The Apple Watch: A useful gadget or just a fashion show-off?

Ten days ago I got the black stainless steel Apple Watch:

watch01

As a guy who loves technology, especially computers, phones and other gadgets, I’ve “always” wanted a smartwatch. But I didn’t buy any because I felt it still was a young technology, and as far as the reviews I have read the smartwatches (mostly Android) wasn’t very impressive or useful. And as everything else in tech: wait and a better unit will arrive. With a lower price tag.

About a year ago I bought the Apple iPhone 6 Plus (read about it here). The pro and cons in my blogpost from then are still the same, and I’m still satisfied (and bored!) with the 6 Plus. No plans to buy a new smartphone yet (an iPhone 7 or a Microsoft Surface Phone might change that).

It felt of course obvious to choose the Apple Watch after I decided to give in.

Oozing quality

From picking up the big, heavy white box containing the Apple Watch, to opening it, to strapping the watch to my wrist, to turning it on and pairing it with my iPhone. Charging it. Not least looking at it and touching it. All this is oozing quality. No doubts, no bad experiences, no squirks, no loose parts. Just quality all over. If you ever wonder about the success Apple has had/have with their products, just pick up any Apple device and feel the quality.

Is it useful?

I’ve read some reviews of the Apple Watch stating something like “it is nice, but after a week it ended up in the drawer”. “I’m not sure about the usefulness of this gadget”. “Too expensive, too few functions”. And so on. Do I agree with these statements? No!

When pairing the Apple Watch with the iPhone the first time, all the apps on the phone who has a Watch-version was automatically installed on the watch. Nice! Then working my way through the setup, fiddling with different apps, I felt really satisfied with the user experience. After understanding that a drag down from the top opens notifications, a drag up from the bottom open ups the glances, a tap on the crown opens the app overview and a tap on the other button opens my favorite contacts, then it is all set. Just start using the pretty thing!

watchface

Use it as a watch

Use it for what? Well, you could use it as a watch. But the watch in this watch is more than a watch (I should trademark that sentence!). You can change the watch face by firmly pressing on it. In addition to show the time and date, it can show you complications:

complications

“But I don’t want any complications” you might say. These ones you will like: Stocks, weather, sunrise/-set, Outlook mail, activities, battery status, calendar and so on. All these (not at the same time, but up to four of them) at a glance on your watch. Useful!

Some users have complained that the screen doesn’t always turn on when they move their hand to check the time, they have to tap on the screen to activate it. I still haven’t seen this problem yet. And I think it looks cool when the screen is completely black when inactive. As long as it turns on again, that is. The problem might have been related to earlier versions of the WatchOS, my watch is on version 2.1.

Then there is all the rest

Use it for health and fitness: Plan and perform your training. It will show your steps, meters walked/run, and a lot more. An overview of your activities plus nice, useful and configurable notifications. Sitting too much? Stand up! Go for a walk/run/whatever? Start and stop tracking, get useful info as you go.

WatchApps

Use it for calls and messaging: Just ask Siri to call or send a message to someone. And receive calls/messages and reply to them in an easy way.

Use it as a notification center: Get info about emails, appointments, social media activites and more as gentle notifications with or without sound or vibration. You can even answer messages and emails from the notifications. Either with voice, predefined messages or emojis.

Use it for navigation: Ask Siri for directions, follow the map and the instructions.

Use it for taking notes: Talk to e.g. Microsoft OneNote. It will take a note as you speak. And of course synchronize it via your iPhone to the Cloud and to all your gadgets with OneNote installed.

Use it as a remote control: For your Microsoft PowerPoint presentation, for your Apple TV, for the camera on your iPhone, for the music player. Practical.

Then there are all the other apps, those made by Apple plus all the third party apps. A lot of useful (and some not so useful) apps for news, traveling, banking, music, note taking, GTD, food, gaming, social media. A lot.

Conclusion

After just ten days my conclusion is clear: the Apple Watch is a very capable and useful smartwatch. It has made me pick up my iPhone less, it gives me necessary info discreet, it has contributed to get me motivated for an extra walk, it has made me answer the phone on my watch!

It is pretty:

Nothing negative?

Honestly, so far nothing negative. It has to be charged every night (even though you might stretch the battery to almost two days), but so do I. I like the size and looks of it, so a thinner Apple Watch wouldn’t make any difference for me. The day when Apple decides to not release OS-updates for this version of the watch, and the day the battery starts to drain too fast. Those days will come. But I do belive, taken the track record of Apple so far, that this first version of the Apple Watch will last for some years.

There are rumors that Apple might launch a new version of Apple Watch in March 2016. I don’t believe that will happen because the first version hasn’t reach all corners of the world yet (new countries got it one or two weeks ago). Another thing: the Apple Watch is expensive. Just ask those who bought the gold-version. I don’t think Apple would come up with a new watch already – that would make both us with the “standard” versions of the watch but also those who lately bought the most expensive versions pretty upset.

gold.png

Talking about the price. Of course one could complain. It is an expensive gadget. But considering the high quality materials, the high quality build,  the high quality content (apps) I think it is worth it. And yes, it is fashionable too, and you can buy high quality straps in different colors and making. Or the Edition version.

Or you could just buy an Windows 10 mobile phone and get glance screen functionality and live tiles. Then you probably don’t need a smartwatch! 😉

One more thing…

Security. Privacy. If you jump on the smartwatch-wagon you can also wave goodbye to your privacy. That is, if you choose to use the Apple Watch just as a watch and in offline mode, you’re good. But if you use it as it is supposed to be used, you will be tracked, tracked and tracked. I am very aware of the security risks with all gadgets combined with the Internet. We all do have something to hide, even if we don’t.

So you have to make a decision: participate in the “data stream” or stay (for the most part) offline. Of course there is a middle way: Use all possible security enhancements on your devices (encryption, lock codes, passwords, VPN and so on). I do. But with this watch I feel I have taken a step out on the thin, privacy ice. To comfort myself I just remind me that iOS and WatchOS are more secure than Android, the Apple App Stores are more secure than other app stores and so on.

ApplePrivacy

According to Apple they use encryption on the Apple Watch too. Encryption is used with Apple Pay, iMessage and FaceTime, Health and Fitness, and more. This makes me feel more secure.

Even if you don’t use any smartwatch or any apps on your phone, you will still be “tracked down” via cell towers or IMSI catchers. This is just how it is. At the end it is up to you – use your gadgets in a secure and strict manner, or let go and use them as most people do.

Just for the record (see my older blog posts and you’ll understand this statement) : I haven’t turned completely Apple “soft” or turned my back to Microsoft. I am just waiting and waiting for the Windows 10 platform to get mature and for Microsoft (or any other quality provider) to come up with a high-end quality smartphone and even a smartwatch (yes, I know the Microsoft Band exists).

All pictures from http://www.apple.com/watch

 

Advertisements

3 months with the iPhone 6 Plus

In my previous blog post I described the “logics” behind choosing the iPhone 6 Plus. Now, after more than 3 months using the iPhone 6 Plus the big question is: Was it worth it?

To answer the question I will list some pros and cons with the iPhone 6 Plus and then conclude:

Pros

  • Premium build quality
  • Big, but not too big
  • Good camera
  • Good battery
  • Excellent screen (resolution, color, brightness)
  • Good speaker
  • Good call quality
  • Fluid OS
  • Extreme app availability
  • Frequent OS updates

Cons

  • Expensive compared to other high-end smartphones
  • Too delicate and slippery device – protection a must
  • Boring and static start screens
  • Boring and static icons
  • No glance screen
  • Too many apps available
  • No dedicated camera button

iPhone 6 Plus Gold (picture from http://www.apple.com)

Comments to the pros and cons

If you read my previous blog post you already know that I have a Nokia Lumia 1020 with Windows Phone 8.1. And that I for different reasons chose to “upgrade” to an iPhone. Thats why some of the pros and cons are directly related to my experience with the Windows Phone operating system.

Live Tiles?

In regard to boring and static start screens and boring and static icons (above):
What I miss most from the Windows Phone, without doubt, are the Live Tiles. They’re just genius: Almost every icon on your start screen can be resized and moved. Furthermore, and most important, most of them display live info (received emails, calendar info, missed calls, Twitter updates and much, much more). This is essential information that you get without interacting with your phone, and is extremely useful. For more about Live Tiles, see this info from Microsoft.

What I miss almost equally: The Glance Screen. With it, the lock screen on my Windows Phone always shows the time, day and date, missed calls, unread messages. This without much effect on the battery. And without picking up or touching the phone. You can change the Glance Screen settings so it only shows info in intervals, when you move your hand over the phone or when you double tap the screen. In addition to this you can have weather info for your location displayed when moving your hand over the phone (when the screen is locked). Also workout info if you are using the Microsoft Health app. All this is valuable information in a glance.

tiles

Live Tiles on a Windows Phone (picture from http://www.windowsphone.com)

 

Watch?

Come to think of it, the Live Tiles and Glance Screen on a Windows Phone are so useful that you do not need a (smart)watch. But if you have an iPhone, you might need the Apple Watch so you can get (amongst other things) useful information without picking up or touching the iPhone.

Too many apps?

No, I’m not crazy. But the overwhelming amount of apps in the Apple App Store makes you install apps you don’t need (your choice of course), but more important: I have a hard time finding apps I need in the flood of apps. And Apple doesn’t make it easier when they only lists some of the (most popular) apps. You have to dig deep and search hard to find other, interesting apps. Yes, this is a luxury problem, I know.

Camera

I miss a dedicated camera button. On my Lumia 1020 I just have to push and hold the camera button to wake the camera when the phone is locked. But it’s when taking photos the button is really useful and intuitive: Push it halfway down for focus, all the way down to take the picture. It makes me feel more in control when taking pictures, and it gives me more of a “take a picture”-moment than with the iPhone. And so far I must say the picture quality is slightly better on pictures taken with the Lumia 1020 than with the iPhone 6 Plus.

But, and this is important, the camera on the iPhone 6 Plus is blazingly fast! So you will get the action photos there and then, long before you have shot the first picture with the Lumia 1020 (which is, as you understand, extremely slow both in startup and in picture-to-picture). Then again, the Lumia 1020 shoots 41 megapixels against 8 megapixels on the 6 Plus, and the Lumia can save in the .DNG-format (for finetuning the pictures in eg. Adobe Lightroom).

Conclusion

OK, I’ll admit it: I miss using my Lumia 1020. Sometimes. But the iPhone 6 Plus, as “boring” as it is, will stay as my main device due to the big screen and the app availability.

The iPhone 6 Plus is of course a great smartphone, and who knows what changes iOS 9 will bring? But when the time comes to change smartphone, a Microsoft flagship will be considered.