“Is that the watch?”
For the past two weeks that is the phrase I’ve heard as I walk around with Apple’s newest technology strapped securely around my left wrist. As with most of Apple’s products, I have been an early adopter. I paid an exborenatant amount of money for the first iPhone, stood in line for the iPhone 3GS and the first iPad; I camped out overnight for the iPhone 4 and stood in line again for the iPad 2. I have an alarm on my phone labeled, “Apple releases”. So, when I heard about the release of the first new Apple product line in five years, I simply had to have it.
However, this is not a post about my obsessiveness about Apple products, but rather their practicality in the consumer market. I am not an earlier adopter of technology simply to have the latest and greatest, but rather, to see if it can make tasks in my life more efficient and connected. It’s basically part of my job to stay ahead of technology and understand its influence and impact on education and then transfer those applications through teaching and professional learning.
As for the Apple Watch in education, I only see minor applications at the moment, but can foresee a day when every student no longer has a device in his or her pocket or bag, but is wearing it in some form. If you think the smartphone and iPhone have redefined the idea of personalized, private technology, just wait until wearables become more commonplace. It’s simply a matter of time.
I opted for the 42mm, white band sports watch. For the first generation, I felt this would be a perfect model for me to test and see what I thought. After taxes my total came to $423.00. Some would say that is ridiculous for a watch, but I have been watching people spend exorbitant amounts of money on timepieces for years, yet they only tell the time. So I got over the price very quickly and realized that in the grand scheme of the luxury watch market, and for what the Apple watch gives you, I felt Apple’s tiered pricing fit the market.
The setup was very easy and allowed me complete autonomy on customization. I highly recommend not syncing all of your phone to your watch and doing that later. This allows you to turn Apple watch compatible apps on and off. You can also toggle the apps you want in glances. Glances is probably the feature I use most and has become a new efficiency in my day. I simply swipe up from the bottom and can swipe left and right to see common information like sports scores, weather, news, etc. Some would argue that you can simply do that on a phone and what is the point? The point is, it allows me to be more discreet as I glance at my watch – a task most have been doing for centuries – rather than obnoxiously glare at my phone while in a conversation or meeting with someone.
A few flaws that I have noticed is that the apps take some time to load. This is due mostly to my experience with the iPhone 6 and how quickly and smoothly everything moves. I imagine with future processor upgrades, this will change. The wrist flip, which activates the screen is fairly accurate and again, allows me to quickly glance at information or alerts rather than fumble for my phone. The alerts are delayed in comparison to receiving them on my phone. When I tried the Pebble watch (I could, cost effective trial if you are unsure about the Apple Watch $80 on Amazon) the alerts were completely in sync with my phone. This is not always the case with the Apple Watch. Finally, I would like to see a lock screen timeout option where I could initiate the screen with a wrist flip and allow it to stay on for a minute or two. That is one customization that is not present.
Responding to alerts such as SMS are nice, but that’s about it. Although, I did answer a call on the watch and I must say, it was cool, but not something I would do in public. The canned responses you can set up for SMS are a nice way of getting back to someone quickly with a common message via the watch. I have replied using the speech to text feature several times and it is very accurate; however, I only feel comfortable doing this in a crowd. Although, I do like that if your speech to text response doesn’t line up correctly you can send a voice recording. The twitter app allows you to receive notifications when someone replies or retweets one of your messages, and you can reply using speech to text and emoticons. At the moment, there is no way to reply to Facebook alerts (also no Facebook app for Watch), GMail, or Apple Mail. I imagine these are features and apps that will eventually arrive.
There are several apps that I really like using on the watch and offer a new level of efficiency and convenience. The Evernote app has a very novel design and practical functionality that creates an efficiency in how I can quickly create a note with a reminder on it. This has been extremely useful tool for quick thoughts or reminders. The Shazam app is also extremely efficient when you hear ‘80s song that you just can’t figure out. Additionally, the Pandora app and iTunes music app are nice for controlling your music that plays on your phone. When your phone is connected to headphones or a bluetooth speaker this allows for convenient shuffling between songs.
The only social media app I currently view on my watch is Instagram. Instagram’s novel iPhone design translates well to the watch and allows you to scroll through your timeline and like photos as well as see the activity on photos you post. If you are into concerts, sporting events, etc. the StubHub app works nicely on the watch for viewing nearby events as well as scanning your tickets for upcoming events that you are attending.
The Keynote app is another super convenient app. I can control presentations easily from my watch and move around easily without setting up a clicker. Additionally, the Apple Remote app is great for moving through screens and options on my Apple TV. As for fitness, I am kind of over the whole fitness tracking, “how many steps did I take today” information, but Apple’s fitness information looks nice and does a good job of tracking your workouts, runs, and movements throughout the week. The heart rate monitor is nice and accurate as well. As for fitness apps, I use RunKeeper which offers a nice interface when I am running, however, I cannot control my music through the app which is a flaw. I also use the Withings bluetooth scale and their app is nice for a quick glance at my weight when I am tempted to eat a third slice of pizza.
I have not used the Maps function much, but I have heard mixed reviews of its accuracy. I don’t travel too much, but I imagine I might use it if I find myself in a foreign city. Similarly, the Yelp app is nice for finding a nice place to dine at a quick glance. I also use OpenTable a lot, but at this point the app will only remind you of your reservations. You can’t make them via the app…yet. Finally, I find myself using the passbook app most frequently. Setting up Apple pay is a fairly painless process and it allows me to scan my watch rather quickly to make a payment or get my daily iced coffee. In addition to these apps, the Uber app is extremely novel and allows you to solicit an UberX (Only this option at the moment) and see a small map of where your driver is. But, probably the coolest feature is the digital touch. This option requires two people to have an Apple watch and you can send your heartbeat, a tap, or a message in action. I have tried this a few times with several early adopters and I must say, it’s rather cool.
Overall, I like the watch and have found a variety of uses for it and created some new efficiencies in my day-to-day schedule. It’s only resided on my wrist for two weeks and I am sure I will find more uses for it and I am certain that apps will evolve to do more. Oh, and the watch face that I use most is the Mickey Mouse watch face. I find this to be not only cool and nostalgic, but useful with the customization surrounding Mickey and his tapping foot. I hope Apple allows third party watch faces and adds more to the mix. What they currently offer is fine, but I’d like to see more customization in this category. As for the design and overall feel of the watch I couldn’t be more impressed. While it’s not as thin as an iPhone, it is very light and I barely know it is on my wrist. The sport band strap is comfortable and durable. I charge it every night and usually get through a day of use with 40-50% battery remaining.
With any new product, there are flaws and plenty of room for improvement. I didn’t expect the Apple watch to be perfect, but I knew Apple would once again set the bar high for a new and emerging market. And they have. If you are someone like me, order your watch immediately! For the rest of you who are still on the fence, or feel that everything I mentioned is excess and unnecessary for day to day, then wait. I am sure wearable technology will take time, but I am certain it is market that will someday soon cause us all to stop and laugh at the way we used to use our smart phones.