“Guys…guys! Check this out, he’s about to pay with his watch…” I twist my hand and align my watch’s screen with that of the payment processor as the eyes of all the employees are on the little piece of constructed aluminum that is being held onto my hairy wrist by a white sport band. (beep) “Oh my god, it worked, that is so cool. What is that, the iWatch? I’ve never seen anyone pay like that.”
That was the common reaction I’ve been getting as I travelled through Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and England. People are just blown away that someone is making purchases with a timepiece.
Even people that look as if they are having the shittiest day at work and that the last thing they want to do is to serve a latte (no I’m not off the drug yet ????) to a prick like me, see me pay with my Apple Watch, and are caught off guard. The neurotransmitters in their brain, which had laid stagnant throughout the day as they went about performing menial tasks, start rapidly firing while they marvel at the technological progress stemming from this tiny gadget. Then their mouths slowly open in wonderment: are we already in the future?
The reason why I think they’re even more amazed in Europe is probably because the United States is the only country thus far to have Apple Pay, which allows you to add your credit cards to your iPhone 6 and then pay contactless with your device, or if you managed to snag one, the Apple Watch. That’s assuming your bank supports Apple Pay, which most major banks in the US do. So even though the iPhone 6 is available in many countries, people haven’t seen many contactless transactions with phones, let alone a watch, because they can’t do that just yet. The UK, however, is supposed to get Apple Pay activated on their phones shortly and then it’ll become commonplace. So I won’t really be able to wow people until the technology to pay for products telepathically is introduced.
The amount of conversations my Apple Watch payments has started makes it the best feature by far, but, of course, I can easily payments using my phone, with a few extra steps.
Having the Apple Watch kind of reminds me of when the first iPhone came out. It was like having a puppy. Women would be all over me wanting to pinch and zoom on it’s screen, “OMG is that an iPhone! Can I touch it? Wow, that feels so good.” (giggle) “Can I give you a blowjob, you sexy iPhoneman?”
Okay the last part didn’t happen, but it was a conversation starter for sure. It definitely had revolutionary features for a smartphone, but it lacked group text messaging or picture messaging and a host of other features other common phones had for years. It was lacking because it was a first generation device and needed some time to grow and become what it is today.
So instead of sitting around typing about the Apple Watch features, which I’m sure you can find in numerous other articles, I rather spend the time to point out nuances I experienced while traveling and what Apple could do to improve the Apple Watch. Most of my points are going to be quick, and a few will be a bit more lengthy. You can also skip down to the end for my conclusion.
3rd Party Apps
They take longer to load than a webpage using the internet in Equatorial Guinea. It’s abysmal! For instance, I’m out at some venue and I hear a song playing on the speakers, but don’t know the name of. “Shazam!”, I think. So I raise my wrist, my Apple Watch turns on, I swipe up from the bottom of the screen to load glances. These are the little cards that show you quick information from different apps like your heart rate, activity, battery life, as well as information from 3rd party apps you activate, like Dark Sky, which will show you the weather for the next hour.
I have the Shazam card in my glances so I flick left to go to the card, I click the Shazam icon, which tries to launch the Shazam app and then a loading icon animates several balls moving within a circle for about 7 days. Finally the Shazam app opens, taking longer than the time it took God to create the world. I click the Shazam icon again which starts listening, but not from the mic on the watch, nope. It listens from the mic on my iPhone, but my iPhone is in my pocket and I rush to dig it out, though not in time for Shazam to capture the sound and I get a message that Shazam couldn’t find the song. So, now, with my iPhone out, I click Shazam on the watch again, but the Shazam app crashes, and so I go to the Shazam glance again and repeat the steps and by that time some shitty Britney Spears song comes on, which it records and tags. Then later, when I look at the Shazam app on my iPhone, it starts giving me recommendations of songs by Lindsay Lohan and Jessica Simpson. I don’t like those fools Shazam. At least I would never admit it. !@#!$!@#!@# I just wanted to tag a damn song!
3rd party apps on the Apple Watch, at the present moment, are practically unusable. Many of the apps crash a lot. Apps like Citymapper, that I was looking forward to, don’t function as well as they are “supposed” to. Though, these issues have a lot to do with the fact that we’re in the 1st generation, and once a lot of these issues get ironed out and Apple gives 3rd party developers more leeway (like building native apps and access to the mic) the apps will become much more refined and ready for actual use. For now, bleh.
Besides Apple Pay, Apple Maps has been my most used app/feature because I didn’t know my way around any of these cities and I’ve used this feature to show me walking directions. I love it when your watch taps you when you have to make a turn or that the next step in the directions is shown to you when you raise your wrist. However, there are a few drawbacks:
- I can only use Apple Maps to get directions and for now only Apple apps have the ability to be active on the screen when directions are in progress (Citymapper cannot do that). I’m a Google maps user mainly because Apple Maps isn’t as accurate, and I’m kind of forced to use Apple Maps. I can’t trust Apple Maps’ walking directions all the time. There were instances where I pulled up walking directions from both mapping apps, and Google showed a much faster and more efficient route, where as Apple doesn’t even show the little pathways that make Google’s walking routes faster.
- When looking at the next step on the watch, you have the option to look at it in text view with an icon for the direction, which is the default, or view it in map view where you get a little map to show where you are and where you’re headed. If I switch to the map view, then I put my wrist down and then pull up to activate the watch, it’ll switch back to text view and I have to flick again to go to map view.
- Sometimes I don’t know if Apple Maps wants me to make a soft right or a hard right. Confusing.
The success of this really depended on the airline and the airport. Right now a majority of the airlines out there allow you to download your ticket onto your iPhone’s Passbook app. You can then pull up the ticket/card with the barcode at the bottom at the airport and show it to airport security or the airline attendant who will scan it with a sensor to ensure it’s valid.
Anything you have in your Passbook can be accessed through your Apple Watch, this also includes tickets for events or Starbucks. Theoretically you would pull up the card on your watch, scroll down to the barcode and have it scanned. This worked well at Starbucks or even at a party I went to for which I had a Passbook ticket. However, at the airpot, it was hit-or-miss because many airlines had scanners with a gap in which you could slide your phone into, but it didn’t have enough room to fit your wrist and your Apple Watch. So you would have to take off your watch, then plug in the passcode and then scan your ticket. You’re better off just using your phone. A manager for Iceland Air told me that they were upgrading their scanners to accommodate smart watches in the future.
- The weather on the watch face complications always defaults to Apple’s weather app, where I prefer using something like Dark Sky. Also, you have to select your current city in the Apple Watch app on the iPhone and there is no option for “Current Location”. Which means that if I’m in Reykjavik, I have to go to the Weather app on the iPhone, add Reykjavik to the weather locations, then go to the Apple Watch app, then the weather settings and then select Reykjavik as the weather location. Then when I go to Copenhagen, I have to repeat the same steps.
- When raising your wrist, the watch activates, most of the times. However, sometimes, it won’t start up, even if I keep tapping and then all of sudden it starts working. This can be inconsistent.
- I can’t entirely trust the fitness features just yet. On one day I ran a mile to the gym, did the elliptical for 15 minutes, weight trained, ran back home for a total of 90 minutes of exercise during the day and I missed my calories burned goal by 1 calorie. The next day I barely did any exercise, 9 minutes according to the Apple Watch, and I hit 70% of my calories burned goal. Maybe I blacked out, threw up a bunch and the Apple Watch, being so advanced, noticed the change in my weight due to the loss of mass.
- I can’t click the address on the location of a calendar item on the watch in order to get directions to my next event.
- Dismissing a reminder or item on the watch doesn’t dismiss it on all other devices (iPhone, OS X, iPad), but dismissing it on iPhone does (I think?).
- Haptic feedback isn’t as strong, even on the strongest setting and turning on prominent haptic can be annoying. So sometimes I’m not sure if the watch tapped me or my aging mind is just imagining things.
- You can modify the notification settings for the Apple Watch and choose which apps you want notifications from so that only the most important notifications pop up for you, alleviating distractions. However, for apps that have the notifications turned off for the Apple Watch, but on for the iPhone, the notifications still vibrate the iPhone in my pocket, effectively calling for my attention. There preference would be that if I was wearing my Apple Watch, to only show the notifications I requested for the watch and display the rest on the iPhone, but don’t vibrate. If I don’t have my watch on, show everything on the iPhone and vibrate as usual.
- There are, of course, some crashes where I couldn’t touch or activate the screen. I ended up having to power cycle the Apple Watch.
Do You Think It’s Worth It?
It’s the question everyone asks to determine if they should purchase the Apple Watch and I never know how to explain it’s worth. Unlike the iPhone, the Apple Watch is a very “personal” device. You may get something different out of it than I did. It’s better to go to the Apple store and try it on yourself to see what it’s value is for you.
Do you need it? Probably not. Similar to the first iPhone, it’s just not polished yet for anyone to say you absolutely can’t live without it. However, I think there will come a point where the smartwatch gives you a lot of value, like being able to leave all of your devices at home and just go for a walk, or a run or to the grocery store and know that you really don’t need your other iDevices. It’ll unlock your door, for your home, your car, your hotel. It’ll carry your personal information incase of emergency and maybe even serve as your ID. It’ll probably add more sensors to collect other vital signs, which may even lead to better preventative healthcare.
There is a lot of potential with the smartwatch, but it’s still in it’s infancy, trying to figure out what part of the market it’s going to serve. Right now, if you’re not a nerd Apple iSheep fanboy like me that is dying to get your hands on one, I would just let others test the market out while you sit back and watch.