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by adam mathes
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Apple Watch 10 Days In

I haven’t returned it

I mean, it’s kind of awesome?

Despite the flaws it’s one of the most remarkable devices I’ve ever used.

Flaws are more easily forgiven because the industrial design is so damned good at creating an object that justifies itself aesthetically first.

Fashion

It’s the first smartwatch that doesn’t feel embarrassing to wear.

Let that sink in for a moment.

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Creating an object like this that is actually wearable is a success that shouldn’t be discounted.

In some sense the rest is kind of inconsequential because no other company seems to be able to create a piece of technology that isn’t offensive to display on your body. My guess is it will be a while before they do (and may require some partnerships between technology companies and more fashion conscious companies.)

It seems likely to me Apple will improve it’s software and user experience issues faster than competitors will figure out how to create beautiful objects that inspire desire.

Function

It’s worse in some ways that I thought it would be obviously good, and incredible in some ways I didn’t predict.

The Worst Part

It’s not on all the time. So you can’t casually glance at it and check the time and other things. You have to “wake” it by raising your wrist or tapping.

This only works sometimes, which is basically the most infuriating part of the whole experience and will probably be a dealbreaker for some.

With an OLED display, I’m really kind of shocked there’s not a lower intensity always on mode like that included in most Android Wear devices. (The Pebble e-ink and now memory-lcd screen is always on due to having an order of magnitude smaller power draw.)

I wonder if Apple will change it in a software update within the next few months. My guess is its exclusion was about ensuring all day battery life for initial users, but maybe it was due to other reasons.

Notifications

This should be the slam dunk easy use case but for me it’s not yet. Two primary issues:

  1. I do not have a mental model for when notifications come to my wrist, phone, both, or neither. This is despite having spent a lot of time setting up notifications on my phone.
  2. This is compounded (maybe caused?) by the fact that the taptic engine (the thing that vibrates and taps your wrist) seems far too weak, to the point that I seem to miss things.

This weak taptic feedback has been noted by just about everyone who has reviewed and used the watch. I think it’s actually much worse for me because I’m using the stainless steel link bracelet which is not easily worn as tightly as the sport bands or some of the other options, making it even tougher to feel the taps.

The thing is - when it does work it’s pretty amazing. Feeling the distinct taps is really awesome, I just wish they were about 100x stronger.

Instantaneous Answers and Tasks

Early experiences on iPhone have perhaps lowered people’s expectations on Siri.

But on the watch Siri really feels useful, natural, and futuristically awesome. Just raise your wrist and say “hey, siri” and boom.

When it works it’s pretty amazing. Questions about sports, movies, weather, stocks, actions related to timers, alarms, and reminders - all these “easy” things are amazingly smooth and useful.

I was surprised to find just how natural and awesome using Siri on Apple Watch is.

When it fails though, it’s pretty infuriating.

Apps Are Meh

They’ll probably stay terrible until the next iteration of the SDK and people rewrite their apps. This isn’t due to inherent problems or incompetence - it’s really hard to make software for a brand new hardware platform that has a very odd constrained API that forces your application to be a remote view from a phone.

I expect they’ll get better.

I Want More Complications

The little bits of extra information on the watchface (complications) are delightful, useful, and beautiful.

They’ll be even better when (hopefully) other apps can put data there.

Faces, Glances, Apps

I thought I’d love glances but currently find it a bit awkward to have to swipe vertically, then scrub horizontally to find something, and then wait again until it reloads the data half the time.

It’s probably too late for Apple to make large user experience changes, but part of me wonders if maybe with fewer entities and combining faces and glances you can get something better.

A glance then is just a watch face that is a “full screen” complication or watch face.

You could then have a single virtual horizontal plane of custom faces/glances/complications.

It feels like the watch face is meant to be set and static - force touch is required to change it - when actually I really like the idea of swiping between them throughout the day based on mood or which piece of data I want most prominent. (Though maybe that’s just the novelty of it so far.)

Heuristic for A Good Watch Interaction

The stuff that happens without me having to tap is generally way more delightful than anything that requires even a single tap, let alone multiple taps.

Less interface is more.

A Magical Time

The launch of the iPhone and the ensuing platform shift to smartphones was exciting for lots of reasons. But part of what helped force great new things was that the constraints of the devices (screen size, power, memory, cpu) forced everyone who made software to really think critically and simplify everything down to the essential.

These constraints often helped foster better designs and experiences across a whole host of activities in a relatively short time.

As the constraints of mobile have started to lift due to more powerful devices, we’re starting to see more bloat and less focus in the experiences, in my opinion.

I see the Apple Watch and the world of wearables as an opportunity to simplify again and use these constraints to make experiences faster, better, and easier.

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