Apple Watch First Thoughts

Now that I've had a couple of days to use my Apple Watch, I jotted down a few initial thoughts. Here they are, in no particular order.

Use Cases

I've found the Apple Watch particularly handy in situations where it might be inconvenient to dig my phone out of my pocket. For example, I was at a baseball game over the weekend, and was able to read texts and other notifications without having to go fishing for my phone. (A particular challenge since it was a chilly night and I was wearing gloves.) I did find myself going to the phone to reply, but at least I didn't have to fetch my phone as often.

I also really enjoy the quick access to weather info from the watch face. I have the current weather configured as a complication on my watch face, and tapping the weather launches the Weather app. (Bonus, it lets you bypass the app launcher. See below.)

Watch Faces

Playing with the watch faces is really fun, both choosing a face itself, and customizing them with complications. I've mostly been using the Utility face. (Activity in the upper left, moon phase or battery in the upper right, weather on the bottom.) I do wonder why some faces allow fewer complications. The Motion face is a good example – there seems to be amble room for a complication or two, but the face doesn't support them. Why not?

It would also be nice to have more faces, and I do think we'll get them sooner or later, either from Apple or third parties. Faces are the "iPhone case" of the Apple Watch – the ideal place to personalize your watch. (If Apple decides against third-party faces, maybe they'd allow third-party complications?)

The App Launcher

The one thing I really don't like about the Apple Watch is the app launcher screen. It's terrible. Sure, it looks cool, but it's really not very useful if you're trying to get at a particular app. The icons are too small, so they're really hard to tap on, and the blob-like arrangement of apps makes it hard to find an app quickly. It's also hard to get apps into the position you want using the iPhone's Apple Watch app. The blob doesn't always move in the way you expect when rearranging apps, so moving one can cause others to shift out of alignment.

I find myself yearning for a simple paged grid of icons, similar to the iPhone home screen. No, it's not sexy, but it would get the job done. A page-based layout would also make it easier to keep frequently-used or themed apps together, so you don't have to go hunting for them. A 3x4 grid seems about right for the Apple Watch screen size, and would probably even allow the touch targets to get a bit bigger. You could even use the digital crown to scroll through pages. My fingers are crossed the Apple will reevaluate this screen sooner rather than later.

Glances

Glances are a great way to get some quick information and launch an app for more depth. Since the app launcher is so unpleasant to use, I find myself launching apps using Glances whenever possible. For example, I'll open the MLB At Bat glance to check the Red Sox score, then tap it to launch the At Bat app for a more detailed look. (18-7 against the Orioles? Ouch.)

Right now, third party Glances are read-only, but a few of Apple's let you interact with them. The Now Playing Glance is a great example: You can play or pause, skip forward or back in the current song, or change the volume. Hopefully Apple will let developers make interactive Glances soon.

Third Party Apps

Based on some of the pre-launch reviews, I expected third-party apps to be pretty slow. Fortunately, I've been pleasantly surprised to find them fairly responsive. Overall, apps that load fewer graphic elements seem to be the fastest, which makes sense when you consider that many graphics are being copied from the iPhone over Bluetooth or WiFi.

As predicted, lots of apps don't seem quite right on the Apple Watch. They either try to do too much, don't do enough, or focus on the wrong things. There's also a clear difference between Apple's own apps and third party apps, simply because they can do more – animations, sounds, taps, sensors, more flexible layouts, etc. It offers a glimpse of what's possible on the watch, and a lot of third party apps will be vastly improved when they have access to all these tools.

Communication

One of the most unique features of the watch is the ability to send drawings, taps, and heartbeats to other Apple Watch users. Unfortunately, there aren't too many people who have them yet, so it's a little like only being able to text one or two people. This could be a lot of fun if the Apple Watch takes off.

The animated emoji are a fun idea, but a little strange or creepy at times. I think I'd prefer just bigger versions of regular emoji. (Apple Watch does let you send regular emoji, but only one at a time. Why not allow multiple emoji in one message?)

Battery

The battery seems great so far. In my first two full days of use, my battery has ended the day around 45-50%. It's been enough of a non-issue that I took the battery meter off my watch face.

Miscellaneous

The charging cable that comes with the Apple Watch is significantly longer than the iPhone's Lightning cable. It's really nice if, for example, you don't have an outlet right by your nightstand. Here's hoping this year's iPhones come with longer cables too.

I got the white sport band and have found it quite comfortable to wear, and relatively easy to put on and take off. I haven't had problems with sweatiness under the band, although in fairness, it hasn't been particularly hot out. Overall I find the Watch (Sport, 42mm) quite light and natural-feeling on my wrist.