A quarter of a year in, how are we liking the Apple Watch?
The Apple Watch launched back on April 24, 2015. We spent three weeks on our original, definitive Apple Watch review; since then, we've spent three months with the wristwatch. We've integrated it into our lives and gotten a much better, deeper understanding of where it fits—and where it doesn't. So, 90 days later, what do we think of the Apple Watch?
Which Apple Watch do you have and when did you get it?
Ren: I'm a day-one adopter with the 38mm aluminum Sport… and all the sport bands. (I have a problem.) These days, I usually wear the Sport with the midnight blue modern buckle, or the white sport if I'm playing derby.
Peter: 42mm Space Gray Aluminum Case with Black Sport Band. It was ordered the morning of April 10th, the first day Apple Watches went on sale. I got it at the beginning of June, a few days before WWDC. So I haven't gone nearly as long as my colleagues — I'm the newbie, comparatively. I've worn it literally every day since it arrived on June 1st.
Georgia: I got the silver Apple Watch Sport with the white band. In hindsight I wish I'd gotten the space gray Apple Watch Sport because I love the way that it looks, but next time! I had also ordered the Milanese band and later bought the black fluroelastomer band as well.
Rich: I doubted and waited a week to order, got mine in June. 42mm sport with pink band. (wish there was a black and pink option!) My super power is ordering the least popular color combo.
Rene: I ordered the space black Apple Watch with the link bracelet. It took a while to ship, so I only received it in late May. Prior to that I used a stainless steel Apple Watch with Milanese loop that Apple loaned me for review immediately prior to launch. So, all told, I've been wearing one almost every waking hour for the last 3 months.
I did go one weekend without it, just as a test, and I was startled at how often I ended up staring at my wrist.
How comfortable and durable has it been?
Ren: I rarely notice I have it on, honestly—the only thing that really clues me in is the awful watch tan line I have when I take it off! The sport band and modern buckle are both ridiculously comfy on my wrist, and don't sweat or itch the way I'm used to with watch bands of yore.
As for durability, I finally did put a couple scratches on my watch—but it was from accidentally dropping the casing while photographing it for an iMore article. I've taken it to roller derby practices and games, I've worn it at the beach and on hiking excursions, and it remains in working order and looking great. The white sport band does occasionally need cleaning with a disinfectant wipe after derby practices, but otherwise the watch looks as pristine as the day I got it.
Peter: It's comfortable enough that I put it on first thing after I get out of bed and don't hang it up until I'm ready to get back into bed. Wearing it has totally become second nature.
It's holding up well — no scratches on the Ion-X glass or the body, that still looks new. The pin that holds the band in place is showing signs of wear, though. Its space gray anodization has scuffed enough that I get a glint of metal underneath it. Given how often I drag it across the top case of my Retina MacBook Pro, I'm not surprised. So far the rMBP is holding up well, though.
Georgia: I find that my Apple Watch to be exceptionally comfortable. It's very light and rounded on the back so I dont even feel it on my wrist. I love the fluroelastomer band as well. It's also round and so doesn't cut into my arm, and it has a beautifully thought-out concave inner molding so that, if you are working out, there is less sweat sticking to your arm.
All of my watch bands look as good as new. Even my white fluoroelastomer band, which I wore non-stop for the first 4 weeks, still looks as white as the day it arrived. A light rinse and any dirt or marks just come off.
The ion-x glass has only just gotten its first scratch a week ago. I'm completely unsure of how I got it, but I wear my watch every day and for all my activities (except Brazilian Jiu-Jiutsu). It's a small half an inch scratch on the bottom right hand corner so it doesn't really bother me and I don't notice it when I am using it.
Rich: There must be something to this different grade of aluminum, because my Watch hasn't picked up a single scratch or nick in over a month. I wish my iPhone could do that! I don't wear it when using a computer. That might be protecting it a bit.
Rene: The Apple Watch has proven more comfortable than I expected. Previous watches have always annoyed me within a few hours and required I take them off for short breaks. They'd hit against my Mac while typing or just feel sticky or irritating against my skin.
The Apple Watch has been much, much better. It's never bothered me while typing and only once and a while, maybe once a week, have I found any need to take it off or take a break.
It's also been remarkably resilient. The diamond-like carbon (DLC) on the space black is tough. I have a tiny ding at the very top that I never notice but otherwise the casing and link bracelet look pristine.
Which Apple Watch straps have you used the most?
Ren: As I mentioned above, I love the sport bands to an almost absurd degree. But for day to day activities, I find myself gravitating to the modern buckle more and more. It's surprisingly thin and comfortable for a leather watch band, and it looks fantastic. Even with the lugs' stainless steel appearance, you can't tell that it isn't designed for the Sport—it looks seamless.
I am sad to say that the Milanese has essentially chilled in my drawer since I got it at launch. It's a beautiful band, but it loosens too much for my taste, and it's a lot heavier and more noticeable than either the sport or the modern buckle.
I've also tested a few third-party straps (reviews coming soon!), but none I like so much as my two faves. I do love how easy it is to swap bands—I go from modern buckle to sport all the time when I'm heading out to derby, and it's a quick one-two and I'm out the door.
Peter: I am using the one that my sports model came with. I haven't invested in any additional straps.
Georgia: My favourite watch band is the black sport. I find that the fluoroelastomer bands are the most comfortable and also the lightest. Also, the black band is also something that I can accessorize with anything I wear.
I dont use any other accessories for my Apple Watch. (Yes I leave it on the table with the charger loose—wait for it Rene!—like an animal.)
Rich: I've only used the pink Sport Band so far. The fluoro-elasto-rubber is nicer than I expected, but I still take it off a lot on humid days. I secretly covet a Milanese Loop to cut down on sweatiness. I don't care if the metal matches.
Rene: All the straps. Okay, not really. I love the link bracelet. I've always loved link bracelets and Apple's is the best I've ever experienced. From the easy sizing to the incredibly low profile of the buckle, it's ingenious.
I've also been alternating with the sports band for some workouts and the leather loops and classic buckle for casual nights out. I have a problem. Seriously.
How has the Watch been as a timepiece?
Ren: It's so good that I get sad when I subconsciously check the time and my watch isn't on my wrist for whatever reason. It's become very natural; I don't reach for my phone anymore when I want to check quick information, and for that alone it's fantastic.
Peter: Excellent so far. I'm getting used to wearing a watch again after going without for more than a decade. My first watch when I was still a preschooler was a Mickey Mouse watch with a red leather band. I'd hold it up to my ear for what seemed like hours to listen to the watch ticking. I don't have the red leather band yet, but I rock the Mickey Mouse face now. His bouncy foot tap makes the four year old in me giggle every time I see it. Which more than makes up for the absence of a tick tock.
Rich: I'm still getting used to wearing a watch again, but I like it enough to keep trying. I find I check the battery level more than I check the clock. Maybe that's how I measure time now.
Georgia: The Apple Watch keeps very accurate time. I would like an option for a low-power, persistent time display. That way, instead of having to twist or tap my wrist—and potentially look rude—I could just casually glance over and make sure I wasn't running late for my next appointment.
Rene: Superb. Back when I still wore a watch regularly I got used to checking them against the radio time signal and adjusting them as needed. After a couple years of iPhone ownership, I just stopped wearing a watch and used that, since it's connection kept it accurate.
Candidly, accurate time really shouldn't mean anything to me. A couple seconds or even a minute here or there isn't something I should worry about. But knowing I have accurate time makes me not worry about it.
So, with Apple Watch, I have both the convenience of a standard watch and the accuracy of a connected device. Best of both worlds.
How has the Watch's fitness and health tracking worked out?
Ren: It's made my daily work life a hundred times better, encouraging me to drink more water, stand up, move, get some yoga in, take the dogs for a walk… I'm so happy with those features. The health tracking for skating sports needs some work, to be sure, but I'm still glad that the "Other" tracker exists. The watch helps me calculate the calories I need to refuel my body, it keeps me on track for my water intake, and it rocks my health tracking like nothing else.
It's interesting, to me, that my health was at its worst during a month where my watch was essentially broken (early betas on production devices are not recommended, folks)—once I got a later beta and my watch was again mostly-functional, I started doing better within days. Why? I wasn't standing, I wasn't drinking water, I wasn't treating my body well. I'd reverted to my old pre-watch bad work habits.
I suppose on one hand, this means that the watch isn't actually changing my normal bad habits—it's mostly a taskmaster to keep me from reverting to them. Regardless, it's a taskmaster I'm happy to have in my life right now.
One note about battery life: Especially when it comes to the 38mm version, the watch's health tracking is a notorious battery hog. On days when I don't have practice, my watch easily lasts from morning to night; any evening I have derby, I'm lucky if it doesn't quit on me halfway through practice. I had a three-hour scrimmage night last night starting with the watch at 67 percent, and its battery gave up before the second scrimmage started—when I checked it, I found only the green battery reserve clock to greet me. Sad face.
Peter: Here's where the Apple Watch has been a complete game changer for me. This thing is my activity buddy. It tracks my movement. Offers achievements to reward me for accomplishing new fitness and movement goals. Makes suggestions for how much I should push myself next. I use the Workout and Activity apps every day along with MyFitnessPal, and together they're making it much easier for me to actively improve my health.
Georgia: I turned off the stand nags immediately. I work as a psychotherapist and being told to stand up before the end of a session isn't really helpful. Likewise if I'm driving or having dinner with friends or family.
I also can't use it for workouts because, for grappling-based sports like Jiu-Jitsu, the risk of damaging the watch or scratching or hurting a partner is too high.
I think it could be helpful for people don't get up and move around during the day. I'm just not a regular use case.
Rich: I've turned off the health tracking notifications because I don't like being nagged. I do enjoy using the heart monitor for fun, though. I made my heart race and used it to trick people into thinking I was stressed out during a card game recently.
Rene: I have a real love/hate relationship with the health features of the Apple Watch. When I work, if I'm in the zone, suns can rise and fall, meals can come and go, and I'll miss all of it. It's really bad for me. With the Apple Watch, I get annoyed to stand up and to get moving.
It's irritating because it ruins that zone, but it's vital because that zone needs to be ruined. My life is more important than my work.
I still ignore it sometimes so I can "just finish one more graf" or make "one more edit" but I really try not to. I try to get up, get moving, get some water, and get some life balance.
For me, this aspect of the Apple Watch couldn't be more important.
How have Apple Watch notifications and communications been?
Ren: Still keeping me from reaching for my phone to answer the simplest text message or calendar invite, which is a win in my book. I rarely carry my phone around the house anymore, preferring to leave it on its charger next to my iMac, because I have the watch to alert me for anything urgent.
Peter: After using the watch for a few days and loading it out with apps, I ended up trimming notifications pretty extensively. I get a few important things — texts from friends and family members, a communications app we use at iMore. I take calls on the Apple Watch on a regular basis if the phone is out of reach; I also use the Messages app and its dictation support through the iPhone to respond to important texts. I can get away with this because I work at home. I'd feel like an ass doing this in public.
Georgia: I love having notifications and phone calls come to me on my wrist. It saves me time relieves stress. I get a call discretely on my wrist and I don't even have to go find or fetch my phone to answer, I can see who's calling and answer on my watch or let them know I will call them back. It has created an amazing triage system.
I can't say that I enjoy talking on my Apple Watch as much as I do my iPhone. The sound quality isn't as good and I don't like the fact that others can hear my conversations. I also sometimes do have reception issues with using the watch. These things are expected though for a first generation piece of technology that is the size of a silver dollar.
What I love is that I don't lose calls because I am not next to my phone. I don't feel the stress of having to search for my phone to see who is calling to then decide if I am going to answer or not. This is where the Apple Watch excels, convenience.
Rich: Notifications on my wrist have been a mixed bag. I enjoy most of them, but I really don't like the double whammy of "hey hey hey poke poke ring ring" on the rare occasion I get a phone call. I really enjoy having GPS directions on my wrist. I've definitely noticed I take my phone out in public less often.
Rene: Some people say Apple Watch has moved interruption to the wrist. They're wrong. Apple Watch, for me, has let me get the really urgent notifications, so I'm never stressed about missing something, but leave all the non-urgent ones to queue up on my iPhone for when I'm ready to check them.
I have the Apple Watch muted at all times and only VIP email and messages come through. (I really wish VIP could be applied to messages as well.) That way, when something does come in, I can casually glance over, see what it is, and immediately know if I need to stop and deal with it, or if it can wait and I can go on with my life. So. Great.
Alas, no one sends me Sketches any more, which I miss, but for everything else, it's made my science fiction dreams a reality.
Has the Apple Watch proven useful as a remote control?
Ren: Yep! I love the Remote app for the Apple TV as well as the Music app's controls; I'm especially looking forward to HomeKit support in watchOS 2, since we now have a fair number of HomeKit-enabled accessories in the house.
Peter: Yes. I use the Remote app to control my Apple TVs all the time. It's much more convenient than finding the tiny remote that comes with the Apple TV. It remote controls the Bluetooth-based light in my office, too, and I use it to remote-search my Mac's iTunes music library. Playing DJ from my wrist! I live in the future! I can't wait for HomeKit stuff to show up!
Georgia: I use my Apple Watch to control my Hue lights and control my music. These are areas where the smaller interface is not stressful for me to use at all. Plus, it's really hard to misplace a controller strapped right onto your wrist!
Rich: I don't use a TV enough to pair it, but the Apple Watch has been an amazing remote for my phone when I'm driving. It's nice to have a back / forward / pause button somewhere it's safe to tap.
Rene: Apple Watch as remote control was one of the features I was most looking forward to, and it hasn't disappointed. With Apple's Remote app, I don't have to worry about finding the Apple TV remote or fishing for Remote.app on my iPhone. I just tap my Watch. Likewise with Hue for my lights and a third-party app for my Sonos, tap, tap, tap right on the Watch.
I don't have any HomeKit products yet, but I'm looking forward to them. The idea of using Siri on my Watch to control my house fill me with delight.
How have Apple Pay and Passbook worked out?
Ren: Pretty well! I use Apple Pay almost exclusively on the watch now. Passbook is hit or miss depending on where I'm traveling; in airports, there are still quite a few QR scanners that aren't big enough to fit a wrist under them, and elsewhere it can be awkward to turn or display the screen on your wrist for people to see and scan.
Peter: I don't get to use Apple Pay as much as I'd like to, but when I do it's worked fantastically. Double-tap the button to bring up Apple Pay, tilt the watch at the pay terminal, occasionally enter a PIN code to verify (good two-factor authentication, thanks Walgreens), and you're done. When it works, it's convenient and easy. I'd just like to see it ubiquitous at all the places I shop, and right now it's the exception, not the rule.
I use Passbook most at Starbucks: Raise my wrist, tap the Digital Crown, launch Passbook, then make sure my Starbucks account is active. Apple Pay is just so convenient, I'd like a more seamless process for doing that.
Georgia: Apple Pay why have you forsaken me! (Can someone smuggle some across the border, pretty please?)
Having Passbook on your wrist is such a wonderful thing, especially when you have your hands full. It is so useful and helpful when you might already be stressed during travel. There's no worry about losing or crumpling a ticket or card. It gives you a lot of piece of mind.
And getting movie tickets on your watch is just cool.
Rich: I wear the watch really loose because of the humidity, so I haven't been able to use Apple Pay. The watch loses contact with my skin a lot, so I had to turn off the passcode. (which disables Apple Pay.)
Rene: There's still no Apple Pay in Canada, so I'll just let my Inside Out Anger driver take the controls for a moment. There. Ugh. Done. (Don't worry, all of that was insured… I think.)
Passbook on the other hand has been terrific. I've used it frequently for Starbucks, in-store and at drive-through, at the movie theater, and for cross-border air travel. Every time it's been fast and convenient. So fast and convenient it's drawn wows from customer service people and fellow customers alike.
What Apple Watch apps have you been using the most?
Ren: Workout, Authy, Dark Sky, Remote, Camera Remote, Fitstar Yoga, Gulps, and ETA. Third party apps, in general, suffer from incredible load lags on watchOS 1.0.1; I'm looking forward to that being fixed in 2.0.
Peter: Besides Apple's included apps, I mostly use Authy for two-factor authentication, MyFitnessPal for diet and exercise tracking, An app to control my Elgato Avea smartbulb, and Slack, a team communication tool we use at Mobile Nations.
Georgia: I've been using PCalc, Hue, and Shazam the most. I love that I can have a calculator watch again. Controlling my lights from my watch, as I said, is really convenient. And identifying music from my watch? It's sci-fi!
Rich: I honestly haven't needed a third party app yet. I grabbed a couple to try, but nothing stuck. I plan to try again when Watch OS 2 is out.
Rene: Confession: I haven't been using a lot of Apple Watch apps. As expected, the Apple Watch for me is more about push than pull. It sends me stuff and I deal with it. I have been using the remote control apps I mentioned, and when I travel I've used Uber and the Aloft app, which are both terrific.
I use a lot of others irregularly or off and on, but that's what I like about the Apple Watch. It's not trying to do everything my iPhone or Mac does—that would be stupid—it's just offloading a subset of the briefest, most frequent, and yet still important things. Brilliantly.
So, how's the Apple Watch 3 months later?
Ren: Unnoticeable and invaluble. I no longer make a big deal of the watch, because it's just there. It's always on my wrist, it's always there when I need it, and it's always up for the challenge of bugging me when I need to be bugged. There are certainly things I don't love—I'm close to saying that active athletes should only pick up the 42mm because of the 38mm's battery limitations—but overall, I'm so happy it's part of my daily life.
(I do wish I had more people to send sketches to, though.)
Peter: I love it. I'm finding new uses for it on a near-daily basis. I continue to discover little things about how the built-in apps work that please me.
I'm really delighted to have one, though I stop short of recommending it unabashedly. I think you should invest a bit of time in figuring out how it'll work for you best. For me, the activity and fitness stuff is paramount.
I can't wait to see what's going to happen once watchOS 2.0 is out in the world and Apple and app developers take the next step forward. It's gonna be amazing.
Georgia: I am still in love with my Apple Watch. It isn't perfect and I didn't expect it to be, but it does everything I hoped it would and I know it is only going to get better.
Rich: I was talking to a friend last week who is smartphone and internet-free for a month and she wanted to know how I liked the Watch. What struck me was that I like it... but it's not particularly fun like a phone is.
I don't really play around with it. I don't carry it even half as religiously as I do my phone– but I really like having the extra layer of notifications and awareness when I'm outside the house. I could probably still give it up at this point, but I will most likely stick with it.
Rene: I like the Apple Watch more than I thought it was. It's exactly what I expected but better implemented than I anticipated. It does a few things better than anything else, and does them well enough that I've come to depend on them being done.
It's not perfect, certainly, but it's a solid foundation on which Apple can build. It's also hear, now, and I can use it every day to make my life better in ways that are truly valuable to me.
Three months later and the Apple Watch has become a vital part of my daily life, and that's true of very few things.