What is an Apple Watch useful for?

For years, I resisted to pay fashion accessory prices for a tech gadget. Now that Apple removed the fashion tax, let's give it a try.

May 11, 2020 - 12 min read

Many of you are going to ask, why did you wait 5 years to get an Apple Watch? The answer is simple really. I don't see the Apple Watch as a fashion accessory. When it first came out, Apple was trying too hard to market it as such. Over the years, Apple acknowledged that this watch is not here to compete with Omega or Rolex. Apple Watch 3 for 200$ proves that point.

I want to start by talking about my purchase decision. I switched to an iPhone XS Max from a Galaxy S10 very recently. The last time I used an iPhone was back in the iPhone 6 times. Apple's ecosystem has greatly improved since then. When I learnt that Watch 3 was selling for 200$, I was immediately interested. I could finally get the Watch without the fashion accessory tax!

In this blog post, I am going to focus on the technology aspect. I'll talk about the features that I personally use day to day. Features listed below are the only features that I use on the Watch. Assume that I don't use the feature if it's not listed below. The following list is ordered by importance to me.

1) See and reply notifications from your wrist

When a notification arrives on your phone, the Watch will gently tap your wrist. The vibration is so subtle, it feels like a tap. After you feel the tap, you can raise the Watch to turn the screen on, and easily read the notification. If the app supports it, you can reply by using Siri voice dictation or by typing on the screen.

Some of you are probably going to find this feature to be intrusive because you will be notified about everything that's going on in your phone. Fortunately, there is a "Do Not Disturb" mode available on the Watch. You can disable notifications for as long as you want.

2) Get notified about your upcoming calendar events

I'm not going to say I regularly miss meetings in the office, but I'm human and sometimes I forget. This is probably because I don't pay enough attention to email/calendar applications. However, I have noticed that the number of meetings I missed has decreased down to almost zero since I got the Watch. See why:

/static/media/calendarNotification1.eea8c4bf.jpg/static/media/calendarNotification2.a9e9634f.jpg

You're probably going to say, an iPhone sends you meeting notifications as well, why don't you take a look at that? My answer to that is: Calendar notifications are so easy to miss on your phone with all of the other things coming in. When notifications arrive with a tap on your wrist, they are much easier to notice. The watch almost forces you to pay attention to your notifications.

3) Apple Pay

Contactless payments are accepted everywhere in London. Before I got the Watch, I always used Google/Apple Pay on my phone. The nice thing is, the Watch supports Apple Pay too! This means I don't have to take out my phone out to pay. Most of the time, I double click the side button to activate Apple Pay. Or if you want to be awkward in the public, you can simply say "Hey Siri, Apple Pay".

/static/media/applePay1.3eaa3b15.jpg/static/media/applePay2.d37d73f6.jpg/static/media/applePay3.7458435f.jpg

4) Sleep tracking

This is not a feature that comes in built in with the Watch. There is an app on the AppStore called AutoSleep for $2.99. Installing this app will allow you to track your sleep patterns. I have found the tracking to be accurate within about ~10-15 minutes from the beginning/end of your sleep. Plus you don't have to do anything. Wearing the Watch while you sleep will automatically capture all sleep data. You can view data for yesterday's sleep on the watch itself:

/static/media/sleepTime1.f1fbec96.jpg/static/media/sleepTime2.83d614b7.jpg

If you want to all sleep data available, you can check the iPhone app. Here is my sleep summary for the past month:

/static/media/sleepTrackingSleepTime.df6477db.webp/static/media/sleepTrackingInBedAt.138741e2.webp/static/media/sleepTrackingHeartrate.6fed291b.webp

5) Heart rate tracking

Here are some interesting facts about me:

  • While coding, my heart-rate could reach up to 110BPM.
  • While sprinting, my heart-rate could reach up to 165BPM.
  • My sleeping heart-rate average is 58BPM.

Did you find this interesting? If yes, then there is an app on the Watch that allows you to monitor your heart rate on demand. It also measures your heart-rate automatically every 10 minutes. You can see the most recent number on your watch face.

/static/media/watchFace1.96453956.jpg/static/media/heartrate.21196638.jpg/static/media/heartrateDay.02c117b2.webp/static/media/heartrateMonth.1d056d8b.webp

6) Body activity and exercise tracking

Before we start this section, I encourage you to watch the following videos:

The Watch constantly tracks your body movements. Each time you stand up or walk around, the watch records it. However, I didn't find the tracking to be perfectly accurate. I had a few instances where it detected a stand up movement while I was typing on the keyboard. Most of the time it works, and it is great at giving you an overall approximation of the day.

Another thing the Watch can do for you is to set exercise goals. If you want to run for exactly 5 kilometers/miles, then you can set a goal and start running. Again, I'm going to refer you back to the videos that I linked at the beginning of this section. There is a much better explanation there.

7) Cool watch faces

There are so many faces that you can pick and customize to fit your preferences. The process of creating a watch face is pretty simple. You start by selecting a template and then adjust what it should show inside. I'll share screenshots of my customised watch faces. The first one is the one that I use the most:

/static/media/watchFace1.96453956.jpg/static/media/watchFace2.6dad2824.jpg/static/media/watchFace3.3c52f585.jpg/static/media/watchFace4.36921e89.jpg/static/media/watchFace5.f7176060.jpg/static/media/watchFace6.a28e17e6.jpg/static/media/watchFace7.f2455ce5.jpg/static/media/watchFace8.31befaea.jpg/static/media/watchFace9.c802863e.jpg

8) Navigation with Apple Maps

I like going around with a bike in London. When I'm exploring new areas, I set a random destination on Apple Maps. Then my watch will start showing a smaller version of the map on the screen. This way, I can see where I'm heading towards, and I can see if there is a dead end by the corner. When it works, it's just fine. Apple Maps doesn't support cycling. You're almost always off the road according to Apple Maps.

In addition to that, Apple Maps doesn't work great on the Watch. It feels like it's a bit slow to understand where you are, and where you are heading towards. It shows you a birds eye view of the area that you're currently in, but you can't zoom in-out using the digital crown. In addition to that, you can't pan around the map using the touch screen.

You're probably going to say: What about Google Maps? Unfortunately, Google Maps doesn't have an Apple Watch app. You can still see the navigation notifications it sends when your phone is locked. However I don't find this to be useful.

Apple Watch falls a bit short on this category unfortunately.

9) 3rd party bands are great!

Before buying the Apple Watch, I did my research on 3rd party watch bands. There are so many 3rd party options on Amazon that match the quality of the bands that Apple are selling. I honestly can't tell the difference between a 3rd party band and a genuine Apple one. Here is a picture. Can you tell which one is from Apple and which one is not?

/static/media/bands.1247911b.jpg

10) Battery Life

When buying the Watch, I was ready for 1-day battery life. I was just going to plug it in when I'm taking a shower and eating my breakfast and it was going to stay on my wrist for the rest of the 24hr cycle. However, that didn't turn out to be the case. If you don't look at your holiday pictures or literally browse Reddit for hours on your Watch, you get 2 days of battery life. That includes 30 mins/day of exercise tracking and 50+ notifications.

Comparison with my previous watch and comfort

Before the Apple Watch, I had a Skagen. Skagens are ultra thin and they look modern. My Skagen came with a black milanese loop and I wanted to get a similar one for my Apple Watch. Unfortunately, the genuine Apple one was £100 here in the UK. Half the price of the Watch. Fortunately, there are 3rd party alternatives. I got one from Amazon and it has been great. No scratches, paint still intact. It looks exactly like the genuine one.

/static/media/versusSkagen1.5e981fd9.jpg/static/media/versusSkagen2.6962908e.jpg/static/media/versusSkagen3.eed217b9.jpg

I have to say the Apple Watch is definitely on the thick side compared to the Skagen. Yes, the Apple Watch packs a computer inside but I have to say nothing beats that Skagen watch when it comes to comfort. The Apple Watch always sticks out of my sleeve if I'm wearing long sleeved jumpers. I also accidentally bumped my Apple Watch around a few times because it was too thick.

/static/media/thickness1.3467a1a0.jpg/static/media/thickness2.1fb580a1.jpg

Conclusion

I am very glad that we have this technology on our wrists now. It is yet another door that opens to the world of the internet. With all those capabilities right on your wrist, you feel more connected than ever before. If this sounds like something that you want, then I would recommend you to get the Apple Watch Series 3, or whichever version is actually the 200$ one at the time of reading this. I quite like the idea of a Series 5 with the Always-on-Display, but I am not paying a watch more than I pay for an iPad.

Moral of the story is:

Wearing a smartwatch is more accessible and exciting than ever before!

I wonder what's next in terns of smart wearables. Glasses? Rings?