Five years ago, I wrote a since-deleted post on this blog detailing my reaction to the Apple Watch announcement.
The TLDR of that post was basically "Apple doesn't really know what this is for." A sentiment I stick by to this day, they didn't. I also mentioned how I thought that Google's initial vision for WearOS was more compelling to me, it felt like a more complete vision of what a smartwatch should be. That is something I also stick by, at the time - I think that was true.
The Apple Watch announcement keynote and most of the initial launch marketing demonstrated nothing of real significant value. It was full of gimmicks and novelty features, it was really sold as just a cool little peripheral to your iPhone.
However, as Apple iterated - they transformed the watch into a pretty compelling health device. They rightly recognised the unique attributes of a smartwatch lend itself well to health tracking. Of course, this isn't something Apple discovered - wearable health trackers were already a thing and were pretty good.
But, whilst the Apple Watch was becoming a more justifiable purchase to many, I still struggled to find any interest in it for myself. That didn't bother me, I've never been a watch wearer and couldn't really foresee myself becoming one - even of the smart variety. Additionally, at at the time I would have been more open to one due to the introduction of some.. exercise... into my routine, the Apple Watch was of no use, as the exercise in question was swimming.
The Apple Watch was not swim-proof and offered no swim tracking at the time. By the time it did, the Apple Watch had improved further in a number of other ways, but I was no longer a swimmer (injury). I was still not in the market for the watch.
It was looking more usable and more practical by the year though, so my interest was certainly more than it was in prior years. But even as a cool gadget (which I'm not against spending money on), it just wasn't quite there in terms of practicality.
Primarily what I mean here is the lack of always on display and concerns about battery life. The series 5 introduced the always on display and other people's day-to-day experiences reduced my concerns about the battery life, I considered buying an Apple Watch for the first time.
But by the time I had convinced myself I should get one, as it'd also be helpful for the regular cycling I was doing, the Series 5 was reaching EOL as the latest Apple Watch, so I thought I'd wait for the Series 6.
I bought a Series 6. Right in at the entry level. A WiFi only space grey aluminium 40mm Nike+ with the black sport loop.
Why this model:
- I'm not a watch guy, I don't care about the different casing or really too much about it being flashy or anything of the sort. I also don't wear jewellery. The only real compelling reason for me to go for a more expensive watch with the nicer casings would be to get the better screen (Sapphire Crystal instead of 'Ion-X Glass'.
I bought the 40mm because with the sport loop because:
- I don't have thick wrists, the 44mm could have fit okay and not caught too many eyes but...
- I still prefer it to look as discreet as possible and less like a 'computer on my wrist'.
- I actually quite like the sport loop in terms of looks, practicality and comfort.
- The Nike+ edition I have has some reflective thread through it, so helpful for night cycling, it's good in all conditions, easily adjustable and comfortable (not a big fan of rubbery straps like the regular sport bands).
I went WiFi only because:
- I can't really envision many, if any cases where I'd want to leave the house without my phone. I'm not a runner, and unlikely to become one due to injury.
In general, whilst I had justified the Watch to myself as part useful for health and exercise, part useful peripheral for my phone in a world where we're all wearing face masks now, I wasn't that convinced it'd be worth much more than the entry level asking price to me.
What's this on my wrist?
I'll begin with some really foundational stuff. I've never worn a watch, excluding a kids watch I had but never really wore when I was about 6/7 years old.
The experience of wearing a watch is still very new to me. I never expected it to be a big deal, but I've found my wrist area is brushed up against and banged into many more things that I've realised. Learning that with a somewhat fragile computer on your wrist isn't ideal.
Thankfully there has been no scratches or dents yet and I've quickly gotten used to it, it's something that I'm paying a bit more attention to now.
The Apple Watch
My overall impressions are very good. I've been impressed. Maybe it's because I haven't paid much attention to the details of Apple Watch development over the past 5 years, but what I'm using now is a far, far more mature platform than I expected.
It feels focused, well rounded, performant and really well integrated into the Apple ecosystem. The health and fitness functionality has really encouraged me to go out cycling a lot more and it works superbly well. The sleep tracking, sleep modes and ability to create watch faces with the useful, glanceable information I need, has, I think, improved my usage of my personal devices.
It has made me pay more attention to which notifications I get, which ones I actually need to be notified of immediately and how much I actually need to use my phone. My screen time on my phone has reduced quite significantly as it feels like the watch keeps me just on the essentials and avoids me picking up my phone and ending up distracted on reddit, twitter, news websites, etc.
I'm happier than I thought I'd be with it. The practicalities of it are mostly fine - I'll always want more battery life - but it has yet to die on me or lose excessive charge when it is inconvenient. The somewhat fast charging time (90 mins to full from 0) helps a lot with this.
A bonus I hadn't really fully appreciated before buying it was the impact it would have in the world where we're all wearing face masks. I can now easily read my notifications and pay with Apple Pay (via the watch) in shops. A source of frustration on the phone eliminated by the watch.
In conclusion, mostly all positive. It exceeded my expectations and I'm excited for the future of the platform. I hope it continues to play a part in encouraging me to get outside and exercise.