Farhad Manjoo’s Week With The Apple Watch

Farhad Manjoo writing for NYTimes.com:

This idea is nice, but to get it to work, you’ve got to decide which notifications you want to get on your watch, and which you don’t. When you first set it up, the watch generally mirrors the notifications you’ve set for your phone: If you now get an iPhone alert when a friend changes her Facebook profile photo, you’ll get one on your Apple Watch. (The system is smart enough to alert you in just one place — it doesn’t buzz your watch if you’re looking at your phone.) But because the phone and the watch are such different devices, mirroring notifications between them often makes little sense.

For instance, since there’s isn’t (yet) a Facebook app for the Apple Watch, notifications for Facebook on the watch are essentially useless — your wrist buzzes with a note that your friend has changed her profile photo, but when you tap the Facebook notification, nothing happens.

So unless 3rd party developers enable Watch support for their apps, then receiving notifications is glanceable only – I did wonder about that. Also, it will be a good idea to tweak which notifications you currently receive for all apps on your iPhone currently – in preparation for the Watch you may or may not be ordering.

There is something magical about having a computer that no one notices right there on your wrist. I first experienced this magic while at lunch with a colleague. I’m usually a wreck at such meetings, because while I try to refrain from looking at my phone, my mind is constantly jonesing for the next digital hit.

Lunch today is different. My iPhone remains hidden deep in my pocket, and to all the world I am the picture of the predigital man. It is the middle of the workday, the busiest time for digital communication. Yet with the Apple Watch on my wrist, my mind remains calm, my compulsion to check the phone suddenly at bay. After spending the last few days customizing my notification settings, my watch is a hornet’s nest of activity. It buzzes every few minutes to indicate incoming email and texts, tweets or Slack messages.

The buzzes aren’t annoying. They go completely unnoticed by my colleague, while to an addict like me they’re little hits of methadone — just enough contact with the digital world to whet my appetite, but not nearly as immersive, and socially disruptive, as reaching for my phone and eyeing its screen. I not only register the watch’s buzzes, but several times while we’re chatting, I surreptitiously check its screen. I scan some incoming messages and tweets, and even flag a couple of emails for later.

At the end of the meal, I ask my colleague if she’s noticed me checking my watch. She is surprised; she hasn’t seen it.

I love, not only the concept of glancing at your wrist instead of pulling the iPhone out of your pocket but notifications only you can see, hear and feel.

Day One for Apple Watch

  

The developers behind the award-winning journal app for iOS – Day One, have teased a screenshot of their upcoming Apple Watch app that is coming soon.

What excites me about this update, is the apparent fast and simple options to auto-log your daily events from your wrist which will help to make your own journal more detailed and fulfilling and all synced across your devices. Location checking in and last photo taken are exactly the kind of things I want to record and this Watch app looks like it will make it super fast and convenient than actually using the iPhone to do the same task which can result in forgetting to record altogether.

You can download the app here in preparation for the Apple Watch release.

Current Limitations of Watch Apps

Rene Ritchie on Understanding the first generation of Apple Watch apps:

I’ve had the opportunity to try quite a few Apple Watch apps on the Apple Watch and several of them not only impressed me — they delighted me.

I’m not deluding myself. There will be times when they’re slow or fail to update, when they don’t work the way I expect them to, or when I’m forced to work around them instead of with them. That still happens with phone, tablet, and computer software sometimes, of course, but I’m expecting it to happen more with the Apple Watch because it’s so new. Because we’re all — Apple, developers, and customers — going to need to learn what it really is and what it means.

Native apps will come, maybe extended or third-party watch faces, maybe with other things we’ve only begun to discuss. And one day the Apple Watch will go iPhone-free the way the iPhone went PC-free with iOS 5. (Yes, it took five years.)

For now, the apps that are on the Apple Watch – specifically 3rd party apps – are not client apps in the traditional sense. Where as the apps you have on your iPhone and iPad are developed specifically for that device, there are not currently any native Apple Watch apps. The 3rd party apps that are being discussed, shown and advertised are projections of the app from their iPhone counterpart. Developers have been given access to WatchKit – a framework from Apple that allows developers to code their iPhone apps so they can have a working extension of their app on the Apple’s newest device. There are going to be some limitations in current versions of Apple Watch apps but when Apple release an SDK for native Watch apps later this year, then Watch apps will then have the potential to be more powerful and delightful.

Mark Wilson writing for FastCoDesign:

Apple is launching their watch conservatively, limiting the capabilities of the hardware for any number of reasons we can only speculate about—including battery life, software stability, or even their desire to train users and developers in best UX practices before enabling more options.

But the Apple Watch that will ship on day one won’t be the Apple Watch of fanboy mythos. It’s a severely limited piece of technology with UI that will feel dated. And there’s nothing that the world of developers can do to improve the platform or create some paradigm shift until Apple lets them.

With Apple announcing the date for this year’s upcoming annual WWDC conference, news of this native SDK for Apple Watch could well be announced then.

Apple Watch Selling Out For Initial Supply

Almost all Apple Watch models sold out, AppleCare+ pricing revealed | 9to5Mac

Whether due to high demand or low supply, all models of Apple Watch have now almost entirely sold out with many slipping delivery date estimates in mere minutes of preorders opening. In the US, the 38 mm Stainless Steel Case with Black Classic Buckle is the only model still on offer with a ‘April 24th – May 8th’ shipping date.

Shipping dates now say 4–6 weeks on some models and June for others.

On the subject of iPhone 6 Plus #mykewasright

Myke Hurley from Relay.fm has been the subject of light hearted discussions recently in regard to trying to convince his colleagues and friends that the bigger of the two new iPhones – the 6 Plus is the better iPhone to go for due to its superior screen, battery life etc.

I found two recent responses from Marco Arment and Jason Snell to be interesting.

Marco Arment writing on his site:

What’s better about the 6 Plus

  • Battery life: In my use, I’d estimate that it lasted about 50–75% longer than the iPhone 6, which is usually the difference between sometimes needing to charge it mid-day and reliably being able to last all day even in heavy usage.
  • Camera: The 6 Plus’ image stabilizer is a minor difference outdoors, but a noticeable difference indoors when it can select a lower ISO, resulting in less noise.
  • Typing: For whatever reason, the keyboard size on the 6 Plus (in portrait orientation) fits me better than the 6, resulting in far fewer errors. I’m already typing more accurately on the 6 Plus than I ever could on the 6.
  • Screen space: It’s nice when reading books, reading web pages, and showing photos. But the additional screen space is a relatively minor benefit to me overall, as most iPhone software doesn’t make good use of it.

I think we can all agree with these above points but you would expect that from a physically larger device.

Being accustomed to the iPhone 6, the 6 Plus doesn’t feel as huge as it did when it first launched and we were all accustomed to the 4-inch iPhone 5/5S. It stopped feeling huge in my hands within the first few hours of use.
The 6 Plus is indeed worse than the 6 for one-handed use, but not by nearly as much as I expected — both are poorly suited to it.
The 6 Plus also shares the 6’s unfortunate sleep/wake-button placement opposite the volume-up button, which I presume is a victory of visual symmetry over usability. Many months into ownership, I still sometimes accidentally hit both buttons.

I too still find myself suffering from muscle memory of when the sleep/wake button was at the top on the previous models.

Grip is about the same, too. Both lack side-grippability and feel precariously slippery when used without a case, even though I’ve never needed a case for any previous iPhones. The case-edge design (on both models) is so poor that I was very uncomfortable using the iPhone 6 until I got Apple’s leather case a few weeks later. Unsurprisingly, I have the exact same opinion about the 6 Plus: it’s too slippery without a case, but feels great with the Apple leather case.

I don’t find the iPhone 6 design slippery at all but I agree that a case would make it a better grip in the hand. I don’t agree that the case-edge design is poor – industrial design at its best – smoother, thinner, less jarring.

A common theme among other reviews is that the 6 Plus is a “different kind of device” that inspires a different usage pattern, more like a tiny iPad than a large iPhone, with more two-handed and/or landscape-orientation usage. I haven’t found this to be the case. Maybe that’s because I’ve never been a heavy iPad user, but the 6 Plus doesn’t feel like an iPad or a new kind of device at all to me — it just feels like a huge iPhone.
In fact, the iPad-crossover enhancements mostly annoy me, and I’d disable them if I could. The iPad-style treatment of split-view apps and slide-up modal views in landscape orientation feels cramped and hacky at best — it just feels like a too-small iPad, rather than a too-large iPhone. I’m also constantly rotating the home screen unintentionally, requiring me to use portrait lock regularly for the first time.

Much like Jason Snell alluded to last year, you shouldn’t expect to come close to replicating the iPad experience on the 6 Plus – it’s a good idea but it has not been executed throughly enough to take advantage of the 6 Plus’s bigger screen yet – maybe iOS 9 will see some refinement in this area.

Marco finishes his article by suggesting he will move to the 6 Plus to take advantage of the bigger features even though he laments the current design of both models.

Jason Snell writing for Six Colors:

I really did appreciate the iPhone 6 Plus’s longer battery life. The longer life is noticeable, and was much appreciated as I was wandering around London. And I got used to the size of the device in my pocket in no time, but beyond that, I have to say I’m hard pressed to find anything I prefer about the iPhone 6 Plus over my iPhone 6. Yes, the screen is larger, but I didn’t ever feel that I was seeing more of the world by viewing an extra tweet in Twitterrific or a little bit more territory in Maps.

The extra screen is clearly going to be an advantage in apps that show video, photos or games – there will be a clear benefit there but I agree some apps like Twitter or Maps won’t be advantageous.

When I returned to my iPhone 6 upon landing back in the U.S., I felt instantly more comfortable when holding the smaller phone. During my two weeks with the 6 Plus, I had taken to cradling it with two hands whenever possible. I use my iPhone 6 with a single hand all the time, but that’s much harder for me to do with the 6 Plus—I could barely stretch my thumb across the 6 Plus screen to the bottom right corner, let alone reach items at the top of the screen. And I kept feeling like I was about to drop the phone as I continually moved it in my hand in order to tap the right part of the screen
People with large hands (or who rely less on one-handed operation) might have a very different experience, but for me it was just too big a device, with not enough functional gain elsewhere. I’m back to the iPhone 6 now and not missing the big guy at all. I don’t disapprove of people who prefer the 6 Plus to the 6—and I know a bunch of my colleagues are definitely rethinking their choices—but I’m afraid I won’t be joining the club.

For a pocket device which is where the iPhone is targeted at, one handed use is essential for me. In my tests with the 6 Plus, for all the good of reachability – it’s definitely a two-handed device. Each device whether it’s the Watch, iPad, iPhone, MacBook – no matter how portable these devices are, I believe they are still designed for a typical use case within the mobile category so the iPhone will always be the quick pocketable device to be used one handed and that is where the iPhone 6 and not the iPhone 6 Plus excels.

Myke’s Relay.fm colleague Stephen Hackett recently wrote on his site that what helped him sway towards the 6 Plus was the notion of purchasing the Apple Watch so he wouldn’t have to rely on pulling the 6 Plus out of his pocket for most of the time. Although I see some logic to this I am odds with this when I think off the dependency of having to carry a paired iPhone with the Apple Watch on you and perhaps not fully knowing through experience of exactly how our iPhone use will decrease if at all. Once we have spent some time carrying the iPhone and Apple Watch together will we know if the 6 Plus’s larger size be an issue.

The Verge’s Review Of The Apple Watch

Nilay Patel writing for The Verge:

It’s well after lunch. I’ve had this thing on my wrist for something like six hours now, and the truth is that I’ve barely used it. That’s by design: again, you’re only supposed to interact with the Apple Watch for 10–15 seconds at a time and then get back to your life. On one level, that all makes perfect sense: my regular watch has had a dead battery for over a year. I don’t exactly use it for anything except looking cool. How much am I really supposed to use the Apple Watch to make it worth whatever price I’ve paid for it?

On another level, everything about the watch is designed to reinforce the idea that you have some sort of real life to return to once you’re done using technology — that you’re not just sitting at a desk in your office with your laptop and your phone, getting work done.

That’s the situation I’m in most afternoons — meetings have wrapped up, decisions have been made, and I’m catching up on email, editing, reading the site, and generally setting up the next set of things I have to do. I’m as plugged into the internet as I can possibly be, using my phone and my laptop for slightly different variations of the same task: communicating with people.

This is where the Watch’s lack of speed comes to the forefront — there’s virtually nothing I can’t do faster or better with access to a laptop or a phone except perhaps check the time. It’s not just the small screen or the quick in-and-out interaction design, it’s actual slowness, particularly when it comes to loading data off the phone.

Third-party apps are the main issue: Apple says it’s still working on making them faster ahead of the April 24th launch, but it’s clear that loading an app requires the watch to pull a tremendous amount of data from the phone, and there’s nothing fast about it. I sat through a number of interminable loading screens for apps like CNN, Twitter, The New York Times, and others. Apps that need to pull location data fare even worse: the Uber app takes so long to figure out where you are that you’re better off walking home before someone notices you staring at your $700 watch and makes a move.

Fantastic detailed review from Nilay from a day-in-the-life point of view. As expected from a 1.0 version release, there will be issues relating to bugs they haven’t had time to squash or that extra amount of polish to be applied to the software. I would expect the 1.xx version of the software to fix any lag and stuttering issues.

This however, will take some getting use to make sure an acceptable etiquette is handled – perhaps with the adjustment to the amount of notifications:

After the gym, I head to Betony for drinks with Eater managing editor Sonia Chopra so we can talk about a future of food series for later in the year. So far I’ve mostly used the watch either alone or in an office environment, but it’s really different to have a smartwatch in a bar: here, even small distractions make you seem like a jerk. Sonia’s trying to describe the project to me and find ways to work together, but I keep glancing at my wrist to see extremely unimportant emails fly by.

It turns out that checking your watch over and over again is a gesture that carries a lot of cultural weight. Eventually, Sonia asks me if I need to be somewhere else. We’re both embarrassed, and I’ve mostly just ignored everyone. This is a little too much future all at once.

Marco Arment On The Future Of The Dumbwatch

Screen Shot 2015 03 27 at 13 49 45

Marco Arment on the Future of the Dumbwatch:

Some people will always want to own and wear traditional watches, but they’ll only become more of a niche, not a growing market. People will buy whichever kind of smartwatch works with their phone platform — iPhone owners will get Apple Watches, and Android owners will get Pebbles or Android Wear watches — and then, most of them will be effectively removed from the traditional watch world from that point forward.

I couldn’t agree more.

Rene Ritchie on Apple Watch Potential

 

Apple Watch and digital unleashed | iMore

We imagined the same lunch two months from now, when we both have Apple Watches. If a notification came in, I wouldn’t get a buzz that he could hear and he wouldn’t get a buzz that I could hear. We’d each get a discreet tap alerting us — and us alone — to the notification. A turn of the wrist and a causal glimpse, and we could see what the notification was for, and either who it was from or what it was about. With that information, we could choose to ignore the notification or, if it was urgent, we could excuse ourselves to handle it.

More discreet as well:

The difference can be seen in something as simple as checking the time. Neither of us had watches because the iPhone has become our watch. Yet when either of us wanted to check and see if we needed to start wrapping up, we again had to make the visually loud and obnoxious gesture of reaching into our pockets.

Less staring down at phones and more interacting with the world. Can only be good.

Apple Watch Docks & Charging Stands

In preparation for pre-ordering the Apple Watch, you will want to make sure you have a quick and easy charging solution for when you take it off to charge overnight with that in mind, here are some good choices from various manufacturers that I have seen so far:

Luxury Pocket Stand by Pad & Quill lps-colorselect-amcherry-1399_1 magnet-1399-125k

Hand finished and cut from hardwood, these stands offer a solid and natural finish to put your new Apple Watch in each night – if you have a wood-effect bedside table, then this is obviously ideal. Also available in a darker mahogany style, you can pick one up here and they are priced at $69.99/$79.99.

HiRise for Apple Watch by Twelve South twelve-south-hirise twelve-south-apple-watch

Based on their designs for their iPhone and iPad charging docks, Twelve South’s solution is to offer a choice of 2 colours white and black, with a more aluminium-look and feel to their stands. Not yet available to pre-order, they will be priced at $49.99 and you can sign up to be notified when they will be available for pre-order.

Griffin WatchStand griffin-watch-stand griffin_watchstand_02_1

Griffin Technology are also letting people sign up for their upcoming Apple Watch cradle with the announcement of the WatchStand.

Griffin state that the WatchStand offers:

  • Holds your Apple Watch at an easily viewable angle as it charges
  • Cradle captures cable connector and keeps it in place, ready to charge
  • Excess cable length stores away inside WatchStand’s post
  • Non-slip base and no-scratch padding hold WatchStand in place on desk or tabletop
  • Molded base also holds iPhone, angled for easy viewing
  • Uses Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable that comes with Apple Watch

You can sign up to be notified for more information regarding it’s release here.

I personally prefer the silver HiRise solution as I like my devices to match with the white/silver combination of colours so I have signed up to be notified and then order when they become available. These solutions certainly won’t be the last to be announced for the Apple Watch but it’s good that folks are planning ahead.