The Experience of Trialling the Apple Watch

I managed to get my hands on a 38mm case, aluminium sports watch with a white band to trial and did so for about 2 weeks. Even though I should be the target audience for the Watch (single income no kids, young, tech-oriented, somewhat affluent, dabbler in to the quantified self movement and owner of an Apple TV, Macbook, iPhone and iPad) I'm just not feeling it. 

Every time someone noticed that I was wearing the Apple Watch they'd ask what I thought of it and for a quick demo. I was surprised that no one thought I was a douchebag for having an Apple Watch, or maybe they did and were just too polite to tell me to my face. I told every person I didn't like it, and they were quite surprised. I told them to stay tuned for my blog post to see why I didn't like it in detail, and here it is. 

Overall there's too much thinking involved in use and it's really not adding any value to my life, especially for the cost! It's too needy: it needs to be charged daily, there's way too many notifications and too much going back to the iPhone to do simple tasks, especially with the voice only input. 

Unboxing & Set Up

Unboxing and setting up the Apple Watch was not as simple as you would expect from Apple. I actually had to read the instructions and watch the videos to know what the hell to do. You also need an iPhone with the Apple Watch up to be able to set up the glances, notifications and apps. It's very jarring to the experience to need to go somewhere else to make changes. 

Watch Comfort & Form Factor

While the white is hideous, I was actually surprised that the cheapest sports band looks quite nice. I also like that the Watch comes with 2 size bands, unlike the FitBit where you have to buy the separate band. The FitBit has been giving me a rash and I wouldn't have thought that putting another band over the top of it would have made it better, but surprisingly it did. The band was comfortable enough that I forgot I was wearing it. The mechanism for doing up the band is backwards to what I'm used to and after taking it on and off at least twice a day for 2 weeks I still had to think when doing it up. I found the 38mm size good and I wouldn't want it any larger for my sized wrist. 


The battery life isn't great - the Watch won't last two full days which means you have to charge it daily. Having it on charge overnight means you can't use the vibrating alarm to wake you, or you have to find a few hours while you're awake to charge it, which means that you're not tracking your movement or getting notifications. If you are out and about and the battery is getting low you are warned at 10% left. Since the charger is specific only to the Apple Watch I don't have one at my desk, so all you can do is turn it on power saving mode which reverts the Watch back to a plain old fashioned watch with no functionality, not even tracking your health / movement goals. 


The Apple Watch is really slow, expect to see a lot of this when opening apps.

Voice Only Input

There's no way to put in any input that isn't voice. Talking in to your watch isn't cool. It doesn't make you look like Dick Tracey or Penny Gadget, it makes you look like a wanker. Taking a phone call on your Watch anywhere other than in private makes you a huge douche, forcing people around you to not only listen to your side of the conversation but the callers end too. It's like taking a call on speaker phone from your wrist. Just, no. 


Watch Face

The Mickey Mouse tapping his feet made me smile. The current time, weather and next event I have coming up was useful information to actually be able to see 'at a glance'. 


I found the all or nothing approach to notifications bombards you with too much information. Email notifications are useful, for example, but I don't necessarily want notifications to my wrist when I get a newsletter or order update email. I also found that I wasn't getting notifications on my iPhone anymore which is annoying as it's winter and it's much easier to feel the vibration and know to look at my phone than to take off my arm warmers and roll up my layers of sleeves.

When you have notifications there is a little red dot at the top of the screen; I did not notice this. A colleague also playing with a Watch asked me what it was and I didn't know. I also wasn't sure what the "not in range of iPhone" icon meant at first. Nothing is explained to you, nor are things intuitive, so you find yourself guessing at what to do.

The Watch also delivers you notifications for app which aren't on the Watch, which does have some use but seems counterintuitive to display "you have 2 messages" which you cannot read them on the Watch and I have to go back to an iPhone anyway. I didn't have the Inbox app but the Inbox notification would show me 'Done' above the fold, and 'Dismiss' bellow the fold. This meant I would just hit 'done' to get rid of the notification but what this was really doing was moving the email to the done list (previously archive), meaning kept losing things I hadn't actioned

There seems to be different vibrations for different alerts, but after over 2 weeks I still haven't leaned what they mean. The learnability is just too high and there is nothing intuitive about the watch. 


I use my FitBit to track my steps per day, but this isn't possible with the Move goal - the goal is to burn a certain amount of calories per day that it automatically calculates based on your age, height and weight. To set this up it didn't ask me if I was trying to maintain or lose weight, so I'm not sure if hitting the "goal" is actually good enough to achieve what I actually want to do. Viewing your steps, what I want to track, requires several clicks and swipes and there doesn't seem to be any way to make that your main goal. The app is also tracking calories (not kilojoules) and distance in miles (not km) and I couldn't easily see how to change this. Move goals don't sync up to the Health app, nor do steps taken with your phone when not wearing the Watch sync so you're left with 2 devices giving you incomplete data. There is also a noticeable lack of sleep tracking. 

Time to Stand Up! 

The "time to stand up" notifications are pretty annoying. They often come at inopportune times - I'm busy working on something before a meeting, I don't have time to stand up now! I also found that it would prompt me when I had just woken up and was in the process of dragging myself out of bed (too soon!) and once when I was seated in a car going 100KM down a freeway. Surely it can sense that I'm moving far too fast in a seated position to be able to stand up! 


Glances seems like a strange term for this functionality, as you have to interact with the Watch to bring them up. Swipe up, then swipe across to the Glance you want to see - there's a lot more involved than just glancing down at the watch. 

Control Glance

This is the default glance that lets you activate modes (airplane, sleep, silent) and ping your iPhone. My iPhone is always on silence without vibrate so when I misplace my phone there's no easy way for me to find it. The Ping capability of the Watch to find the phone is somewhat useful if you are still in range of your phone, but it only Pings the phone to make the noise once, so I found myself having to repeatedly press it until I located my phone. It would make more sense to have the phone sound until I pick up the phone so it knows that I have located it. 

Music Controls

Again, not a very useful Glance. By the time I bring up the Glance it would have been easier to look at my phone and see what I'm listening to / how long it has left. I already have the volume and track functions on my headphones. I could only see this being useful if your phone is plugged into a dock on the other side of the room. It was also entertaining when one of the Product Owners accidentally started playing Taylor Swift's Shake it Off from his back jeans pocket.

Heart Rate

The heart rate doesn't seem to be accurate at all. My heart rate was often 69bpm, which seems like some immature programmer putting in a default. When compared to my FitBit, which I know to be in line with readings from a 24-hour heart rate monitor I've worn, it is often 20 - 30 BPM too low. When looking at the Health app there's no nice way to see the trend of your heart beat over the day, you just see the minimum and maximum numbers with a line drawn between them - not very useful at all! 

The Watch seems to display a heart rate even when it can't possibly read one. For example, apparently my couch has a heart rate of 157BMP (I had not been wearing the Watch previous to taking this photo), and thin air 71BPM 1m ago. It needs to be more willing to say that it cannot get a reading for accuracy. I'd rather your information be accurate than completely made up to save face that you couldn't get a reading. 


The one thing I actually found useful with the Watch! 


Somewhat useful, however it defaulted to Sydney despite the Watch knowing my exact location. I feel that it should default to where you are, with the ability to change it if you like. Again, I had to go back to the iPhone to change these settings. 


Pretty useless. You have to first find and save locations in to the Apple maps app on your iPhone or be willing to talk in to your phone in public like a complete wanker. The screen is so small that you can barely see whats coming up or where you're going. 

Automatic SCREEN WAKe

The Watch is meant to automatically wake up when you raise your wrist, but I found this only happened when I very over dramatically mimed "checking the time". When I wanted to more subtly check why the Watch had just vibrated, or had my hands full and couldn't turn my wrist so much, I would have to tap the screen to wake which seems to defeat the purpose of pushing this function so hard. When this does work wonders is when I'm rolling over at night, it certainly turns on then waking me up! 


I found that Siri really didn't work very well when trying to activate it. I found myself having to say "Hey Siri" several times to get it to finally register and turn on. When I had my phone nearby and was trying to use Siri on the Watch my iPhone responded while the Watch still hadn't picked up what I was saying. One of the main benefits of Siri is the audio response, but on the Watch it's all text based so you have to look at the Watch. You can also turn Siri on by pressing the digital crown, which for a right handed person (wearing the Watch on the left hand) is against the hand, so when I bent my wrist or had my hand cocked on a table I would inadvertently turn it on. This same action also saw me taking a lot of accidental screenshots, which is why my camera roll now looks like this. 

Hand Off

The majority of things I tried to do would require me to go back to my iPhone. The Apple features at least try to tell you this in a nicer way but using 'Hand Off' to push what you are trying to do to your iPhone for you. In reality I found that sometimes the hand off icon wouldn't show up on the iPhone when the Watch was telling me to use hand off. 

Digital Crown

The digital crown is an overhyped twisty button that doesn't do a lot. You use it to go back a level, but I keep pushing the flat button since that's what I'm used to pushing to lock my iPhone and go back to the clock. When you're looking at the apps, the crown moves the screen in and out, so if you want to move to an app that is up/down left/right you have to touch the screen anyway, again defeating the point. 

Watch to Watch Functionality

I previously hypothesised about some uses of the sharing heartbeat functionality here, but after using it I don't see any use other than mushy romantic reasons. I shared my heartbeat with a colleague and it too romantic and weird. The affordance of sending a heartbeat, tap or drawing is really not clear, leading to lots of accidental taps as I tried to work it out, especially when trying to hit the little information icon. As not many people have Watches and it's not something I'm doing all the time, this is easily forgotten. 

Adding apps 

To add a new app it ads something new to my iPhone, and many apps send me back to my iPhone. Again, this seems very counter intuitive and I might as well use my phone instead of the Watch. 

Other Default Apps


I didn't use this at all but basically it controls your camera shutter from the Watch. Potential uses:

  • Leaving your phone hidden in another room and taking spy snaps
  • No more selfie arm! Prop your phone up somewhere and control the shutter with your Watch

Mail and Message Apps

Didn't use these very much either, other than when I got notifications. It was useful how it would display image attachments in a thumbnail, however. But without being able to reply unless one of the selectable reply options were appropriate, which they never were, it's not very useful. The responses were things like a thumbs up, yes, no, can't talk now etc. 


Not very useful, as per my "talking in to your watch makes you a wanker" rant earlier. 


I never opened the app, but I did ask Siri to turn alarms on for me. Interestingly an alarm on your phone goes off on the Watch but not vice versa. 

World Clock

Never used. If I needed to know what the time was somewhere else I'd probably just ask Siri. 


Again, I never opened the app, but I did ask Siri to set timers when I was cooking. 


I never used workouts. I'm not really in the habit of tracking workouts, I sometimes track cycles but I didn't cycle other than commuting during these 2 weeks.

Stop Watch / Settings / Photos / Stock / Apple Store

I didn't use any of these apps. The photos seem way to small and not something I'm going to be using on a small screen. 

Non-Apple Apps

I had a few non-Apple apps on the Watch but I didn't find any of these useful. Some apps I installed I never bothered to use because I had to go back to the iPhone, so why not just do what I needed to on there? Here's a quick overview. 


Useful when a car was arriving, but I still prefer the phone app because I want to see how far the closest Uber is, how many are around and whether there is surge pricing before I request. 


I have 3 Twitter accounts and I found it very annoying that I didn't know which accounts notifications were coming from. It was useful that I could favourite and retweet right after reading the tweet. The Twitter app however doesn't show you your @ mentions and replies, instead showing you top trends, which seems like an odd choice. 


I didn't use this app, but it installed itself along with a Glance that usefully told me that I don't have any holidays planned. That's just depressing and not what I want to see at a glance! Bad UX. 


Actually useful if I wanted to check my account balance before paying for something.  


I use Trello everyday but I found it unusable on the Watch. All you can do is add a card (with voice only, of course), view notifications, see due soon (which is fine but I don't usually have due dates on my cards) or view recent. Viewing recent cards kept showing me old cards or cards that were archived. Finally the day before I gave the Watch back it started showing me the right cards.  


I've stopped using the Watch, but I am left with an 'Activity' app that I can't delete! So I've added yet another thing to my 'Apple Crap' folder (you know we all have one!) 

That folder we all have. Although it might have another aim: Apple Crap, Apple Junk, Crapple

So, it's back to the FitBit for me. I don't need a Smart Watch, I just need a mildly sentient fitness tracker that tracks my steps, heart rate (accurately), sleep and lets me know when my phone is ringing so I can run to get it.