My week with the Apple Watch

May 11, 2015

Let me preface with the fact that I have had or used every iteration of iPhone since its inception.

Even further, I purchased the iPod back when it was able to hold 1,000 songs in your pocket. It was a beautiful design that to me struck a balance between the style and functionality I wanted as a consumer. After I purchased the iPod, my Rio mP3 player never saw the light of day. Usher, Crazytown, Missy Elliot and Maroon 5 piped through my white earbuds during my training rides down Foothill Boulevard to Palo Alto from Mountain View and up Old La Honda.

The iPod was both a paradigm shift and an anchoring moment. It became the easiest way to listen to music on the go. It was not original technology. It was just better than anything else I was using at the time. It was beautiful. I became more engaged with technology and music because of it. I had no idea of the potential iPod had. I'm not sure a lot of others outside and maybe even inside Apple had such foresight.

Which brings us to my first week with the Apple Watch. I ordered my stainless steel watch with a black sport band on April 10th at 12:05 am Pacific time from the comfort of my couch. It took a little while for Apple's website to get up and running but because I already knew what I wanted and had it saved, I was ready to go. As soon as the order page went on line, it took me no more than 2 minutes to hit the "place order button." And then the wait...

I monitored Twitter feeds prior to first day that watches were supposed to be delivered –24th of April. There were a few tweets about Apple charging credit cards or an email containing a tracking number which became the indication that the Watch was ready for delivery for some customers. I looked at my bank statement online and my order status through the email link Apple sent and found myself disappointed. There was no indication that my Watch was on its way. And then it happened a week later. I was notified by my bank about a charge from Apple followed by an email that said my watch was ready for delivery.

Initial setup and pairing of the Watch is Apple's first attempt at giving the user a magical experience.

I had my Watch delivered to my office in SoMa in San Francisco. I let my colleague go through the process of opening the box and taking the Watch out so I could observe from a distance what Apple might be trying to accomplish during a person's first encounter. The package seemed unusually heavy and in a much larger box than any version of iPhone I've had. I found that strange, but glaringly obvious and by design. From the first moment you come in contact with your new Watch, you are being swayed into believing the significance and gravity of the moment.

Initial setup and pairing of the Watch is Apple's first attempt at giving the user a magical experience. Pairing your watch to your phone is similar to scanning a QR code but much more dynamic and almost trance inducing. There is both a beauty and simplicity that is achieved at this point. The rest of the setup seems to be the Watch trying to figure out what apps you have on your phone and then populating the Watch screen with them. It took a good 20 minutes. It’s at this point where a user can pare down notifications to what they feel is most important. My Watch is set to notify me of work emails and attempts at communication from my list of VIPs, although I still don't really know how to view or make changes to exactly who is on that list.

The Watch sits on your wrist as an item clamoring for attention but it doesn't wake until you interact with it, which is why the battery can last surprisingly longer than one day. I've yet to let it completely run out of power, maybe in part because a small part of me feels that it will miss a significant event such as the moment it achieves self-awareness and realizes it doesn't need me anymore.

I feel compelled to interact with it but I know the apps aren't built to keep me engaged but rather just informed. When the screen is not on, it can be viewed as a piece of jewelry. Engagement is not as high as it is with my phone. But when the haptic engine vibrates and the watch chimes, I am drawn to take action. I have been convinced to get up and walk around when I've been alerted that I've been sitting for too long. I've been able to take a call with my hands full and unable to reach the phone in my back pocket.

This morning, I finally was able to take my Watch out for a proper run. I felt this was needed to complete my week's evaluation. I opened my go-to running app, which is Strava on my phone. I started the Strava Apple Watch app. I was a little nervous because I was sick in bed just two days before so I started with a slow jog with my wife and dog in lockstep. About a mile into our run, I checked my Watch and the tracking did not start as it should have so I pulled the phone out of my pocket and verified this to be the case. I started the tracking on the phone and continued on. I again started the tracking on the watch. At our halfway point, I checked both the Watch and the phone. It looks like there is a conflict and priority of data issue which causes Strava to lose the data and start over. I'm disappointed in the user experience for this app and I turned on the native Apple app on the Watch to help me track the rest of my run and reset the Strava app on the phone. I recorded the distance using the native app on the Watch. What I was a little unsure of was the fact that on starting the run app it asked me to input the number of calories I wanted to burn. I realized I could choose "no goal" next time and just have a go, but that first interaction threw me for a loop and UX could definitely be tweaked for improvement.

Apple has planted seeds for another ecosystem and this, like the iPod nearly 14 years ago, has potential. This time around because of where I sit today, I am able to connect with and see projects in the pipeline that will help to realize the potential and grow this ecosystem. I'm fortunate to already be involved with what will be life-changing products involving the development of applications that use the technology in the Apple Watch.