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Two weeks with Apple Watch

I've been wearing the watch since launch day, a 42mm Sport. Better judgement and past experience proved insufficient arguments against waking up in the middle of the night to pre-order a version one product, so here I am.

A few thoughts, from a user perspective:

  • I was worried that as a former watch wearer I wouldn't enjoy wearing something on my wrist again. The sport band, at least, seems not to annoy me.
  • The build feels excellent, even in aluminum. Lightweight but solid.
  • Because the thing sits on your wrist, the non-centered crown and button don't seem off-balance; if anything, their placement makes the watch seem slimmer than it is.
  • Battery life on the 42mm has been more than sufficient for my use pattern. If I spend a lot of time playing with it as a toy, I can get down past 10% (the point at which power reserve mode is suggested by the watch, but not required). Just using it as seems natural, I've rarely gone below 25%, wearing it from 7:30 am until after midnight.
  • Apps are mostly garbage so far. I'm not worried that third-party apps are slow to load or less than useful, as I believe no developer outside of Apple was able test their apps on devices in the real world. What concerns me more deeply is the poor performance of first-party apps like weather - it can take many seconds of spinner before the weather app loads, often longer than the screen wants to remain lit. This is a poor experience, and I can't see recommending the watch to any non-enthusiast while this remains true.
  • The fitness features are for real, and the emphasis Apple has given them in marketing feels right. Having present, relative metrics of my daily activity level is a compelling feature that has already started shaping my actions. I'm no fitness nut, but this is probably my favorite aspect of the watch so far.
  • The timekeeping features are the most surprising benefit to me, as a lapsed watch-wearer. I believe that a big part of why my phone took over timekeeping duties from my wristwatch was that the user interface of a smartphone is so much faster, even with the added removal-from-pocket and app-launching time, than using fiddly watch controls to set alarms and timers or use stopwatch features. Digital watches are generally crap UI. On this watch, these features are available as apps and through watch-face complications, both options fast to launch, intuitive to use, and rich in experience. The iPhone was a pretty middling phone; Apple Watch is the best digital watch ever made.
  • All in, I'm getting mostly joy so far, with more than a few frustrations as well. I don't regret the purchase, but I know that I'm more tolerant of 1.0 flaws than most. If you can't stand when something isn't perfect, Apple Watch isn't for you, yet.

Some thoughts as a developer:

  • I can't wait for an Apple Watch API that lets me do more on-device. WatchKit uses the watch as a remote display for your iPhone, and results in high-latency UI that feels far slower than first-party watch apps like the stopwatch, activity, and workout apps. I'm hoping that we see something at WWDC.
  • If there's a pattern in which apps seem to work poorly, it seems to be those that display data from a remote server. For now, WatchKit apps should probably load something first from local data on the phone before pulling updated data from a server. Waiting with your wrist up is a lot more annoying than waiting while holding a phone.
  • Speed is worst for apps that need location data. This can be a slow process on iOS already, and with the added bluetooth latency inherent in WatchKit apps, it's murder on user experience. I'm not sure what the solution here is as a developer, but it definitely impacts what I'd consider a good bet as an app right now.
  • We really need more tools to keep remote data up to date on the phone, and perhaps even cached on the watch, when the user isn't using our app. The watch is awesome when it reacts immediately. It's pretty terrible when you have to wait.