A story about me, two Apple Watches, and five lost years

Apple Watch in silver in a hand
Apple Watch in silver in a hand (Image credit: iMore)

I'm not a fit person. I've spent too many years eating too much and working jobs that involve sitting at a desk. It isn't great, but I'm trying to fix that. And believe it or not, I'm doing it with the help of an Apple Watch.

Actually, that's a lie. I'm using two.

Let's rewind a bit. Back in 2015, after Apple announced the Apple Watch after years of rumors, I bought one. Because of course I did. But as much as I liked the idea of having notifications on my wrist, that was all it really did. We can all agree that the Series 0, as it became known, wasn't good in the grand scheme of things. Even if it did eventually kick Apple's health initiative off.

If the only Apple Watch you've ever owned is a modern one you won't know just how bad the S0 was. It was slow. And apps non-existent. Developers hadn't had years to figure out what works and what doesn't. It's arguable that they still haven't in 2020 but that's a subject for another time.

This is all a long-winded way of saying my Apple Watch use was short-lived. Every so often it came out of a drawer for a few days. Then it went away again.

That happened for five years.

Fast forward to April 2020 and a(nother) attempt at leading a fitter life. And what better way to encourage a tech fiend to do something than buy a new gadget for it? It was time to upgrade that Series 0. Enter an Apple Watch Series 5.

As will surprise nobody except the me living a few days ago, the Apple Watch Series 5 is way, way slicker than that first attempt from 2015. Yes, it has a better screen and sure, it's bigger –I have the 42mm Series 0 and 44mm Series 5. But it's the speed that makes the biggest difference. So much speed. You tap things, they react. Who knew?

Then there's the software. My Series 0 topped out at watchOS 4.x and that means it's missing out on tons of things including Activity challenges – more on that in a minute. This isn't supposed to be a post about a consumer electronics product improving somewhat win the space of five years. It's to be expected. Still, it's still amazing how different these two watches are. But again, that isn't really what this is all about.

Apple Watch Series 5 Ceramic Edition

Apple Watch Series 5 Ceramic Edition (Image credit: iMore)

Specs don't make watches. Features do.

The real difference, as ever, is what the new hardware and software can do for me. I've long said that the speeds and feeds approach doesn't make as much sense in 2020 as it did in 2000. Apple agrees, that's why we never hear about clock speeds or RAM in iPhones. It's experiences that count. And the experience with my Apple Watch Series 5 is so different from what I'm used to that it feels like a whole new product.

Things I'm enjoying for the first time include:

  • The ECG functionality. My family has a history of heart problems. Having something strapped to my wrist that's keeping tabs on my ticker is reassuring. Having something that can tell me if it's misbehaving via a (rudimentary, admittedly) ECG is super sweet.
  • Speed. I know, I know. I said this wasn't about comparing the two watches. But it's a simple fact that I use my watch more now than when I was wearing my Series 0 a couple of weeks ago. Having things react when I tap them is awesome. Having that makes apps actually viable in day-to-day life is transformative.
  • Always-on display. I'm obviously not the first one to say this. This overdue feature means the Apple Watch isn't just the best smartwatch anymore. It's the best watch, too.
  • Activity challenges. This, right here, is the game-changer. I'm competitive. I don't like losing. So I've been going on walks late at night just to make sure iMore peeps Lory Gil, Joe Wituscheck, and Stephen Warwick don't wipe the floor with me.

Apple Watch Series 5

Apple Watch Series 5 (Image credit: iMore)

Two watches are better than one.

So that's my shiny new Series 5 and I'm a little bit smitten by it. But that's only half the story. What about my trusty Apple Watch Series 0? The Apple Watch. The OG. Is this the end of its story?

No, not at all. Mainly because Apple isn't offering any trade-in value for it seeing as it's older than some of the people reading this. I'm looking at you, Stephen.

Instead of consigning it to the big pile of watches to be recycled at Apple or the back of my junk drawer, I decided to repurpose it. And now I have an Apple Watch dedicated to sleep tracking. That's right. I'm thatguy.

While I write this on a lazy Sunday afternoon my Series 0 is upstairs and recharging, ready for its time to shine. My Series 5 is on my wrist, using its battery to do always-on things. I don't care what battery level it's at when I take it off tonight. It won't matter.

That's when it replaces the Series 0 on the charger and gets ready for tomorrow. I strap the Series 0 on, fire up the excellent AutoSleep, enable Theater Mode, and go to sleep.

When I wake up I have all of the night's tossing and turning tracked. I know when my heart rate increased because I was dreaming about Project Titan. And I know when I woke up because my 5-year-old summoned me for a cuddle – that's one hour towards my stand goal! It's all tracked and, again, I don't care what the battery level is because it swaps places with the Series 5 on the charger.

Now, sure. Most people don't have two Apple Watches to hand. And I'm absolutely not suggesting anyone goes out and buys a new Apple Watch just for this kind of thing – although the Series 3 is a bargain! But the next time you pick up the new Apple Watch hotness, maybe consider not trading your old one in if possible. Give it a new lease of life and capture more data about yourself than ever before. And without the battery anxiety that comes with sleep tracking normally.

Apple watch showing Activity challenge

Apple watch showing Activity challenge (Image credit: iMore)

Challanging times

Sleeping is just part of the "better me" equation, though. Having access to data based on sleeping patterns is cool and if I look hard enough I'll probably find patterns and whatnot. It's too early to say for sure, but Workouts and Activity are the two apps that are going to make the biggest difference to my health in the immediate-to-medium term.

It's important to note at this juncture that I'm no athlete. I've worked behind a desk of some sort for the last eight years. And I've eaten. There's a reason this post is happening, after all. I'm not using Workouts to track any marathons or Tour de France efforts. But I'm using it to track walks around my town and time spent on the treadmill in my garage. It's a start, right?

This is where the Activity app and the competition afforded by challenges come into play. I have maybe half a dozen people that I share my rings with, and vice-versa. But I have a handful who I compete with and that's where things get interesting. Because I don't like losing, I find myself going out of my way to make sure that I meet goals or, at the very least, do better than the person I'm competing with.

I know it's childish, and I know it's all a tad contrived. But at almost 38 years of age I apparently still need gamification to make myself exercise and that, I guess, is better than not doing it at all.

Would I be able to do all that with just a single Apple Watch? Sure, probably. I'd be able to do all the workout stuff, although not with my old Apple Watch because watchOS 4. But to be able to get the most data possible in the form of day time, night time, and workouts, I need two watches. At least, I do if I want to never have to worry about battery levels. There are ways to make it work with a single watch and a single battery, but that involves thinking about it. Charging while in the shower and hoping it's enough of a top-up to do the job, that kind of thing. I don't have to worry about any of that while trying to make myself a better person.

I just wish I hadn't waited so long to do it!

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.