dismiss each one individually, so the question was, what magic implementation did they put in the watch to make this happen? What would be the easiest way to do it?
I tried a Force Touch and sure enough, “Clear All” popped up on the screen. From that point on, I would Force Touch everything just to see what options it would bring up. There are quite a few—explore and you will find many.
Navigating Apple Watch
The best way to describe navigating the watch is to think of the Digital Crown as your home/back button. No matter where you are in the watch’s interface, you can get back home using the crown.
The crown has more functionality than that—it takes you from the watch face to the app screen, and back again, and you use the crown to activate Siri, which is something I’ve been using a lot.
Many people have commented that Siri is much better on the watch than it ever was on the iPhone. I think that’s true too, but there are some other things to consider with Siri. With the watch, we have to use Siri, so I think we’ve become better at interacting with it, and since we’re using it more, it makes sense that we’ve become better too. The two of those put together gives us the illusion that it was just Apple improving the service, but I think it was all of those things together that have made the experience better.
One of the things I use Siri for is playing music. Just hold the Digital Crown and say what music you want to play—if you’re in the car, or your phone is connected to another external speaker, the music will automatically play through it.
One thing I really like is that when I choose a song to play and say “shuffle,” it will play that song and then shuffle the album that song is on. However, if I choose a band and say “shuffle,” it will play through all of the songs from that band. I like that.
The side button on the Apple Watch immediately opens your friends list. This is where I keep all of the people that I want to communicate with quickly—if they have an Apple Watch, then you can send your heartbeat, doodles and other interactive messages.
Soon after turning on my Apple Watch, I received my first ever doodle. It was from John Gruber and it was probably the funniest conversation I’ve had with him in all the years I’ve known him.
You can tell who has a watch and who doesn’t by the types of messages you can send someone. If they have a watch, you will see the button for the doodle screen, but if they don’t, you will have to send an old fashion message. This is how John knew I had my watch.
If you double-press the side button, you will see your Apple Pay cards. I’ve used this often to purchase things since I started wearing the watch and it’s great. After the payment is made, you receive confirmation and Apple Pay goes away. Simple.
The first full day I had the watch, I drained the battery down to 2 percent. I wondered how long it would be before I completely drained it under normal use—that day has yet to arrive.
When Apple told me the battery would last all day, I was skeptical. Very skeptical. Turns out, they were right. Most nights when I go to bed, I have 25 percent or better remaining on my watch battery.
I should be clear, that the first thing I do in the morning is put on the watch. Taking it off is the last thing I do before going to sleep. It is on my wrist all day long.
Not everything is perfect… yet
The Apple Watch OS is not perfect, but I didn’t expect it to be. There are things that weren’t included, but yet, oddly were included. Many of these things are being added in WatchOS 2, so I won’t go through them all, but there are a few odd ones that I thought I’d mention.
For instance, you can’t reply to an email from the Apple Watch. If you get an alert, you have to go to your phone to reply. Fair enough. Except, if you have a calendar appointment with someone and their email address is in the appointment, you can send them an email from the watch. I think that’s good, but it seems odd that you can send an email from Calendar, but not from Mail.
I also had a few problems with Maps. I started directions from my Watch and, as expected, the screen of my iPhone picked up the map. However, it wouldn’t give verbal turn-by-turn directions through the car’s Bluetooth. As soon as I unlocked the iPhone’s screen, verbal directions started working. Odd.
When I got to a place where I felt comfortable and no longer needed it, I turned off navigation on my watch. However, the phone wouldn’t stop giving directions. In fact, it restarted the navigation on my watch. In order to stop the navigation, I had to stop it on the phone.
These are small things, but worth pointing out. They didn’t really impact the way I use the watch or my overall satisfaction with how it works, they are just weird little things that popped up.
Fitness: information is power
This is where the review gets very personal for me. This is how I lost over 40 pounds using HealthKit and Apple Watch.
I am overweight. Not just a little, but a lot. I smoke, and have for most of my life, I drink, I eat every food that is bad for me, and I just didn’t care. I think a better way to put it is that I didn’t see a way out.
Apple does a very good job of promoting Apple Watch to marathon runners and other athletes that want to stay fit and maintain their perfectly sculptured bodies. I look at that and know I will never be them, so I move on. There are millions of people in my situation that have done the same thing.
About 10 months ago I went out for a walk. That started a transformation for me that I will never forget. A simple walk.
During one of these walks, I was thinking about life, listening to music and I just kept walking. I walked a long time, at least for me, and it felt good. It wasn’t strenuous really, just a walk—turns out it was a three mile walk and I started doing it every single day.
One day, I weighed myself and I had lost five pounds. I was shocked—I ate the same, but yet I’m losing weight.
Then I remembered this technology on my iPhone called HealthKit. It could track my steps, distance, weight and other information about my body. I started using HealthKit every day to see how different things would affect my weight loss and generally how I felt. Did I lose more weight walking in the morning or the afternoon? What foods made me gain weight? Should I skip meals and hope that helps with weight loss?1
I hesitate to say I became obsessed, but I did become more aware of what I did and how it affected me, both physically and mentally.
I looked at every aspect of my life to see what a little change would do for me. I ate my very first yogurt in my life, and I like it. I challenged myself in ways that I never would have before with food and with exercise, sometimes hitting a limit and knowing that I’d gone too far. I picked myself up and started again, eventually breaking through that limit and many others along the way.
Then I started using MyFitnessPal to track the amount of calories I was eating and compared that to the amount I was burning. Calories in versus calories out is weight loss, I’ve come to learn. I track every single thing I eat, good or bad, and use HealthKit to track what it does to my body.
I’m not religious about what I eat, but I’m aware. I still grab a burger if I’m out with friends and I thoroughly enjoy it—every single bite. The difference is that I understand what it does.
There is no sense in tracking what you eat if you skip writing down the bad things. Track everything. You will have bad days, and that’s okay. I have all kinds of bad eating days, and while I don’t feel guilty, I do feel good about knowing how to change it tomorrow.
Knowledge and understanding has allowed me to break through the barrier of not seeing a way out of my situation. I am in control.
Apple Watch furthered my transformation. I can see on my wrist every minute of the day where I’m at for standing, movement, activity, calories and much more.
One minute please, Apple Watch says I need to stand up
If Apple Watch says stand, I stand. I still don’t know why. Maybe I just want to complete those rings every day and feel good about that. Maybe standing every hour really is good for me. I don’t know, but I’ll indulge this little device on my wrist and stand.
I workout every day now2. I have incorporated a two mile, 3.5 mph treadmill walk, a two mile outdoor walk, and some light interval training, with eating better.
With the lost weight, I have also added in some weight training. Doing that has added several inches to my biceps and is tightening up my chest and stomach. I should be clear, I don’t exercise for hours a day—I only spend about 40 minutes a day exercising. That’s my comfort zone.
As of this writing, and using the exercises I talked about, I have lost 42.4 pounds.
I am about five pounds short of the goal I set for myself, and about 15 pounds from where I should be for my height and age. Not only can I see my goal, but I am making it to that goal.
In the past 10 months, I have lost four pant sizes and two shirt sizes. Even now, I see myself as being overweight, and while technically I am, whenever I see someone and they say, “wow, where did the rest of you go,” I understand that I’ve made a lot of headway.
This didn’t happen overnight. It happened a tenth of a pound at a time. Some days it was a real struggle.
What I’m saying to those of you in my situation of being overweight, is that there is hope. There is a way out for you too. It has to start somewhere, so why not today.
Apple Watch and HealthKit changed my life. It can change yours too.
You can read a follow-up post too.