Apple Watch Year One

The headline is slightly inaccurate: I ordered my Apple Watch over a year ago, on the day they first went on sale, but the model I bought was in short supply and didn't ship until June. Technically then I've been wearing the Watch for about 11 months, but this seems as good a point as any to take stock.  

I don't intend to deal with the ongoing discussion over whether the Apple Watch has been a success or not. I will say that it seems a slightly ridiculous discussion at this point. I'm pretty sure that I'd only seen a half dozen iPhones by this point in its evolution, and I've seen quite a few more Apple Watches in the wild than that. My intention here then is to capture just a few of my thoughts about the device one year (almost) nto owning it.

Fitness, first. 

The biggest single use of my Apple Watch has been for its fitness-related functionality. I've worn the Watch every single day since it arrived, and that's significantly added to the completeness of the activity data I've been gathering. The Activity rings and app are superb, iconic designs. Together they've assisted me in being more consistently active, and even the relatively bare-bones Workout app has proven functional enough to get me moving more than I've done before. Together they've helped me reduce my weight, feel better, and fit into clothes that I'd previously given up on (I've recently replaced all my 'medium' sized shirts with 'small', which must count for something).

IPhone still required, situation developing. 

Lots have people have bemoaned how the Apple Watch still relies heavily on the iPhone, though it's worth remembering that we needed our Macs and PCs to activate and manage our iPhones until 2011. Already, in the first year of Apple Watch, we have limited independence for some features on WiFi. For the most part however the tethering still makes sense. I've enjoyed using the Watch to handle notifications from the iPhone, which stays in my bag much more than it did. Many of the things I initially hoped to be able to do without fishing out the phone work just fine, and I've been able to plug a few puzzling gaps (Reminders? Notes access?) with some third-party apps. I don't expect this situation to persist for long. Silent notifications, reminders, alarms and timers are almost worth the price of the Watch on their own, if you ask me. (I also use the Watch to screen the few calls I don't ignore, but actually answering them on the tiny built-in speaker is a joke).

Battery life is sweet. 

I've never had a problem with the battery, though this was one of the most-discussed worries when the Watch first shipped. I once forgot to charge it and only noticed on my way to work—a good reason to buy a spare charge cable. For the last couple of months I've been using the excellent app Heartwatch to track my sleep at night, necessitating a new charge routine that's working just fine, even with a morning workout. I'm not sure that a long battery life would actually make an appreciable difference—we'd still have to remember to charge it one way or another and a daily habit might be preferable than a  two-daily one. A shorter charging cycle would be excellent (though it's pretty good already).

Space Black bands MIA.

Here's a small gripe: Though the Space Black stainless steel model appears to have been moderately popular, Apple has been remarkably slow in shipping bands specifically to match it. We've only just got a Milanese Loop in a matching finish, and not a single leather band has metalwork to match. Even the Sport and Nylon bands that have black hardware are finished in Space Grey to match the Sport model. This is especially irritating as the DLC finish is just gorgeous and so far, completely resistant to scratches. I haven't regretted paying extra for it at all, and I love the weight of the steel model. (Despite the lack of black hardware I've bought an orange Sport band and a gold Nylon strap, both of which I like a lot).

Apps and speed, not so much. 

Clearly the primary complaints about the first-generation Apple Watch: The hardware is highly constrained, and third-party apps are unbearably sluggish. I expect these two limitations are tightly intertwined, and that Apple's priorities for version 2 lie firmly in this area. I'd be unsurprised to see almost nothing else changed, save for a new set of finishes.

Lots to love. 

There are a bunch of other things that I treasure about the Watch: Tickets and boarding passes in Wallet, hands-free timers, dictating iMessages, grabbing an Uber (though please Uber, update your app so I can set a favourite destination on the Watch), map directions for walking, and more. In fact this is the real story of the Apple Watch—less a compelling single killer use case than a whole collection of small but meaningful reductions in friction for repeated tasks. It's harder to articulate than it is to experience, but it remains compelling. Whether or not you consider version 1 a success, I think Apple's in this for the long haul. Count me in too.