Trialling the Apple Watch at SEEK

Here at SEEK we were lucky enough to get our hands on a few Apple Watches, which have been making the rounds for iPhone users to trial. Yes, only iPhone users, because the Apple Watch is essentially useless without an iPhone.

Those of us at SEEK should be the target audience for the Watch. We’re all tech-oriented and somewhat affluent and many of us own many Apple products (Apple TV, Macbook, iPhone and iPads). I was one of the first to trial the Watch. A full review is available on my website, but here let’s talk about the Watch in the context of work.

I was given the Watch in the middle of the day, and thought I’d quickly set it up while at work. This is what you’d expect from an Apple product, right? Unboxing and setting up was no where near as simple as you would expect from Apple. I actually had to read the instructions and watch the videos to know what the heck to do. You need to return to your iPhone 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.

When I’m at work my requirements for a Smartwatch are pretty simple. I need something that is:

  1. Fast
  2. Reliable
  3. Accurate
  4. Un-intrusive
  5. Adds objective benefits to work

The Apple Watch fails on all fronts.

1. Fast it is not

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

Apple Watch loading is worse than the spinning beach ball

2. Reliability runs low

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 and finding a few hours during the day means you cant utilize notifications. As the charger is specific to the Apple Watch, and only a few of us at the office have one, there are no chargers floating around on desks. So if you forget to charge, at 10% battery you are prompted to turn on power saving mode reverting the Watch to a plain old lower-case-w watch with no functionality other than displaying the time.

Power Saving Mode only displays the time

3. Accuracy fails again and again

First, 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. The Watch also 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), 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 couch is alive!

Secondly, for some reason the Weather app 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.

Third, the Watch is meant to automatically wake up when you raise your wrist, but I found this lacked accuracy and 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!

Fourth, 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 by using ‘Hand Off’ to push what you are trying to do to your iPhone for you. In reality I found the accuracy of hand off failed — the icon wouldn’t show up on the iPhone when the Watch was telling me to use hand off.

Fifth, I use Trello everyday but I found it inaccurate on the Watch. Viewing recent cards kept showing me old cards or cards that were archived which were completely useless, and there was no way to view the cards I really needed to see.

Finally, 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.

4. Un-Intrusive

Everything about the Watch is intrusive.

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 an idiot. Taking a phone call on your Watch anywhere other than in private makesforces people around you not only to 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.

No to voice-only input

I found the all or nothing approach to notifications is intrusive as it 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.

The “time to stand up” notifications are so intrusive! They often come at inopportune times — if I’m busy working on something before a meeting, I don’t have time to stand up now! Or if I’m in a meeting and the Watch vibrates I will look at it and since I can’t action the stand notification it’s annoying.

5. Adds objective benefit to work

There’s not a lot of benefits the Watch provided to work.

Sure, in an office context it’s certainly a coversation starter; everything someone noticed that I was wearing the Apple Watch they’d ask what I thought of it and for a quick demo. The Mickey Mouse tapping his feet also made me smile as did a Product Manager also trialling the Watch accidentally start playing Taylor Swift Shake it Off from his back jeans pocket.

The current time, weather and next calendar event I had coming up was useful information to actually be able to see ‘at a glance’ when away from my desk. It was also useful to use the Watch when I didn’t have my phone on me and needed to look at my calendar for the rest of the day or to organise a meeting time.

Email and calendar notifications should be useful for work, but they weren’t overly. Especially 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.

I manage 3 Twitter accounts and 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 found the constant buzzing of notification to be distracting at work and also found a lot of unncessary buzzes getting my attention when I accidentally turned Siri on by leaning on the digital crown.

Watch This Space (pun totally intended)

The Watch has moved on to the next person to trial, and it will be interesting to see what they think of it, but for now I can’t see much use to having one and cant imagine we’ll be working on apps for it any time soon.